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The Oriental Institute's special exhibit, Pioneers to the Past: American Archaeologists in the Middle East, 1919-1920, raised important questions about the links between past civilizations and modern nations, the antiquities trade, and the role museums play in preserving the past. "Who Owns the Past?" will bring together archaeologists and Chicago museum leaders to explore these issues in a conversation that will focus on ways archaeology, history, and heritage connect to today's political and cultural realities.
"Who Owns the Past?" opens with Geoff Emberling, Chief Curator of the Oriental Institute Museum, who will discuss the issues the Pioneers to Past exhibit raises concerning previous attitudes towards antiquities and how they were obtained. A panel discussion follows, featuring:
⋅ James Cuno, President and Director of the Art Institute of Chicago. His recent book, Who Owns Antiquity?: Museums and the Battle over Our Ancient Heritage, has inspired impassioned discussion with his message that concern for antiquities should be dictated not by politics but by the demands of conservation and broad public access
⋅ Gil Stein, Director of the Oriental Institute and Professor of Ancient Near Eastern Archaeology, University of Chicago, is a committed proponent for building strong international legal frameworks to protect cultural heritage from looting and the illicit antiquities trade
⋅ Carlos Tortolero, President of Chicago's National Museum of Mexican Art, leads a cultural institution that forcefully advocates the return of major artifacts to their countries or origin.