Chapter 12: A Flagrant Defiance and Disregard of Justice
The politics of certain museums leave much to be desired. Consider this: Just what would people think of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, if it were known that their "technical report" given or rather sold to the Mansoors was a gross error or a blunder? Also, wouldn't museums, collectors and dealers who had obtained a technical report from that Institution for their artifacts doubt its veracity? And wouldn't people - and particularly Bostonians - doubt the authenticity of some of the magnificent artifacts in their "proud" Museum? Furthermore, would benefactors and donors continue to donate to the museum? And finally, wouldn't the authorities of the City of Nagoya, Japan, reconsider their agreement of having a museum in association with The Boston Museum of Fine Arts? In short, wouldn't this be a real messy situation?
"The Challenge of Greatness
The Museum of Fine Arts
A Proud World Resource"
is the title of a most attractive booklet the MFA Boston published in 1967, obviously to raise funds. It stated:
The Boston Museum of Fine Arts is a citadel of the spirit of man.
The Museum of Fine Arts is one of the great museums of the world.
Boston takes rightful pride in its reputation as a leading center of culture in our country. Without the Museum of Fine Arts, could Boston enjoy that renown?
The Museum's Predicament: no matter how rich its past, an institution which cannot fulfill its obligations is poor. Today, the Museum can no longer keep pace with the demands of our time, much less exert its leadership. Funds are needed for space, programs, acquisitions, salaries, and operations.
(As much as this booklet is attractive, the sales pitch to raise money is even more. But let us proceed.)
The Research Laboratory: Art and science must co-exist in today's museum. Science can derive essential scholarly data from mute objects and conserve or restore priceless works. The art of the forger is so sophisticated that only the most rigorous application of science can prove him false. The Museum's Research Laboratory, the first in America and third oldest in the world, not only serves every department in the Museum, but examines, identifies, repairs, and conserves art treasures from all over the world. This vital work is continually hampered by the Laboratory's improvised attic space. Funds are needed for the most advanced scientific instruments, as well as appropriate space.
Yes, I do agree that "art and science must co-exist in today's museum." Yes, I most definitely agree that "science can derive essential scholarly data from mute objects and conserve or restore priceless works." And I certainly agree that "the art of the forger is so sophisticated that only the most rigorous application of science can prove him false." I am not the only one to agree on these three vital points. To my understanding, all museums and scholars, and in particular scientists, as well as collectors, antique and art dealers, including the Mansoors, do. But then, what about the many scientific reports and opinions the Mansoors obtained on their Amarna objects and which in turn, they sent to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts? Could the authorities of this "Proud World Resource" say that the Mansoor Sculptures were not subjected to "the most rigorous application of science?" And isn't it "the most rigorous application of science" that proved the MFA Boston's "Technical Examination" of nine Tell-El-Amarna Objects to be "false"? Could any person of integrity from the Boston "citadel of the spirit of man" state in all honesty, or rather in the real "spirit of man," that the most rigorous application of science was used in the Boston report sold to the Mansoors? Could that person of integrity say that, by keeping silent in the Mansoor Collection case, the Boston Museum is fulfilling its obligations?
By now, it should be clear that the MFA Boston sold the Mansoors a fallacious technical report that has sullied the Mansoor Amarna Collection and caused the Mansoors tremendous pain and damage for over forty years. Indeed, it has almost destroyed their life!
It must also be clear that false rumors emanating from that Museum started spreading in the late forties. Am I fair to deduce then that, by keeping silent and by refusing a re-evaluation of their "Technical Examination," the MFA of Boston has been most unfair to the Mansoors and to their Collection? Are we facing here a flagrant defiance of justice by "one of the great museums of the world"? Isn't it clear to everyone that because the Boston Museum of Fine Arts is so great, so powerful and so important, and the Mansoors so small, so powerless and so insignificant, that the authorities of this great institution, all people supposedly of integrity, will go to any length and resort to any means to protect their reputation? Or possibly for their own fame and gain? And in total disregard of any value, whether human or other? The arrogance of power of the Boston Museum is truly shocking and repulsive!
To the authorities of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts and particularly to the Trustees - the very people, people trust - I say: If you want the Boston Museum to take "rightful pride in its reputation as a leading center of culture in our country," if you want donors to continue to contribute to the success and progress of your institution, if you want everyone to believe that your integrity is beyond reproach, true and not superficial, if you want the respect of your patrons as well as the respect of all, and in short, if you really want your Museum of Fine Arts to be considered "one of the great museums of the world," you should act now: Investigate the matter. You owe it to Justice, Truth, Egyptology, and Science more than to the Mansoors.
