• Reflecting on Seized Antiquities from 2009

    In 2009 three antiquities were seized from a single New York auction-house: one just prior to the sale, and two subsequent to it (after being sold for c. $120,000). The auction-house co-operated fully in 2009 and subsequently stated (over the later seizure) that “the transparency of the public auction system combined with the efforts from the U.S. ICE and foreign governments, in this matter, led to the identification of two stolen artifacts”.

    Earlier this month (May 2010) the same spokeswoman stated that “we do not sell works that we have reason to believe are stolen”.

    Presumably any objects that have parallel collecting histories (“provenances”) to those seized in 2009 will be dealt with in a similar fashion.

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    Two of the pieces reported to have been seized in New York during 2009 [ICE].
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  • Vanishing rupees for museums, yet another side of war and heritage

    After last week’s International Museum Day, I happened to see an article on the need for expanded media attention to promote museums in Pakistan (seen at http://news.xinhuanet.com/english2010/indepth/2010-05/19/c_13303427.htm). These are not places that suffered dramatic looting and destruction such as the headline grabbing ransacking of the National Museum of Iraq in 2003. Instead, the article draws attention to an understated but intractable plight of museums and heritage sites in areas of military conflict or instability: with far fewer tourists visiting, often a cycle of sharp decline begins. Tourists’ spending plummets, creating an obvious problem for funding and upkeep of museums and sites (including necessary security and maintenance). Further, the lack of visitation means that people will have less knowledge of and concern for the museum or site, and might then be less likely to support it in the future. Reduced security and public involvement can then leave the museum or site more vulnerable to deterioration and vandalism. While humanitarian and safety concerns remain at the forefront, maybe we with greater media access can help to slow down this process—before it becomes too late—by fostering virtual awareness and visitation in cases where sites are rendered inaccessible from conflict or other disaster.

    For information on some of the places mentioned in the article above, visitwhc.unesco.org/en/statesparties/pk, www.harappa.com, www.moenjodaro.org

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  • Speaking of partage….when’s the Met going to start digging?

    I had occasion to reread an article in The New York Times outlining the “Italian Agreement” and was reminded of something that surprised me at the time: part of the agreement includes the Met beginning excavations in Italy. From the NY Times, Feb. 22, 2006 (Arts section, “Italy and U.S. Sign Antiquities Accord”):

    The agreement also allows the Met to conduct authorized excavations at its own expense in Italy, the fruits of which would be lent to the Met “for the time necessary for their study and restoration.”

    Mr. de Montebello said that because the museum’s antiquities department was busypreparing for a major reorganization of its Greek and Roman collections, it had not decided which digs it would participate in.

    Now that the reorganization of the Greek and Roman galleries is over, one wonders if this is in the works. And, for the Met, certainly partage would be a nicer arrangement than a long-term loan for study and restoration, as was the case with their Egyptian excavations at the beginning of the 20th century.

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  • Talking about "partage"

    The May 21st Looting Matters post refers to a Leon Levy Foundation “early February 2010″ gathering of “distinguished archaeologists, museum directors, and curators from around the world” on “how best to make available the trove of unpublished information from important ancient world sites excavated under “partage” agreements.” “Partage” is the system “through which western universities and museums worked in concert with host countries on digs, then divided the discoveries…”

    According to the photo caption from the Foundation web site, the attendees were “Top Row: Richard Hodges, Timothy Potts, Dorothea Arnold, Jean-Francois Jarrige, Sebastian Heath, Sergey Minyaev. Seated: Philippe de Montebello, Brian Rose, Shelby White, Sharon Herbert.”

    This photograph raises many questions from different angles. In this ...

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  • Kwame Opoku reflects on Cairo Conference on cultural heritage

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    We thank Dr. Opoku and the Museum Secruity Network for making these insightful REFLECTIONS ON THE CAIRO CONFERENCE ON RESTITUTION: ENCOURAGING BEGINNING available to us. The article contains very useful notes and references as well.

    The April 7-8 Cairo Conference hosted by Zahi Hawass and Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities can be viewed on New Tang Dynasty Television.

    David Gill said on Looting Matters “While it is important to air concerns over cultural property that left the countries of origin some years ago, there is an important issue relating to continuing looting.”

    SAFE respects the rights of sovereign nations to cultural property within their national boundaries. But we should be mindful of the fact that information lost from plunder of sites can never be repatriated.

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