The best ways to share your projects and ideas with SAFE

SAFE provides several platforms for raising awareness about our concerns for cultural heritage. We also encourage public engagement.

SAFECONNECT – The Cultural Heritage Network and our Facebook group were created to enable all those interested in concrete ways to save the past for our future to share their projects and ideas. “What Do You Think?” on this blog offers another open forum.

We welcome your submissions here as a SAFE environment to introduce new work, and to solicit feedback and comments. No ideas are too big or projects too small. Feel free to share work at levels of completion. Creative thinking is what SAFE aims to encourage and showcase.

Last month, SAFE interns reviewed Samantha Sutton’s Archaeological Adventures, two books recommended for middle school students. We now want to know what you think of the following project submitted by Apsara Iyer:

A student at Yale, Iyer has been “researching the formation and persistence of antiquities trafficking markets in Peru and India.” Her Visual Heritage Project crowd sources images of archaeological sites to create a visual record to see how that location has changed over time. According to Iyer, the project aims to be used as a tool to see the destruction and looting of a site over time:

“The site could serve as a medium of raising awareness about saving antiquities while also help protecting them.”

Now SAFE is bringing the Visual Heritage Project to you. Check it out and let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.

Join the conversation of raising awareness by either adding your own projects and ideas to “What Do You Think?” or discussing the ideas in the forum provided: Post your project ideas to our SAFECONNECT and Facebook group, which we created for members of our community to share their work. While SAFE is not able to endorse all submissions, we are delighted to provide the public forum.

People around the world are not only interested in the subject, but are also actively engaged in taking action to raise public awareness.

Thank you again for your sharing your projects and comments with us.

UK adopts resolution prohibiting the import of antiquities from Syria

SAFE applauds this tangible act from the UK in response to the disorder in Syria and the threats to its heritage.

The Export Control Syria Sanctions Amendment Order 2014 SI 2014 1896 (the Order) was made on July 16, 2014, laid before the Parliament on July 18, 2014, and came into force on August 8, 2014.

It “provides for the enforcement of trade sanctions relating to Syrian cultural property specified in Article 11c of Council Regulation (EU) No 36/2012 as amended (the Regulation) . . . The Regulation prohibits throughout the EU the import, export, transfer, or provision of brokering services for the import, export or transfer, of Syrian cultural property and other goods described in it, where there are reasonable grounds to suspect they have been removed illegally or without the consent of their owner.”

  • Article 11c of Council Regulation (EU) No 36/2012 (the Regulation) reads:

It shall be prohibited to import, export, transfer, or provide brokering services related to the import, export or transfer of, Syrian cultural property goods and other goods of archaeological, historical, cultural, rare scientific or religious importance, including those listed in Annex XI, where there are reasonable grounds to suspect that the goods have been removed from Syria without the consent of their legitimate owner or have been removed in breach of Syrian law or international law, in particular if the goods form an integral part of either the public collections listed in the inventories of the conservation collections of Syrian museums, archives or libraries, or the inventories of Syrian religious institutions.

  • The prohibition in paragraph 1 shall not apply if it is demonstrated that:

(a) the goods were exported from Syria prior to 9 May 2011; or

(b) the goods are being safely returned to their legitimate owners in Syria.

Question: will the US, and other countries, follow suit?

 

SAFE recognized in a landmark archaeology encyclopedia

SAFE is proud to announce its contribution to the publication of the landmark Encyclopedia of Global Archaeology.

This eleven-volume compendium, published April of this year, is unprecedented in its comprehensiveness. It contains more than 8,000 pages, 2,600 figures, and 100 tables, which cover international and interdisciplinary issues on archaeology. Edited by Claire Smith, professor in the Department of Archaeology at Flinders University, Australia, this encyclopedia “includes the knowledge of leading scholars from around the world” and encompasses the breadth of archaeology – “a much broader subject than its public image”- with contributions tapped from other disciplines.