Considering the scientific evidence given on the Mansoor Amarna Collection, is there anyone in the Boston Museum who would dare to state publicly that the report of Mr. William J. Young should prevail over all the others? Or even over any of them?
It has often been stated, that the Mansoors have worked indefatigably to prove the authenticity of their Collection and have repeatedly invited any and all Museum scholars and scientists to re-examine the Collection in light of the numerous scientific evidence amassed over the years. Dr. Colonna issued the same invitation in her exhibit catalogue of 1995, to no avail.
This book was supposed to be published early in 1993. The reason for the delay was to try one last time to solve the Amarna problem amicably.
Please consider the following:
"Changing of the Guard at the MFA," is the title of an article by Ms. Patti Hartigan, in The Boston Globe dated October 27, 1991. In the article, Ms. Hartigan describes Dr. Henry L. Foster, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the MFA, as a "prince...elegant, gracious, sweet, giving and modest." During the interview Dr. Foster stated "there is nothing wrong with the MFA that isn't fixable." So, let us see how true or false that statement is.
Sometime in August 1993, a friend brought the above article to the attention of Edmond. On August 20, 1993, in a "Dear Hank" letter to Dr. Foster (according to Ms. Hartigan, Dr. Foster prefers to be called "Hank"), Edmond apparently opened a can of worms, as far as the MFA was concerned. In his letter, Edmond 1)tested the "gracious" and "giving" parts by asking Dr. Foster to "give" some "gracious" attention to the Mansoor problem, 2)asked that Dr. Foster help "fix" what many people believe to be a gross injustice toward the Mansoors, 3)was so convinced of the authenticity of the Collection, that he offered to have the Collection re-examined through other scientific tests if need be, and an open forum or a symposium to be organized by the Boston Museum. This is what the French would call "se jeter dans la gueule du loup" (to throw oneself in the wolf's jaws), 4) offered to meet Dr. Foster, Dr. Alan Schestack and the scholars and scientists of the MFA on their own turf to try to bring this matter to a friendly resolution.
And what was the response to Edmond's requests? Yes, you guessed it, nothing! You would think that when someone writes the chairman of any respectable institution about any matter, that person, no matter how insignificant he is, is entitled to a response. Nothing more than a simple acknowledgment will sometimes do. Or maybe a "thank you for your letter, we will take appropriate action at the proper time" may suffice, and let the matter die a natural death.
So what happened to Edmond's letter? Did Dr. Foster receive it? The Mansoors do not know, but someone at the MFA signed receipt for it. Did it end up in the dead letters file? Was it intercepted by someone who did not want the trustees to find out about this sordid affair? Mr. Young was a trustee of the MFA, was someone protecting him?
Such attitudes should not be permissible or tolerable in today's institutions - institutions that depend on the public for their very own existence. Surely, there must be one person of integrity in the MFA, who will someday take the bull by the horns and decide that this matter has lasted long enough and must be brought to an honorable conclusion. This is a call for such a person to come out in daylight to rectify the injustice that was done to the Mansoor Amarna Collection. The Middle Ages are over. No institution should ever again be allowed to appoint itself accuser, judge, prosecutor, jury and executioner.
Let us now pause and reflect for a moment on the following: For over forty years, the directors and trustees of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts have been aware of the Mansoor Amarna problem, and yet have done nothing to correct this injustice. But just how powerful is Wm. J. Young? Are we to assume that the current authorities of the MFA are just as cavalier in their attitudes as the past administrations have been?
Sorry, Dr. Foster, I am not indicting you. I am just bringing to your attention the Boston Museum's cabal, since your employees hide it from you - a cabal that will definitely tarnish the reputation of your MFA. No doubt, you are a "prince" of a man, but don't you think that you should crack the whip sometimes and try to salvage whatever is left of the MFA's reputation? As much as some in your employ wish it, this matter will not die, the Mansoors will just not let go, and as long as this matter is not honorably resolved, your "Citadel of the Spirit of Man" will remain on shaky ground. Young made an error in 1947, it is forgivable, errare humanum est (to err is human), but the course that he followed afterwards with the blessing of the Boston Museum is truly shameful and utterly un-American. Should the MFA have accepted to re-examine the Collection, as suggested by Edmond, the Boston Museum's reputation, as a great and noble Institution would have never been greater.
Copyright © 1995 Christine Mansoor
Go back to chapter 11
Go to chapter 13
Return to The Scandal of the Century- The Mansoor Amarna Exposé