College of Law > About > News > Professor Gerstenblith comments on Boston MFA decison to return artifacts to Nigeria
By Center for Art, Museum & Cultural Heritage Law /
July 15, 2014 /
Posted in: Art Museum & Cultural Heritage Law, Faculty News /
The artifacts include a 2,000-year-old terra-cotta head and were
given to the MFA in a 2013 bequest by collectors William and Bertha
Teel, longtime supporters of the museum. The decision to return the
eight artifacts was the culmination of 18 months of research, driven by
Victoria Reed, who was appointed the first full-time museum curator of
provenance in the United States by the MFA in 2010.
Gerstenblith praised the MFA's actions as "out-front," and more
involved than measures taken by peer museums. The MFA now voluntarily
and rigorously researches object histories and, if one is determined to
be questionable, will find a way to make amends.
Gerstenblith also was quoted in an AP News article
regarding the recent discovery of thousands of artifacts in the home of
a 91-year-old man in rural central Indiana. The FBI's Art Crime Team is
investigating, but whether any laws had knowingly been broken remains
to be seen. As Professor Gerstenblith noted, "[s]tate, federal and
international laws are involved," and "[m]uch depends on whether objects
are considered stolen or were imported with a license."
In addition, Gerstenblith discussed the difficulties faced by nations
making claims for the return of cultural artifacts in a recent ABA
Journal article. The piece also cites an article originally published in the DePaul Journal of Art, Technology & Intellectual Property Law.