One such contribution is the entry for SAFE/Saving Antiquities for Everyone, listed among a handful of others specifically addressing cultural heritage protection. The text begins with SAFE’s core mission: to increase public awareness on looting prevention and cultural heritage protection, by using advertising and marketing techniques. How has SAFE stepped closer to achieving this goal? Various examples of past campaign cards and photos answer this question by vividly illustrating past projects and successes. Perhaps most importantly, however, the entry stresses the fact that increased public awareness has brought changes.

“The editors of the encyclopedia invited SAFE to submit an entry in 2011,” SAFE’s founder Cindy Ho said. “SAFE is honored to have been asked to participate in this important project.” She also explained that since the entry was finalized in 2013, “the damaging effects of political turmoil and armed conflicts on cultural heritage have come into sharp focus. Look at Libya, Mali, Syria, Egypt, and most recently, Iraq.”

The entry also discusses current debates:

While some stakeholders – such as those who advocate for the unregulated acquisition and trade of cultural property – may question the validity of other countries’ cultural patrimony laws and criticize the effectiveness of their enforcement, no meaningful alternative to the 1970 UNESCO Convention, now ratified by more than 120 countries around the world, has been proposed.

With the widely publicized repatriation of antiquities and a general increase in public awareness surrounding these issues, failure to respect national and international laws makes the acquisition of dubious artifacts a high-risk venture. This fact, plus the increasing willingness of source countries to sign long-term reciprocal loan agreements with foreign museums, are bringing decades of pushback to an end.

Criticism of source countries as ‘retentionist'; legal actions to impede the implementation of the 1970 UNESCO Convention in the United States by CPAC; calls for fewer restraints on the importation of artifacts to benefit ‘hobbyist’ collectors and ‘world museums’ to stock their galleries with ‘artistic creations that transcend national boundaries’ are being replaced by a new question in the cultural property debate. The question today is: how to reconcile the growing claims made by source countries in Asia, Africa, South America and the Middle East, on cultural property in museum collections outside the countries of origin?

However, repatriation per se does not compensate for the damage looting does.

[I]n SAFE’s view, the issue is not who owns cultural property and where it can be traded, but what we are able to learn from these relics of our shared global heritage – and what we are willing to do to protect it. Whether antiquities are bought and sold in or out of their countries of origin, archaeological record is irreparably destroyed if they are looted.

Regarding public awareness, SAFE writes:

…the debate about the future of our shared cultural heritage is no longer the exclusive domain of academics, museum professionals, dealers and collectors. Members of the general public are becoming aware. They also demand to be heard.

Thanks to the far-reaching scope of this encyclopedia, readers can cross-refer to related entries. Colin Renfrew, Senior Fellow at the University of Cambridge and also 2009 SAFE Beacon Award Recipient, has written an insightful entry on the state and preventions of looting and vandalism in “Looting and Vandalism (Cultural Heritage Management)” (pp. 4552-4554). Another SAFE Beacon Award Recipient, Neil Brodie, Senior Research Fellow at the University of Glasgow, explains the importance of placing objects in their rightful cultural framework in his entry, “Cultural Heritage Objects and Their Contexts” (pp. 1960-1966). As all the entries include lists of references and further reading, students and researchers can utilize this book as the go-to reference book for all matters related to archaeology, from heritage management to conservation and preservation.

Encyclopedia of Global Archaeology is fully available online here, and for purchase here. If you library does not have a copy, ask for it!

2013 Candlelight Vigil for Global Heritage commemorative book now available!

This compilation is the result of organizations and individuals answering SAFE’s call to join us in marking the 10th anniversary of the looting of the Iraq Museum and the subsequent founding of SAFE.

SAFE thanks all contributors for giving us the special opportunity to highlight your efforts in preserving cultural heritage and to hear your thoughts on the fight against looting and the illicit antiquities trade. It has been a pleasure and an inspiration. We are also grateful to those who lit a virtual candle from more than 30 countries. Please keep the flame burning for global heritage!

And thank you for remembering with us.

 

Vigil book Click to flip through the pages or download book to read the “10 YEARS AFTER comments and reflections.

 

Why I would attend a SAFE Tour

On April 11, 12 and 13, 2014 SAFE Beacon Award winner, Dr. Monica Hanna will be giving guided museum tours of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Brooklyn Museum, focusing specifically on the Egyptian collections at both museums. 

