• Oscar Muscarella’s "mixed…mostly negative" review: "Archaeologists and Acquisitionists"

    Oscar Muscarella, the outspoken critic of the antiquities trade and the plunder of cultural heritage reviews The Acquisition and Exhibition of Classical Antiquities: Professional, Legal, and Ethical Perspectives, a collection of eight published papers presented at a symposium held at the University of Notre Dame on February 24, 2007, organized by Robin F. Rhodes and Charles R. Loving. The review, entitled “Archaeologists and Acquisitionists,” was published in International Journal of the Classical Tradition, September 2011. We are pleased to share the review with our readers, particularly members of the public, whose exposure to this kind of discussion remains limited. Each of the volume’s contributions from the following is reviewed:

    – James Cuno (former President and Director, Art Institute of Chicago and current president and CEO, the J. Paul Getty Trust)

    – Malcolm M. Bell III (Professor, Greek Art and Archaeology, University of Virginia)

    – Patty Gerstenblith (Professor of Law, DePaul University)

    – Kimberly Rorschach (Director, Nasher Museum of Art, Duke University)

    – Stefano Vassallo (Head Archaeologist, Service of the Cultural Heritage and Environment of Palermo)

    – Mary Ellen O’Connell (Professor of Law, Notre Dame)

    – Nancy Bookidis (archeologist, Corinth excavations, Greece)

    – C. Brian Rose (Professor of Archaeology and Curator-in-Charge, the Mediterranean Section of the University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Pennsylvania)

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  • Museum collections no better off in developed countries, international survey says

    According to 1490 respondents from 136 countries, a survey conducted between June and September by ICCROM (International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property) and UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) reveals that museum collections the world over suffer from “major” or “drastic” lack of space, bad management, theft, pest infestation, etc. A note at the bottom of the report says: “As a little over 25% of the replies came from North America, these results were analyzed individually and compared to the rest of the world. There was found to be no significant difference in the numbers. This confirms that the results shown here represent the situation of the museums surveyed in all countries.” “Most importantly, we have confirmation that this is not a developed vs. developing country issue: ...

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  • Ten years later: The Buddhas of Bamiyan

    In March 2001, more than a decade ago, the Taliban army dynamited, mined and gunned down two 1,400-year-old Buddhist masterpieces. Named “one of humanity’s most notorious cases of art vandalism” by the Wall Street Journal (July 21, 2011), the Taliban leveled the 125-foot-tall Eastern Buddha dating from 544-595 and 181-foot-tall Western Buddha dating from 591-644. The Buddhas, located on the historical Silk Road, are testimonies to the exchange between Indian, Hellenistic, Roman and Sassanian influences in Buddhist art. The monuments have been defaced throughout their history–heads and legs removed–but their total annihilation at the hands of the Taliban is stomach-churning. Ten years later the future of the sites is still under debate. 

    A ...

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  • Brookings Fellow on Libyan Heritage Policy Overlooks the Biggest Threat Ahead: Antiquities Looting

    William Y. Brown, a nonresident Brookings Institution Senior Fellow who is former Science Advisor to the U.S. Interior Secretary and President of the Bishop Museum, the Academy of Natural Sciences, and Woods Hole Research Center,weighs in with a number of policy suggestions for how to make the best use of Libya’s heritage in the post-Ghaddafi era. Among other ideas, Brown urges Libya to follow the example set by developed nations and

    earmark funding for museums and land preservation efforts with fees on income or activities. For example, the Land and Water Conservation Fund in the United States was established for acquisition of important public lands and is funded by companies engaged in offshore oil and gas activity. Libya might consider such a heritage fee levied on its own oil and gas production.

     Given that oil and gas are where the money is,such a fee would make good sense, though it has to be pointed ...

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  • Support from an Unlikely Source?

    This link will take you to a new article written for Forbes magazine (they of the Fortune 500 billionaires list), written by one Robert Lenzner. In a boost to the cause of global antiquities trade ethical and legal reform, he describes how discussions last summer with a real-estate investing friend who collected Greek and Roman art (to emulate Levy and White’s supposed prestige). Their discussions led them both to note their increasing concern for the source of such artifact and the threat their unscrupulous collection was having on the collective cultural heritage of countries now weathering severe finance crises. Predicting an inevitable upturn in looting in countries such as Greece, Lenzner notes that his friend Aldrich originally hoped to cleanly purchase “museum-quality” pieces on the market to conserve, study and lend them, but that the realities of the trade taught him something of a harsh lesson…

    I commend the author (reporting his friend’s suggestions) for noting the increasing importance of conservation ...

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