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How to Be a ‘Good’ Collector: Some Ethical Reflections on the Private Collecting of Cultural Heritage

Scarre, Geoffrey

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Authors

Geoffrey Scarre



Abstract

This paper discusses some of the major ethical issues that arise in connection with the widespread holding of cultural heritage by private collectors. If, as many people believe, and UNESCO has affirmed, cultural heritage is, in some morally significant sense, everyone’s heritage, then the private acquisition of cultural heritage, although widely permitted in law, raises some significant ethical questions. I discuss the nature of the tension between public heritage and private ownership of heritage items and the possibility that more might be done by law to regulate the activities of private collectors before arguing the merits of a shift in the mindset of collectors from thinking of themselves as the unfettered owners of the heritage they acquire towards conceiving themselves primarily as stewards who protect and preserve that heritage on behalf of the wider community. There follows a detailed examination of practical ways in which collectors can discharge their stewardship role to the best effect, emphasizing, in particular, the fresh opportunities for doing so afforded to collectors by the new digital environment.

Citation

Scarre, G. (2024). How to Be a ‘Good’ Collector: Some Ethical Reflections on the Private Collecting of Cultural Heritage. International Journal of Cultural Property, 1-17. https://doi.org/10.1017/s0940739124000079

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Apr 12, 2024
Online Publication Date May 13, 2024
Publication Date May 13, 2024
Deposit Date Jul 1, 2024
Publicly Available Date Jul 1, 2024
Journal International Journal of Cultural Property
Print ISSN 0940-7391
Electronic ISSN 1465-7317
Publisher Cambridge University Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Pages 1-17
DOI https://doi.org/10.1017/s0940739124000079
Public URL https://durham-repository.worktribe.com/output/2513528

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