Dr. Hanna will be joining the ranks of the various journalists, archeologists, museum specialists, and art historians who, since 2004, have been giving SAFE Tours and sharing their expert knowledge about different aspects of ancient objects and their greater context within the field of cultural heritage. As always, with each SAFE Tour, visitors are guaranteed a unique and engaging experience. You will find yourself delving into issues not covered by typical tour guides, such as those dealing with source countries and—potentially debatable—provenances of these ancient artifacts.

Now, I’m not sure how many of you are experts in Egyptian antiquities, but I know that I most certainly am not. Luckily for us though, Dr. Hanna’s expertise can provide a thorough and enriching take on Egypt’s cultural heritage. I myself have seen these collections before and I thought they were both amazing. Indeed, with the Met’s collection of 6,400 objects on view that date from the Paleolithic to the Roman period (ca. 300,000 B.C. – C.E. 4th century) and the Brooklyn Museum’s collection of over 1,000 objects on view that date from the Bronze Age to the Roman Period (ca. 4,000 B.C.E. – C.E. 4th century) I found myself thinking that I could spend an entire day at either location.

However, like any museum exhibit that I visit without much prior knowledge of the subject, there was only so much information that I was able to absorb by reading the information plaques. To be truthful, my main take away from each visit was more of an appreciation of the artifacts than an increase in my actual understanding of them. This is often why I try to take a friend who not only shares my passion for art and archaeology, but who also knows more than I do (or simply has a different area of expertise). If you’ve ever listened to someone who’s passionate about a piece or an artist while at a gallery, then you probably already know how infectious that enthusiasm is. Moreover, you know that you find yourself recalling tidbits about artworks or artifacts that would have otherwise been lost among the hundreds of other facts you read that day.

Brooklyn Museum of Art Brooklyn Museum
Richard Barnes/Polshek Partnership Architects

Thanks to Dr. Hanna, we now have the opportunity to have that very friend with us at the museum. A rising star in the field, Dr. Hanna received her Bachelor’s degree in Egyptology and Archaeological Chemistry from the American University in Cairo. She then went on to earn her Master’s in teaching English as a foreign language and later received her PhD in Archaeological Sciences from the University of Pisa in Italy. Furthermore, Dr. Hanna has been spearheading current efforts to safeguard Egypt’s heritage, with Betsy Hiel of the Tribune-Review hailing her as “a leader in exposing the looting of Egyptian antiquities.” The young archaeologist was also recently featured in Channel 4’s 2013 documentary, Unreported World: Egypt’s Tomb Raiders.

As both an Egyptologist and a native of Egypt, Dr. Hanna will bring the collections of the Met and the Brooklyn Museum to life as she gives a story-filled and enlightening tour of each collection. You will leave not only with a greater appreciation of these collections, but also a deeper understanding of these artifacts and the dangers they face within the greater context of Egypt’s cultural heritage.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art The Metropolitan Museum of Art
FindTheBest

Dr. Hanna will pose questions that we, ourselves, may not normally ask such as: from where have these ancient objects come? How did they get here? Who donated them or were they acquired by the museum? What was the expense? From her firsthand experience with looting and tomb raiders, Dr. Hanna knows all too well that not every artifact comes into a collection through expected means. She will be able to share her tales on how artifacts similar to the ones on display in these museums fall into the black market. As these are tours unlike any other, don’t miss your opportunity to be a part of this unique experience and reserve your tickets today.

 

April 10: An important day for cultural heritage

For those concerned about the preservation and protection of our shared cultural heritage, April 10 is our day. Here’s why:

Monica Hanna Cooper Union posterDr. Monica Hanna will deliver her 2014 SAFE Beacon Award Lecture “Saving Ancient Egypt, One Tweet at a Time: How Social Media is Saving One of the World’s Oldest Civilizations” at the The Frederick P. Rose Auditorium (41 Cooper Square, Third Avenue between 6th and 7th Streets, from 
6:30 – 8:00PM. 
Please register here.) In Dr. Hanna’s first public lecture in the US, she will share firsthand accounts of the risks she takes to expose the looting problem in Egypt. She will tell us how looting feeds the black market trade of antiquities and destroys ancient sites, forever damaging our ability to learn from Egypt’s undiscovered ancient past, our shared heritage. She will describe what she, along with a group of volunteers have been doing about the situation, and how their efforts using social media have led to actual recovery of stolen objects. Perhaps most important, she will suggest what we can all do to help. The Beacon Award ceremony will follow.

