Artifacts raised from the Empress

Michael H. Standart

Michael H. Standart

Member
>>Think about the magazine articles and "Mummy Autopsy," "Mummy Roadshow" programs on television. I've seen dozens of articles in which the mummies are posed and ripped apart<<

And the mummies came from were (Egypt isn't the only source you know.) and when? Don't confuse the abuses of yesterday for what goes on today.
 
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Jim Kalafus

Member
>>I guess it's like this, "I oppose the exploitation and disrespect of mummified corpses, but fully support the taking of small objects from a site which happens to house a few dead bodies."

Well, no it isn't. Simplifying horribly, the Egyptians believed that one could take it with one (yes.... I know, but I DID qualify this with 'simplyfying horribly') whereas Christians and Jews (which the overwhelming majority of Empress' passengers were) do not. When one opened an Egyptian tomb, one was, literally, stealing what represented a death "dowry." There IS a spiritual significance to those objects. There is no more spiritual link between those who died aboard Empress and her debris than there is between the body of a person who died on land and the contents of the bedroom in which he or she died. Certain Victorians aside, Western Culture is not in the habit of perpetually sealing Death Rooms. The bed in which one dies is not a part of one, nor is one's death bedroom a static memorial.
 
Paul Rogers

Paul Rogers

Member
Would YOU want to sleep in a bed a corpse was once in?
Well, I've slept on such a bed, but the sheets had been changed - or at least washed. I'd guess that anyone who has stayed in hospital also has a fair chance of having slept on a bed that was once occupied by someone who had died. Death per se isn't catching, you know - despite the fact that we'll all eventually come down with it! Why the horror?
 
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Jim Kalafus

Member
>Would YOU want to sleep in a bed a corpse was once in?

I do, regularly. Such is the nature of antiques. But, as Mr Rogers says, the sheets have been changed once or twice in the last 200 years, and the mattress is new. If you own anything over 60 years old, chances are the original owner is now dead. Does that make you a grave robber? No, I thought not.....
 
Michael H. Standart

Michael H. Standart

Member
>>Would YOU want to sleep in a bed a corpse was once in?<<

I probably have. I've been in hospital a couple of times and it didn't bother me. Of course, if it's an ancient artifact, I wouldn't want to sleep in it regardless of whether or not somebody died in the thing. I'd want to see it properly conserved and presented in a museum.
 
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Geoff Whitfield

Member
"Would YOU want to sleep in a bed a corpse was once in?" It wouldn't actually bother me, so long as someone had already removed it! Speaking as someone who did lose a family member on the Empress, I still think I'd prefer my property to be "retrieved" years after my death rather than the scene I witnessed late last year when property was "reclaimed" from the deceased whilst they were still awaiting the undertaker!
"Mother always wanted ME to have this you know!"

Geoff
 
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Eddie Petruskevich

Member
I don't believe the term "grave-robber" is an appropriate one at that. In addition to being an avid collector of ocean liner artifacts - including three pieces from the Empress wreck, I am a history major in college. I personally believe we are saving these items for future generations and keeping its history alive. Should these items be lost forever? I have items from a number of wrecks where a people died, but does that make it wrong? It's kind of like the Civil War so to speak. If we wouldn't have the artifacts from the battles or the pictures of bodies on the field.. would today's generations really understand the gravity of what went on? Is it better for them to never have been saved or rather have them so people can have an understanding of the past. I think if you have an issue with artifact salvaging - one should consider the Holocaust museum. One room contains thousands of shoes of the dead from the "death camps" It is a powerful reminder of the history of mankind. If it were me who died onboard one of the great ocean liners of the past, I'd rather my personal items be salvaged and their story told rather than go unnoticed and disappear forever.

Eddie Petruskevich
http://westphalia101.tripod.com
 
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Jim Kalafus

Member
Eddie- interesting that you should bring up the Civl War in this context, because there is a very similar controversy involved in the "harvesting" of artifacts from privately held land. I guess that THERE the question would be "would you rather see the articles dug out now, or left on site to be irretrievably plowed under when the inevitable strip mall is built?"
Happy
 
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Matthew R. Boswell

Member
The selling of these artifacts is simply profiting off a disaster. You cannot dispute that. A ship sinks, people die, years later you take up artifacts that you sell, which would not be worth as much if the ship had stayed afloat, and you make money.

It is PROFITING OFF DISASTER. "I'm going to go sell paper that fell out of the WTC on 9/11" or "I'm going to sell debris from the tsunami" is the same thing. You cannot dispute that when you bought or sold a salvaged artifact, SOMEONE profited for someone else's loss.
 
