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Turkey refuses loans

Reprinted from the NMDC Newsletter, March 2013

Turkey threatens to refuse international loans if disputed artifacts are not returned

Turkey is refusing to lend objects to museums internationally unless they first return disputed artifacts. Culture and tourism minister Ertugrul Gunay said that he believes it will be impossible to mount some exhibitions on the Ottomans or East Roman Empire without loans from Turkey.

The approach has met with some success: Pennsylvania’s Penn Museum has returned 24 pieces of gold jewellery, dated around 2400 BC, which were purchased from a Philadelphia dealer in 1966.  They will be returning on indefinite loan.  Dallas Museum of Art returned a 2nd century Orpheus mosaic after accepting that it had been looted from an archeological site.

However the British Museum has rejected a claim for the return of a Samsat stele (a 1st century BC stone tablet).  The V&A has been asked for a head from the Sidamara sarcophagus (3rd century BC) – it offered the piece to Turkey on long term loan, but still asserts ownership.  Turkey has not pursued resolution along these lines.

Other museums in Berlin, the US and France have also been approached with claims. It is not clear yet whether the overall effect will see wins for Turkey, or be counterproductive as the country self-excludes from tourism promotion and the sharing of scholarship.  Art Newspaper