Earlier the same day, the symposium Reform of Cultural Property Policy: Accountability, Transparency, and Legal Certainty will take place at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law (55 Fifth Avenue, 1:30 – 5:30PM. Please register here.) Presented by the Committee for Cultural Policy, Inc. and the Cardozo Arts & Entertainment Law Journal (AELJ), the half-day symposium will feature legal scholars, museum directors, and cultural policy specialists and explore whether current US law and policy be changed to better serve the interests of museums, the antiquities trade and preservation. Representing the views of various stakeholders, the discussions promise to be lively.

Will Dr. Hanna’s perspectives and firsthand experiences inform the conclusions from the earlier symposium? The answer is: YES.

SAFE is proud to collaborate with the Cardozo Arts & Entertainment Law Journal and we invite all symposium attendees to join us to the SAFE Beacon Award Lecture at the Cooper Union Rose Auditorium, a few minutes’ walk away. Will Dr. Hanna’s perspectives and firsthand experiences inform the conclusions from the earlier symposium? The answer is: YES. For those who wish to sample Dr. Hanna’s point of view, tune into her highly anticipated April 9 appearance on “The Leonard Lopate Show” which will be broadcast over WNYC-AM radio and over the internet, between 12:40 PM.

April 10 is a day of special significance for SAFE. On this day, news about the looting of the Iraq Museum broke and planted the seed for our organization, founded to mobilize all citizens to take part in the stewardship of our shared cultural heritage.

Past and Present Working Together

Thanks to our sponsor Yadaweya, guests to the 2014 SAFE Beacon Award Dinner will be treated to a gift from the Egyptian online fair trade marketplace. This collaboration with SAFE provides the perfect opportunity to reflect on where the past and present cross paths and how this intersection can help preserve heritage of all kinds. To quote their website, Yadaweya “serves as a platform for those interested in discovering Egypt and its cultural heritage.” So not only does it provide artisans the opportunity to continue making their traditional crafts and preserve a skill set that has been passed down through the generations (such as the loom work in this video), it also educates consumers about the historical sites that are home to these artisan communities.

 

SAFE gift courtesy of Yadaweya Attendees to the SAFE Beacon Award Dinner were presented with a gift from Yadaweya

Twelve Egyptian heritage sites are featured on their web site, providing background information about the sites and the artisans that work in the area. By adding this human connection to the heritage sites, Yadaweya emphasizes a point that is sometimes forgotten: heritage sites are not only isolated structures in uninhabited lands.

Yadaweya has previously participated in SAFE Beacon Award Winner Monica Hanna’s campaign to protect the Dahshour site. To them, keeping history alive is vital to its survival. SAFE is pleased to collaborate with Yadaweya in our common cause of preserving heritage for all.

Egypt’s heritage: a global concern

SAFE has added Egypt to the “A Global Concern” section of our web site. With recent updates on the dangers to cultural heritage resulting from political unrest, looting, and encroaching civilization, these pages aim to create an overview of what Egypt stands to lose, how cultural heritage is endangered, the market demand for Egyptian antiquities, what Egypt is doing to safeguard its own heritage, and what others are doing and how YOU can help protect Egypt’s heritage.

These pages were written and researched by Beatrice Kelly, with additional research by Tessa Varner. They exemplify the kind the work interns produce at SAFE.

Photo: Mallawi Museum

SAFE takes “Say YES to Egypt’s Heritage” buttons to Egypt

SAFE launched “Say YES to Egypt” campaign three years ago in response to the frightening news about the looting and destruction of Egypt’s cultural heritage. Our goal was to raise awareness about the situation and show solidarity for the people in Egypt. Thanks to your enthusiastic response, buttons were distributed around the globe, from Greece to Australia to Sweden to Canada - check out our Flickr page to see pictures posted by supporters showing off their buttons.

