Right Honourable Minister,
The ‘Giuseppe Tucci’ National Museum of Oriental Art (MNAO) established in 1957 as ‘Institute with particular purposes’ has been authoritative reference for the protection and enhancement of the Asian archaeological and art heritage in Italy. A great many works of Oriental art have been added to the State’s heritage, preventing their loss abroad, through customs control and Superintendence Export Offices throughout Italy, taking action against illegal trade in oriental artefacts in support of the security forces. The return of illegally traded articles to the countries to which they belong constitutes a concrete and indeed rare example of ethical management of the cultural heritage.
Countless exhibitions and publications attest to the contribution made by the Museum to scientific research on the Oriental archaeology and art. Equally relevant are the excavation and exploration campaigns in Asia, and international projects in cooperation with prestigious Asian, European and American cultural Institutions.
With its flair for organising Italy-wide campaigns for cataloguing, focused operations for conservation/restoration and display of works of Oriental art, the Institute has gained the confidence of many patrons with concrete results in donations and bequests of excellent examples of the Asiatic cultural heritage, as well as various other assets of exceptional value.
With the - albeit inevitable - reform of the Ministry of Cultural Heritage, however, the loss of autonomy - and, in practice, of a nationwide role - and inclusion in the Lazio Museum Hub, with clear-cut distinction between protection, enhancement and research, have produced serious institutional gaps. In particular, it is to be noted that:
• public and private bodies holding ‘Asiatic collections’ no longer have an institute to refer to on matters of protection, conservation and enhancement;
• the offices responsible for assessing the exportability of oriental works - in a particularly critical period for control of traffic in works of art plundered in the troubled countries of Asia - can no longer rely on the specialist skills that the other institutes of the Ministry are not institutionally or scientifically equipped to supply;
• the diplomatic and cultural representatives of Asian countries in Italy, with whom the MNAO has had long-standing relations for collaboration, lose a competent and aware interlocutor, as well as a privileged and decidedly prestigious showcase given its nationwide reach;
• many of university institutes, research centres and special institutes of the Ministry of Cultural Heritage lose the scientific and planning capacities for the continuation or imminent launch of ‘European Projects’ and archaeological researches in Asia, often under the leadership of MNAO.
These criticalities can only be tackled with complex, bewildering bureaucratic procedures, in sharp contrast with the projects for administrative simplification to which the Italian Government is rightly committed.
The special educational role that the MNAO has played for the citizens in general from the very outset through protection and enhancement of the Oriental cultural heritage in Italy is clear to all; equally clear is its strong commitment to an international role in training, study and scientific research in the art and archaeology of Asia, as well as its irreplaceable role as favoured interlocutor for the diplomatic and cultural representatives of the countries of Asia, and of academic institutions in Italy and throughout the world.
Right Honourable Minister, in view of the above points we urge you to consider the expediency of restoring to this ‘Institute with particular purposes’ its original scientific, financial, organisational and accounting autonomy so that it can forge ahead with the manifold activities in which Italian culture and your Ministry have taken so much pride.