Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Ethics of Military Memorobilia

Victoria Cross on Ebay
A recent visit to a collectibles shop in Inglewood, Calgary had me amazed at the breadth of memorabilia, antiques and artifacts for sale.  Great War hat badges, Second World War patches, bayonets, and even a full North-West Mounted Police buffalo-fur-coat were all available for purchase.  Ebay is swarming with such artifacts as well, but one has to hesitate before laying down the cash for such items.  The question is one of provenance.  Where did all this militaria surface from?  The idea of some self-serving, cash-strapped, descendant, selling off their grand-parents memorabilia is sad in its own right, but sometimes these items are obtained through much more nefarious means.

Statue of King Tut Recently Looted
A local slew of thefts from the Military Museums in Calgary is a case in point.  While the irony of a military museum having slack security is perhaps worth a chuckle, the loss of hundreds of articles of memorabilia, many of which were personalized awards and insignia, is no laughing matter.  Police have returned a number of articles, but some are inevitably gone to collectors for good.  One has to wonder at the logic of collectors of stolen artifacts.  Recent thefts of Egyptian antiquities are a further disturbing event, on arguably a greater scale.  Who wants to have a statue in their home which has essentially been stolen from the entire population of Egypt?  That there is a market for these kind of goods at all speaks to the depravity of a wealthy section of the population.

Military medals and memorabilia are certainly easier to sell than ancient artifacts, but the question remains the same.  Who wants a Victoria Cross which has been removed from its place as a symbol of sacrifice and remembrance?  Why cloister such artifacts in private collections and deny their rightful role and shared public meaning?
Military Museums, Calgary

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