Screen Shot 2014-03-21 at 9.20.17 AMThis April, in honor of our 2014 Beacon Award Winner Monica Hanna, SAFE will relaunch this awareness campaign and distribute “Say YES to Egypt’s Heritage” buttons in  Egypt. The Egypt-based media agency Past Preservers will kick off our campaign in Egypt by sponsoring the production of the first 500 buttons there. Dr. Hanna and Professor Salima Ikram of the American University in Cairo will help give them out. Wearers are asked to have their photos taken with the buttons (selfies are perfect!) Their photos will join these to make a statement to the world that we all stand together to save the past for our future.

With these buttons, not only will Egyptians wear their pride for their heritage on their sleeves (or lapels, shirts, bags, anywhere…) they will also send a clear message to others to also say “YES” to Egypt’s heritage, our shared heritage.

Join Past Preservers and sponsor SAFE’s “Say YES to Egypt’s Heritage” with a donation of $100 for 500 buttons. Help spread the word. Each campaign donor will be acknowledged on our “Say YES” campaign page and on our cause page. Campaign ends April 30.

Who is Monica Hanna?

If you’re not already one of Monica Hanna’s rapidly-growing followers: more than 25,000 on Twitter—and add another 2,500 if you’re also following her on Facebook—or if you’re not one of the 6,500 fans of Egypt’s Heritage Task Force, you may not be familiar yet with the winner of SAFE’s 2014 Beacon Award. Lauded within the field of cultural heritage, the Egyptian archaeologist is proving herself a force to be reckoned with when it comes to the illegal excavation and looting of ancient artifacts. We’ve written about Dr. Hanna before, but we’d like to take a moment to fully introduce the woman who is arguably changing the way we approach looting, vandalism, and the destruction of cultural heritage by introducing Monica Hanna through our “Who Is…?” campaign.

In 2009, SAFE started a “Who Is…?” campaign to introduce important individuals working on the front lines to protect the past for the future. Each “Who Is…?” profile includes statements by these individuals, excerpts from their writings, comments and reviews from others in the world of cultural preservation.

By highlighting the work of these individuals who may not be widely known yet, we invite any member of the general public to learn about the issues by finding out about the efforts of others who have made a difference. It also aims to inspire all of us to think of ways they too can contribute to the preservation of our heritage.

Stay tuned as we prepare for the upcoming award and check back here often for news and updates regarding Monica Hanna. In the meantime, take a further look at our campaign, Who is Monica Hanna?” and see what others are saying about how Monica defends and protects our shared cultural heritage.

Monica Hanna to receive 2014 SAFE Beacon Award

The archaeologist Dr. Monica Hanna will be the next recipient of the SAFE Beacon Award for her exemplary efforts in shedding light on the looting situation in Egypt.

Home to some of the world’s oldest civilizations, Egypt has had a profound influence on the cultures of Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. For centuries, Egyptian archaeological sites have been looted – most recently to feed the black market trade of antiquities. Despite valiant calls for recovery, invaluable information about Egypt’s ancient past – and our shared history – has been irretrievably lost. Since the 2011 revolution, this situation has become increasingly acute.

While mainstream media reports about the nature and extent of the damage – and those responsible for the damage – have been numerous and sometimes conflicting, we can be thankful for the efforts of “ordinary” Egyptians who have joined together to use social media to keep the rest of the world informed about what is happening to Egypt’s heritage, our shared heritage.

Using social media tools to their fullest potential, Dr. Hanna created and steadfastly maintains Egypt’s Heritage Task Force, while also contributing to other social media platforms. She continues to inform us in lectures and interviews, and she mobilizes others to do the same. In fact, it is impossible for anyone truly concerned about the critical situation in Egypt not to be informed by Dr. Hanna’s dedicated and diligent reporting. This past August, SAFE intern Beatrice Kelly included a small part of Dr. Hanna’s documentation in “How much looting needs to happen before we start to think twice?” and noted:

Indefatigable Egyptian archaeologist Monica Hanna has been single-handedly exposing an incredible amount of looting in Egypt, even going so far as to confront some of the armed looters herself.

