The Ethical Dilemma Behind Preserving World Art

As ancient artifacts become increasingly susceptible to destruction—especially in war-torn regions of the Middle East—Western museums have grown anxious to scoop up these prized pieces of history to protect them in their universal collections. But doing so has proven to be an ethical dilemma, as many museums—including New York’s Museum of Modern Art and the Art Institute in Chicago—have absent-mindedly or unknowingly acquired artifacts through illegal art trade operations. Now, many Western museums are trying to find ways to preserve world art cultures without becoming tangled in illicit trading or exploitative tactics.