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Posted at 05:39 PM ET, 06/28/2011

Sackler Gallery postpones controversial “Shipwreck” show

After months of discussion, the Sackler Gallery announced Tuesday it was postponing an exhibition of artifacts from the Tang Dynasty that were recovered in a shipwreck.

The exhibition was due to open in March 2012.

“Shipwrecked: Tang Treasures and Monsoon Winds” drew strong criticism from experts in underwater archeology and cultural heritage groups who argued that the excavation of the boat had not meet the field’s standards. They also contended that a show at the Sackler, which is part of the Smithsonian Institution, would seem to give approval to what they considered objectionable methods.

Julian Raby, the director of the Freer and Sackler Galleries, met with a broad panel of experts on both sides of the arguments in April. The recovered items were purchased for $32 million by the government of Singapore, where they are currently on view.

On Tuesday Raby said the show in Washington would be postponed and the talks continue.

A statement from the museum said he would continue “discussions with professsional archaeologists and cultural heritage experts regarding the ethical and professional issues raised by the Belitung shipwreck. A number of archaeological organizations have expressed opposition to the exhibition on the grounds that the recovery of the Belitung cargo--one of the largest and most important finds of Tang Dynasty objects ever discovered--was not executed in accord with best practices and to the highest scientific standards.”

A replacement for the spring 2012 calendar has not been announced.

By  |  05:39 PM ET, 06/28/2011

 
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