And we are paying attention.

With more than than 20,000 followers on Twitter, Dr. Hanna is an inspiration. No wonder Betsy Hiel of the Tribune-Review writes, “Hanna is a leader in exposing the looting of Egyptian antiquities.” Nigel Hetherington of Past Preservers describes her as, “amazing …a revolutionary in the true sense of the word.”

SAFE is honored to present the 2014 Beacon Award to Monica Hanna. In the coming months, we will continue to highlight Dr. Hanna’s important work and roll out our plans for celebration. Please follow us on Facebook and subscribe to our newsletter for the latest updates.

March 21, 2014 UPDATE: Information about the 2014 SAFE Beacon Award can be found here. Dr Hanna’s Twitter followers number more than 28,000.


The SAFE Beacon Awards recognizes outstanding achievement in raising public awareness about our endangered cultural heritage and the devastating consequences of the illicit antiquities trade. Since 2004, awards have been presented to authors, journalists, professors, law enforcement professionals, and archaeologists:

2004 – Roger Atwood

2005 – Matthew Bogdanos 

2006 – Peter Watson and Cecilia Todeschini

2008 – Neil Brodie and Donny George

2009 – Colin Renfrew

2010 – Robert Goldman, David Hall, James McAndrew, and Robert Wittman

2011 – Jason Felch and Ralph Frammolino

2012 – David Gill

SAFE bulletin to feature selected news and opinion

Since 2006, SAFE’s e-newsletter news&updates has been alerting our subscribers to matters related to cultural heritage preservation, upcoming SAFE events, and new developments in the organization. Beginning this issue at the end of each month, news&updates will again feature our own selection of relevant news articles and reports highlighting some of today’s most pressing concerns in the fight against looting and the illicit trade of antiquities and cultural heritage.

We understand that the abundance of articles, news reports, and commentaries frequently and readily available on the Internet can become overwhelming. But not all content is created equal. To help you navigate through the information overload, we will cull from news reports and contributions from the SAFE community to deliver what we consider the most relevant and valuable in the monthly news&updates. With this bulletin, SAFE takes another step towards achieving our mission to raise public awareness about the importance of preserving cultural heritage worldwide.

So stay informed and subscribe to news&updates. And, as always, please feel free to share you own news and reports and let us know if we missed anything. For daily news and reports, visit SAFE on Facebook and Twitter. We thank intern Michael Shamah for this inaugural bulletin:

In the News

Penalties imposed on two amateur German archaeologists (Ahram Online) – Egypt’s antiquities ministry imposes penalties on two German amateur archaeologists who stole samples of King Khufu’s cartouche from the great pyramid.

Aussie leads Project to measure Iraq’s heritage destruction (SBS) – A 3-year project to “create the world’s first database of those damaged heritage sites and create a path to restore what can be restored.”

Peru thwarts antiquities smugglers (Latino Fox News) – Pre-Columbian textiles were discovered under a glass frame of family photos, while en route to Spain.

How did the US lose voting rights in UNESCO, and why? (IB Times) – What does this mean for Cultural Heritage?

Stolen religious artefacts have been repatriated (Cyprus Mail) – “The majority of artefacts were in relatively good condition although some bore clear signs of vandalism.”

Tutankhamun’s sister goes missing – Egypt issues international alert (Telegraph UK) – Egypt issues an international alert for return of a beautiful statuette of Tutankhamun’s sister, stolen with hundreds of other artefacts, when the Malawi Museum was looted amid clashes between police and Islamists this summer.

Antiquities Authority arrests looter attempting to steal buried Byzantine-era coins (J post) – Judean Mountains have now become recent targets for coin looters.

‘Make sure your collections traded legally’ (Korea Times) – Korean officials say that most of 150,000 cultural properties are outside Korea. They were looted and traded illegally during the Korean War or Japanese colonial rule.

Myanmar Buddha sculpture returns home after wild ride (CS Monitor) – An 11th-century Buddha was returned to Myanmar, after 20 years abroad. SE Asian countries, including Myanmar and Cambodia, have been trying reclaim cultural artefacts from the West through legal battles.

