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    Textual healing: ethical conservation of looted manuscripts and ‘The Gospel of Judas’

    Allen, Gretchen (2021) Textual healing: ethical conservation of looted manuscripts and ‘The Gospel of Judas’. Journal of the Institute of Conservation. pp. 1-12. ISSN 1945-5224

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    Through a case study of the looting, sale, conservation and subsequent publication of ‘The Gospel of Judas’, this article examines if there is any ethical merit in conserving looted manuscripts. While fully acknowledging the extensive harm caused by looting, it explores the prevailing argument in archaeological circles that all looted artefacts must be ignored by conservators, given the logic that the blanket refusal to authenticate, conserve or research looted objects would decrease demand and their grey market value, and so prevent archaeological sites being robbed. However, this view, it is argued, is complicated by antiquities with written content and that conservation ethics leave room for conservators to use informed judgement on a case-by-case basis, especially as looted manuscripts have two types of context: archaeological and textual. By examining the experiences of a wide range of conservators and applying professional conservation ethics, the argument is made that there is still merit in conserving and publishing the textual content of otherwise unique, historic and badly deteriorated manuscript artefacts such as ‘The Gospel of Judas’. Conservators need to retain agency and uphold a duty of care to an object in order to help unlock and preserve landmark texts, so long as it is undertaken responsibly in the service of mitigating the harm done by looting as much as possible.

    Item Type: Article
    Keywords: Looting; Gospel of Judas; antiquities; book conservation; papyrus, coptic;
    Academic Unit: University Library
    Item ID: 14840
    Identification Number:
    Depositing User: Gretchen Allen
    Date Deposited: 21 Sep 2021 11:15
    Journal or Publication Title: Journal of the Institute of Conservation
    Publisher: Routledge
    Refereed: Yes
    Use Licence: This item is available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike Licence (CC BY-NC-SA). Details of this licence are available here

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