Papyrology at the SBL: Issues of Provenance
4:00 PM to 6:30 PM
Room: 204 A (Level 2 (Indigo)) - Hilton Bayfront (HB)
Theme: Issues of Provenance This session will consist of a panel of speakers addressing the ethical and scholarly issues concerning the presentation and publication of unprovenanced artifacts.
Christine Thomas, University of California-Santa Barbara, Presiding (10 min)
Daniel Schowalter, Carthage College, Presiding (10 min)
Timothy Potts, The J. Paul Getty Museum Publishing and Provenance: Museums, Collectors, and Scholars (30 min)
This presentation addresses the evolution during the past twenty years of U.S. museum practice and policy regarding the collecting of antiquities, and the parallel debate over the ethics of publishing “unprovenanced” (or “poorly provenanced”) artefacts and inscriptions. Central to these discussions has been the question of a nexus between acquiring (whether by museums or individuals) and publishing such material on the one hand, and the ongoing looting of sites in crisis regions like Iraq and Syria on the other; and whether, assuming such a nexus can be demonstrated, it outweighs the scholarly responsibility to record and make accessible important new data.
Roberta Mazza, University of Manchester Papyri, Collections, and the Antiquities Market: A Survey and Some Questions (30 min)
In recent years the publication and in some cases public exhibition of papyri, originally from Egypt, transmitting glamorous lost ancient texts, have stirred polemics on their provenance and acquisition circumstances. The Artemidorus papyrus, the Gospel of Judas codex, the so-called Jesus wife papyrus, and more recently the London Sappho papyrus and the Green collection papyri have been presented in the media as surrounded by an allure of mystery, which has intrigued the wider audience, but in fact has more to do with the scarcity or quality of information given on their purchase. The aim of this paper is to provide a wider context for these famous cases. I will survey post-1951 (the year of the issue of the Egyptian law n. 215 on the protection of antiquities) acquisitions of papyri by both private collectors and public institutions in order to discuss questions and problems relating in particular to three areas: public access to data on the acquisition of papyri, publication and professional association policies, and academics’ communication with the media.
Michael Peppard, Fordham University , Mosaics from a Fifth-Century Syrian Church (30 min)
In late 2013 Fordham University (New York) acquired through donation group of nine mosaics from the heir of a private collector. Under the curatorship of Jennifer Udell and the directorship of Gregory Waldrop, the mosaics are to be installed in the Fordham Museum of Greek, Etruscan and Roman Art. On this panel, I will explain the provenance work that I did during the summer and fall of 2013 on behalf of our museum, prior to acceptance of the donation, which led to more detailed understanding of the ancient and modern histories of these mosaics. To the extent permitted by my university’s legal counsel, I will summarize the legal due diligence performed by our lawyers, through independent expert counsel, and my own correspondence with senior colleagues abroad. Finally, I will describe lessons learned about the publicization of new acquisitions and the interacting roles of “new” and “old” media in the process.
Douglas Boin, Saint Louis University, Respondent (15 min)
David Trobisch, The Museum of the Bible (Green Collection), Respondent (15 min) Discussion (10 min)