Cornell to return 10,000 ancient tablets to Iraq (LA Times) – One of the largest returns of antiquities by an American Institution

 

The latest on SAFE blog

Plumbing the Depths of the “Shadow Economy”: Reflections of an Antiquities Trade Scholar at an Organized Crime Workshop – Damien Huffer’s summary of proceedings, explores the connections between the areas of criminological practice and the antiquities trade.

Introducing Confrontations - Confrontations invites friends and members of the SAFE community to share their firsthand experiences, whether through personal accounts, pictures, or photographic essays. Tell us what happened: What did you do?

Confrontations #1: A Young Boy’s Temptation - The first of the ‘Confrontations’ blog series, about Michael’s encounter with a pile of excavated coins in the marketplace of Sharm el-Sheikh.

Ton Cremers and the Museum Security Network: A SAFE tribute – Long before social media, there was the Museum Security Network; but most of all, the pioneer spirit of its founder Ton Cremers.

Egyptian Ambassador: A critical challenge for cultural preservation – A post at the request of the Egyptian Ambassador Mohamed Tawfik Ambassador: “As popular institutions, simply engaging your audience can be a first step to help stop the theft of Egyptian antiquities.”

Introducing Confrontations

Have you ever witnessed the destruction or vandalism of an ancient site? Noticed a museum object that was improperly labeled? Been to a site that is clearly being disturbed by tourist activity? Seen an object in an antiques shop that shouldn’t be there? Has anyone tried to sell you suspect “souvenirs”? 

Encounters like these can take place anywhere, from the classroom to the museum to the annual family vacation. Expertise in archaeology isn’t necessary for us to feel what is often a resounding impact from these experiences.

It is with this in mind that SAFE introduces Confrontations, a new blog series dedicated to highlighting your stories and bringing to light the irreversible damage that results from looting and the illicit trade of cultural heritage.

Confrontations invites friends and members of the SAFE community to share their firsthand experiences, whether through personal accounts, pictures, or photographic essays. Tell us what happened: What did you do?

Be sure to check out the first of our Confrontations series, with a post by SAFE’s Winter intern, Michael Shamah, and what he decided to do when confronted with a pile of excavated coins in the marketplace of Sharm el-Sheikh

Ton Cremers and the Museum Security Network: A SAFE tribute

Long before social media the tools: news feeds, Facebook, blogs, twitter, etc. there was Museum Security Network (MSN) the effort: the thinking, the initiative, and most of all, the pioneer spirit of its founder Ton Cremers.

Nearly two decades ago, MSN started using the still nascent Internet technology to its best potential, gathering the latest and most reliable news and reports on art theft, looting and the illicit antiquities trade from around the world all in one place, and presented them to anyone with a computer. At no cost. As we all became more aware, we continued to depend on MSN’s listserv, which remains the only one of its kind for its completeness, promptness and reliability. In fact, it became such a ubiquitous presence for our growing community that recent news of its closing came as a shock. While the group remains, MSN is closed.

While all who are seriously interested in these issues recognize the contribution of MSN and Ton Cremers, no tribute would be complete without the acknowledgement of the fact that MSN was much more than a mere aggregator. MSN was a keeper of content others collected from parts of the world where the exposure of such information could be hazardous. If a web site was taken down by dictatorial authorities, Ton was there to ensure the content will be kept safe. Through the insight and diligence of Ton Cremers, there are also original investigative reports and analyses, such as the case of the Mask of Ka Nefer Nefer which this blog also covered here. Ton also helped increase exposure to the work of others who were similarly inspired and concerned.

In the days of social media when sharing any news is all too easy, Ton Cremer’s efforts should never be forgotten. Without MSN’s daily delivery many of us would have had less content to draw from, our lectures and events would have had smaller attendance, and our blog posts fewer readers. For SAFE, the organization founded by and for members of the public, its work would have been nearly impossible. As we celebrate the 10th anniversary of our founding, we applaud MSN and Ton Cremers with gratitude and humility.

