CONTRIBUTED TO THE VANCOUVER TIMES
SEPTEMBER 26, 2017
SFU suffered a breach of security last week in which a disputed artifact was stolen from its museum. There are several things that went wrong here, and someone should answer to this crime. But I’m not only speaking about the theft itself, I’m talking about the crime of poor decision making that went into it’s assessed value and the expensive, untested security measures put in place to protect it.
We have a responsibility to protect artifacts and to educate the public about the nature and history of these objects, and to correctly declare its value financially, historically and academically. To inflate the importance of an object with whiffs of Dan Brown conspiracies and shadowy guardians is dishonest and it’s reckless. We here at SFU need to debunk fake news, not create it.
So for all of its fanfare and invented prestige, there’s a disservice being done here. The SFU Dala Horse is a nice antique from Sweden. It’s in great condition and it shows the cultural past of Scandinavia from 300 years ago, and it may or may not have been given to King Charles XII. However, let’s be clear: it’s an older version of a carved wooden children’s toy; it’s not The Thinker or the statue of David here. It’s decorated in copper-based red Falun paint, not gold, not silver, and no, there aren’t any miraculous Trojan treasures waiting inside.
I should know what constitutes vital importance of artifacts. I spent weeks in prison in Libya for defending and securing true artistic historical works from the fiery hands of war, looting and destruction at the end of Gaddafi’s bloody rule, and I’d do it again if I had to. Priceless ancient Greek Sculptures from Cyrene, Roman amphoras from Leptis Magna, assorted relics from all eras, now safe and secure. And let me tell you this: The SFU Dala Horse is no Roman amphora.
Prof. Brunswick Sanderson, SFU, Burnaby, B.C.