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Keeping Their Marbles: How the Treasures of the Past Ended Up in Museums - And Why They Should Stay There Hardcover – 25 Feb 2016

4.6 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (25 Feb. 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199657599
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199657599
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 2.8 x 15.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 110,577 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Books of the year 2016 (Francis Phillips, Catholic Herald)

Ms. Jenkins has produced a courageous and well-argued book; the howls you hear in the background are those of the contrition crowd. (Wall Street Journal)

Brilliant and fascinating (James Delingpole, Spectator)

The dubious means by which museum collections were gathered has fuelled the demands for treasures to be repatriated. Surely they ought to be returned? No, says Tiffany Jenkins, a culture writer, and she marshals a powerful case. (Robbie Millen, The Times)

This book is both a lucid account of how the great world museums came by their treasures and a robust argument as to why (human remains such as bones aside) they should keep them. (Michael Prodger, RA Magazine)

An outstanding achievement, clear-headed, wide-ranging and incisive. (John Carey, The Sunday Times)

Tiffany Jenkins applies her considerable experience of cultural policy to construct an excellent survey ... Her level-headed and balanced book ... is a valuable contribution to the international debate, and will enrich audiences and scholars for a long time to come. (Mark Fisher, Spectator)

[Jenkins] has much of interest to say about the development of museums and their changing ideology. (Peter Jones, BBC History magazine)

a potted but vivid history (Art Newspaper)

[An] eloquent defence of museums ... The arguments in this book are well-considered and not just one-sided ... A well-researched and thought-provoking take on a very complex and controversial subject. Using an array of captivating examples, the book addresses a range of broader heritage issues such as treatment of human remains, the role of museums today and how to protect the past. (Lucia Marchini, Minerva)

Jenkins does an excellent job of portraying the extreme reactions elicited by repatriation conversations. (David Hurst Thomas, Nature)

clear, informed and well-referenced ... Specialists, and anyone with an interest in contemporary culture, can equally enjoy and learn from this calm, balanced and respectful review, in a field distinguished more by polemic than wisdom. (Mike Pitts, British Archaeology)

Jenkin's book provides a welcome introduction to some of the questions facing museums today. (William St Clair, Literary Review)

an elegant and passionate study of the rise of the great museums, and their recent lapse into self-dismemberment ... This is a book not just about the fate of the modern museum, or the objects stored within, but the fate of the Enlightenment spirit itself. (Tom Slater, Spiked)

[Jenkins] elegantly lines up the arguments and provides careful, balanced and well-considered responses. (Adrian Spooner, Classics for All)

Jenkins skilfully critiques the manifold issues that beleaguer museums today. (David Lowenthal, Evening Standard)

Anyone who thinks that issues of cultural property and "repatriation" are simple should read this book. Jenkins elegantly explores the complexity of individual cases such as the Elgin Marbles and of the big overarching question: who owns culture? (Mary Beard, author of SPQR: A history of Ancient Rome)

The question of how best to protect the world's cultural heritage, and what role museums, nations states, and international bodies play in doing so, or in not doing so, is a vexed one. And in the time of IS, it is an urgent one. Tiffany Jenkins sets out a clear, compelling, and at times controversial case for, and sometimes against, museums as repositories and interpreters of the past in a time of nation building. She argues that we are asking too much of our museums, that we want them to serve narrow ideological purposes of cultural and political identity. There is much to agree with in this argument, and of course, much with which to disagree. That's what makes this book a must-read. (James Cuno, art historian, author, and President and CEO of the J. Paul Getty Trust)

About the Author

Tiffany Jenkins is an author, academic, broadcaster and columnist who for four years wrote a weekly column on social and cultural issues in the Scotsman. Her writing credits include BBC Culture, Apollo, the Independent, the Art Newspaper, the Guardian and Spectator. She has consulted widely in academia and museums on cultural policy, most recently advising scholars and practitioners at the University of Oslo, the Norwegian Theatres and Orchestras, and the National Touring Network for Performing Arts. As part of this, she contributed a comparative study of cultural education in England and Norway. She was previously the director of the Arts and Society Programme at the Institute of Ideas and has been a visiting fellow at the London School of Economics, Department of Law. Her first degree is in art history, her PhD in sociology. She divides her time between London and Edinburgh.

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Format: Kindle Edition
Currently the right of museums like the Louvre and the British Museum to hold and display treasures of the past are under scrutiny. Many object to these treasures being held in a tiny number of places. Collections are said to be loot and plunder or booty. Underlying such criticism is the view that museums are not the proper place for such treasures. It is even argued that museums may do more harm than good. This author says he fears for their future.

