Marion True, the former curator of antiquities for the J. Paul Getty Museum. (Michele McDonald/for The Washington Post)

Excerpts from Marion True’s unpublished memoir:

Falling in love:

My love of archeology came from my mother. Her enthusiasm for the subject ignited the flame in me and the books she gave me that always sat beside my bed. My favorite was a beautifully illustrated book of Greek myths, and every morning before the house was awake, I would allow myself to read one story. Jason, Herakles, Echo and Narcissus, Zeus and Athena were more real to me than Cinderella and Snow White. The myths sat just above the Golden Book of Archeology in which I studied the pictures reconstructing the Cretan palaces, the Athenian Akropolis and ancient Pompeii with fascination. I wanted to see the Palace of Minos with its paintings of flying fish, and to visit the Akropolis.

Childhood photo of Marion True, 1955. (Courtesy of Marion True)

Under investigation:

The news, when it finally reached me in Berlin, came as a total shock. The government of Italy suspected me, then curator at the Getty Museum for fourteen years, of participating in criminal activities including conspiracy, trafficking in and possession of stolen works of art. Italian legal authorities had requested the assistant of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in pursuing an investigation. Daniel Goodman, the U.S. Attorney in L.A., had received word from Washington at the end of August. Knowing the efforts the Getty had made to modify its collecting policies and to return identified stolen objects, he called Washington to make sure there was no error.

True leaves the 2005 trial in Rome that was designed to assert Italy's ownership of pieces from the Getty Museum antiquities collection. (Andreas Solaro/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)

A gold wreath dating from the fourth century B.C is displayed at the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki in 2007. It was returned to northern Greece, where it had been allegedly dug up illegally before being sold to the Getty Museum. (Giorgos Nisiotis/Associated Press)

To write:

I chose not to read most of the books and articles written about me over the past ten years because it was unhelpful — both for my legal situation and my personal morale. It was impossible, however, not to know about them from reviews and inquiries sent by the journalists themselves, their publishers, editors and even well-meaning friends and colleagues. Their caricature of a scheming, manipulative and avaricious rogue curator obviously sold newspapers but ignored the realities of the situation and the constraints within which I worked.

As long as I was on trial, any public response to the accusations, false testimonies, and wilful misrepresentations was discouraged by my lawyers who feared negative reactions of the court.

At this point, I write not to respond to anyone but simply to recount my own story. How I came to practice my profession, the people, places and events that shaped my choices, and finally, how I and my American and French families survived ten difficult years of investigation, vilification and public trials.


Marion True: The curator who vanished