Chasing Aphrodite: Ethical Musings on Marion True

Malcolm Bell makes a very incisive critique of the recently published expose’, Chasing Aphrodite. The book, written by LATimes journalist Jason Felch and Ralph Frammolino, investigates the Getty Villa and it’s acquisition policy under Marion True. Bell, an archaeologist and professor emeritus at the University of Virginia and co-director at the American dig in Morgantina, straddles the patrimony debate, representing archaeologists and museums. His review does not touch on the quality of Felch and Frammolino’s reporting but primarily takes umbrage with their portrayal of True’s actions, motivations and probity in the acquisition of looted objects. I am looking forward to reading ‘Chasing Aphrodite’ but am certainly predisposed to sympathize with True after hearing many positive personal anecdotes from colleagues and reading this review.

Context is essential to understanding an object and museums have created policies in the last decade to ensure they collect objects with good provenance. As a classicist I sometimes wonder if this will be the death knell of a period, once the foundation of a museum’s collection, whose centrality has been waning in past decades. Museums were established as repositories of culture, designed to scientifically catalogue humankind through the objects it produces. At the turn of the century when museum building was at it’s apex, Greek and Rome were conceived as the foundation of western civilization. As views have changes, museums have adapted, and classical collections have been sidelined with smaller galleries and fewer curators.

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About projectpatrimonio

Helena Boyden Lamb, born 1985 in New York, has studied and worked in Politics, Heritage Ethics and Politics, and Opera Singing. Most recently, she is working in Brussels where she started in a European Think Tank and is now the Executive Office of a NGO which facilitates Youth Politics across the EU. She has a Bachelor with Honors from Stanford University, California in Classics: Politics and Heritage and a Masters with Honors from the London School of Economics and Political Science, UK in European Identity. She has conducted academic or independent grant-funded research in the UK, France, Italy, Greece, Russia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, and Albania. She was, previously, an archaeologist and an opera singer. Cynthia Querio is a Museum Educator currently living and working in Los Angeles. She is interested in heritage and identity politics and the role of museum education departments in the trajectory of this debate. She moved to Los Angeles to pursue a 9 month graduate internship at the Getty Villa's education department and has continued to work in many museums in Los Angeles including LACMA and the Autry National Center. Her academic background is in the Classics, which was her major at Stanford University and which she continued to pursue with a Masters in the History of Classical Art at the Courtauld Institute of Art.
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