The Elgin Marbles case is well known. They have been in the British Museum for more than 200 years. They were once an integral part of the Parthenon. There is little doubt that the museum has a legal right to hold the Marbles. What is disputed is the moral right. There is therefore a demand for them to be returned to Greece. Unsurprisingly, the Museum wants to retain them.

Many more artefacts are the centre of demands for their return to their land of origin. For example, the Benin Bronzes, a child's head from Anatolia, the Nefertiti bust in Berlin, the Rosetta Stone in the British Museum, and the two thousand and sixty year-old Dendera Zodiac in the Louvre. The list is long. Undoubtedly, the circumstancesunder which some of these treasures were removed are dubious. Some were taken after a war, some during an era of western dominance, some as part of the slave trade.

Jenkins explains there is evidence that the flow of artefacts is slowing. In some cases even reversing. Glasgow, Sweden and Berlin, for example, have each returned controversial items. Denver Museum in 2014 returned 30 memorial totems to Kenya. Numerous other repatriation requests have been successful.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The vexed question of who owns what in museums all over the world is tackled admirably by Tiffany Jenkins in "Keeping Their Marbles."

It is the type of topic, that of returning artefacts from some of the most prestigious museums,is I suspect that the majority of people, fall into one camp or the other. People will have an opinion and I think there will not be many 'don't knows.'

Jenkins takes the reader through the story in the primary section, from the great explorers, the formation of museums, the frenzy of collecting antiquities and the methods of acquisition of some absolutely priceless objects which now grace for example, The Louvre, British Museum and the Metropolitan in New York.
The fact that the gathering of these treasures, in some cases by fair means or foul has intensified the debate.

The return of the Elgin Marbles, the bust of Nefertiti are two notable examples where museums and nations have locked horns over whether
they should be returned or not.

The book in my view really comes into its own, when the author dissects varying elects of the argument in a provocatively titled chapter, "Who Owns Culture'" and "The Rise of Identity Museums."
Pleasingly, there is no sitting on the fence by Jenkins who advances the proposition that the return of objects will not achieve the desired aims of
those lobbying for them to come back to where they originated. The argument by campaigners that repatriation will aid social change or repair the 'sense of loss is firmly rejected. She further maintains that an apparent 'guilt' complex by some museums has only fanned the flames of those seeking their return.
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Format: Hardcover
Tiffany Jenkins says she is an atheist and I' d guess that tho she lives in Scotland she doesn't vote SNP. She is , like me one of those people who doesn't need iconic reminders around her to have a strong sense of identity and belonging. I' m Scottish too but the return of the Stone of Destiny to Scotland hasn't made a difference to my sense of Scottishness and I am not upset that some of the Lewis Chessmen are in the British Museum. I agree that the rise of identity museums reflects the sometimes worrying rise of nationalism but she and I are in the lucky position of being confident in our identity and free from a recent history of persecution. It is not so for other groups whose culture has recently been threatened . For some their identity maybe enhanced by exposure to ancient cultural artefacts. Despite her arguments against identity museums she does concede that there would seem to be a need to balance the cultural needs of ethnic groups with the need to provide education about the whole world to as much of the world as possible but burying or destroying ancient material and reducing the variety on public display is certainly not the way forward. This may assuage and enhance the feelings of a few but will impede the many from better understanding them.
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By E. L. Wisty TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 29 Feb. 2016
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
After the first half relating how museums have obtained many of their exhibits, it is the second half of Tiffany Jenkins' "Keeping Their Marbles" which should garner our attention. The total reversal of values in our modern age could have a drastic effect upon our museums, which have become the battleground for an ideological struggle. As in history too, archaeology has turned in a judgmental manner towards the past. As Jenkins notes, "Looking back is a privileged and elevated position from which to view the past, and it is one that is often distorted by current preoccupations. We should guard against the simplistic and easily acquired feelings of superiority that we can have by surveying the past through contemporary mores, centuries later."

The museums' desperation to "repatriate" or share their items would sometimes be laughable if it wasn't so tragic. Jenkins relates an instance of the Pitt Rivers Museum trying to foist some Australian Aboriginal remains of uncertain origin upon the Tiwi people who knew nothing about it - the leader of the Tiwi was dismayed, noting that it was "considered a cultural offence to have body remains foisted upon a generation that had no knowledge of their origins and was being invited to invent some in order to dispose of the remains". (I have read in Kenan Malik's "Strange Fruit" of accounts of Inuit people only agreeing to accept remains from these western liberals just for the sake of making them go away again and leave them alone. Getting decent jobs and healthcare is a far more important preoccupation for many of these long trampled upon peoples, and having a few bones with which they have no connection is hardly going to solve that.
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