Tuesday, February 9, 2010
Fight at the Museum
Tonight, on When Cultural Exchanges Go Bad: the British Museum's decision to hold on to a Babylonian artifact has prompted criticism from Tehran, where Iran's National Museum had expected to receive it. At the heart of the dispute is the Cyrus Cylinder, believed to be the oldest known bill of rights, and allegations that the British Museum has reneged on a promised loan.
Evidently somebody forgot to call "no backsies."
Situations like this rarely bubble over into full-blown meltdowns, but they have a tendency to reveal underlying differences in cultural and political outlooks. Read about it here, here or here, or watch this report.
The dispute is likely to go to the UN for a ruling. Will UNESCO remind Iran that nobody likes a tattletale, or will the UK be urged to just play nice? More importantly, was this entire situation not avoidable? Cultural exchanges -- of personnel, equipment and artifacts -- have a lot of benefits. Why let a communication hiccup derail the entire operation?