Giovanni Lattanzi

Sculpted Roman-period heads line shelves in the storerooms of Chieti’s National Archaeological Museum storerooms (shown here, compare with photo of storage bins in Pompeii’s House of the Rapinasi Optati). All over Italy (and elsewhere) museums bulge with ancient artifacts, most of which will never be put on display. What can be done with this embarrassment of riches? A number of people argue that some of this excess should be sold—to help pay for the protection of archaeological sites and to discourage the sale of unprovenanced antiquities on the black market. So far, however, Italy’s authorities have refused to implement any market solutions to the problem, saying that they are loath to sell their country’s cultural heritage.