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Eddie Petruskevich

Member
Point #1 - It is NOT profiting.
Anyone can argue the preservation of these historical relics is far from profiting off a disaster. The problem lies within most people not having a historical view on the past and how important it is to preserve these items. While the example here states ocean liner artifacts.. what of others? The major museums of the world contain artifacts associated with the loss of lives... primarily the Holocaust Museum. What profit is there to be made there? Admission for the upkeep of the display? It is for the education of the public and to keep history alive. Most people I know never heard of concentration camps, yet those few who ventured to the museum, myself included - leaves you with a deep understanding and respect for what happened. It is for the education of the public - not profiting.

Point #2 - The pieces in my collection are hard to come by, yes - yet the most valuable of them are from retired liners... woodwork from the Aquitania, Souvenir from the Lusitania (pre-sinking), RMS Mauretania china. Just because it sank, doesn't mean it's worth more - it just gives its history more composure.

Point #3 - Yes, what you stated is a sad effort to make money by those without respect. "I'm going to go sell paper that fell out of the WTC on 9/11" or "I'm going to sell debris from the tsunami" They are meaningless items what are a last ditch effort by some to make money on a disaster.. don't believe everyone is as such. Historians revere these items with the respect they deserve. Are you saying lost love letters from a Civil War soldier who died should disappear forever because selling them to a museum is a mindless act? Should items passed down from generation to generation in families not be sold because they are associated with value and someone who died? It is the meaning I am receiving on this end. I collect these items and use them in teaching students about history and using these items always generates more interest and response in a given event. If I wanted to make money - I could easily sell off what I have and make a small mint - but I intend to keep them to the end and am constantly educating even my family members who see these pieces and inquire as to their past. I restate as before - I know if I was a passenger who perished in a shipwreck, I would want my personal effects saved and their story told rather than have them disappear forever.

The final point is - it is not "profiting" a disaster by any means.. it is about preservation for the future generations to learn about and learn from.

Regards,
Eddie Petruskevich
http://westphalia101.tripod.com
 
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Jim Kalafus

Member
Matthew- it is not profiting from a disaster by the standards of our day, and certainly not by the standards of the day in which the Empress was lost. The selling of 9/11 artifacts, viewed with revulsion in the present (by some) would have been greeted as par-for-the-course had the event happened in 1914. You've seen the famous photo of the souvenier stand selling "Earthquake Debris" standing in the middle of a sea of earthquake debris anyone could have taken for free, San Francisco 1906, haven't you? You've read the account (by a credible reporter) of hucksters in the street in front of the Triangle Factory selling cheap costume jewlery as "rings from the finger of a dead girl" have you not? Seen the "before and after" lithos of (usually female) crime victims suitable for in-parlor display? Familiar with the stereocard of the Civil War soldier blown in two with the cannon ball TOO artfully placed in between his disarticulated pieces (photographer must have dropped it there to aid the compostion) and his face showing?

ALthough, by 1914, the Victorian obsession with violent death was on the wane, I can assure you that had it been possible to recover Empress artifacts cheaply, someone would have done so and sold them. And they would have been displayed in "curio cabinets" next to pieces of rope cut from the nooses of famous criminals, walking sticks made from Sultana debris, pieces of fused ironwork from the ill fated Windsor Hotel, and other souveniers de morte.

And, as for your specific present day examples, it is FAR from the same thing which, had you taken the time to think before you wrote that, I'm sure you would have realised. The WTC disaster is still recent enough that there is a plentiful supply of survivors, and friends and families of victims, to be potentially offended by the sale. And, yes, since I know what is about to be asked, I know several survivors and, as it transpired, knew several victims. In 91 years, the WTC debris will, like that of the Empress, have moved from symbol of living history to historic curiosity, and at that point the legal sale of it will NOT be offensive.
 
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Eddie Petruskevich

Member
Another very good point Jim - well written might I add. Regards - Eddie
 
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Jim Kalafus

Member
Thanks. I enjoyed going through your site- sent an email through the contact section praising it. Extremely well done.
 
Michael H. Standart

Michael H. Standart

Member
>>The selling of these artifacts is simply profiting off a disaster. You cannot dispute that.<<

Yes I can, but Jim and Eddie already beat me to it. Recovery and preservation of historically signifigent artifacts is far from being a very lucrative business. In point of fact, it is not for nothing that salvage is called a good way to turn a large fortune into a very small one. It's a risky, dangerous and expensive business with the returns on any investment being far from a sure thing.
 
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