The Metropolitan Museum of Art has recently announced that it was taking steps to verify artifacts as authorities and scholars continue to raise concerns about the provenance of art in its holdings. The museum said it would appoint a team of researchers to examine artifacts with gaps in ownership records. The museum said several hundred objects would be considered as part of the initiative, the Times reported.
The Metropolitan has been repeatedly arrested by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office. They even have a special unit involved in the seizure of cultural property, which is believed to have been looted. The division was created in 2017. It is involved in the return of many antiques from the New York facility to countries such as Turkey, Egypt, Italy and Greece.
In recent years, the division has targeted prominent New York philanthropists such as Shelby White and Michael Steinhardt. They are both art collectors who have donated art to the Met. White is currently a trustee of the Met. According to many scholars and jurists, White and Steinhardt were active in the antiquities trade between the 1980s and 1990s. Back then, the standards of origin were much softer than they are now.
Foreign officials have also urged the museum to review its collection for works related to suspected traders and sites vulnerable to looting. Over the past year, Cambodian officials have been negotiating with Met and US investigators. Throughout this period, they tried to regain legal ownership of ancient artifacts from the museum’s collection.
A recent investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), in collaboration with the British non-profit organization Finance Uncovered, uncovered more than 1,000 relics linked to traffickers in the Met’s collection. The report states that 309 objects considered as part of the investigation were put on public display. Another report by ProPublica raised questions about the museum’s handling of Native American items donated by New York industrialist Charles Dyker and his wife Valerie.