We owe a huge debt to MSN and Ton Cremers, without whose contribution, we might still remain in the “dark ages” regarding these damaging threats to our shared heritage, except for those few members of academia and journalists.

SAFE closes 2013 global awareness campaign with gratitude

SAFE would like to thank you for joining and participating in the 2013 Donny George Candlelight Vigil for Global Heritage, marking the tenth anniversary of the looting of the National Museum of Iraq and the subsequent founding of our organization.

The amount of insightful stories, shared reflections, and heartfelt comments that we have received over the past six months has truly been remarkable. To be able to highlight your efforts in preserving cultural heritage and to hear so many of you share your thoughts on the fight against looting and the illicit antiquities trade has been not only a pleasure, but also an inspiration.

Together, our combined efforts unite us in honoring the memory of Dr. Donny George Youkhanna, whose call to action spurred the very first of SAFE’s Global Candlelight Vigil in 2007. Since then, it has been most inspiring to observe and showcase the many ways you have all observed our Global Candlelight Vigil. To be sure, this year—a momentous one marking the ten-year anniversary of the looting of the National Museum in Iraq, as well as the founding of SAFE—has been no exception.

Global campaign sparks global responseIndeed, this year’s global campaign truly sparked a global response, with virtual candles lit in over 100 cities from more than 30 countries across the world. We are indebted to each and every one of you who participated in the Vigil and we would like to thank you. We would also like to extend a personal thank you to those who contributed their stories and shared their reflections with us on our website and on our Facebook page under the theme of “10 YEARS AFTER.”

 

SAFE thanks:

- The Archaeological Institute of America

- Roger Atwood

- Deanna Baker

- Marc Balcells

- Cynthia Bates

- Ben Furnival

- Lucy Blake-Elahi

- Neil Brodie

- Claudia Brose

- Annalisa Cicerchia

- Juan Cole

- Dillon de Give

- Nathan Elkins

- Marsha Fulton

- Senta German

- Steven George

- Melissa Halverson

- Abdulamir Hamdani

- Susan Whitfield Harding

- Matthew Hu

- Damien Huffer

- Beatrice Kelly

- James McAndrew

- Mary Montgomery

- Oscar Muscarella

- Bodil Nilsson

- Past Preservers

- Rick Pettigrew

- Matthew Piscitelli

- Clemens Reichel

- Colin Renfrew

- Sandra Roorda

- Lucille Roussin

- Rabbi Barnea Levi Selavan

- Ann Shaftel

- Diane Siebrandt

- Dean Snyder

- Howard Spiegler

- Jeff Spurr

- Rene Teijgeier

- Marni Walter

- Peter Watson

With the 2013 Donny George Candlelight Vigil for Global Heritage now at a close, we would still like to invite you to share your thoughts regarding the preservation of cultural heritage and, if you haven’t already done so, light a virtual candle to show your support. While the deadline for submissions to our initiative, “10 YEARS AFTER,” has passed, there is no deadline for you to publicize your reflections or present your thoughts on our website or via social media.

For us at SAFE, one of the most gratifying ways to celebrate this tenth anniversary and continue the fight against looting and the illicit antiquities trade is seeing us all come together as a community and take a stand. SAFE looks forward to continuing this journey together and working to preserve our collective right to cultural heritage. Thank you again for both your commitment and your involvement.

Remembering and Raising Awareness at the Royal Ontario Museum

SAFE presents the following announcement from Dr. Clemens Reichel and Mary Montgomery in participation of our 2013 Candlelight Vigil for Global Heritage. Thank you for keeping the memory alive!

Clemens Reichel, Ph.D.
Associate Curator (Ancient Near East) Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto and Assistant Professor (Mesopotamian Archaeology), University of Toronto

Mary Montgomery
Exhibit Planner, Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto


The looting of the Iraq Museum that followed the 2003 Iraq War attracted attention far beyond the museum community. As SAFE’s website illustrates, this tragedy — which was followed by the destruction of many of Iraq’s archaeological sites by looters —continues to elicit strong reactions and critical commentaries. This year, individuals as well as institutions worldwide are observing the 10th anniversary of these events. At the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) in Toronto, they are re-told through Catastrophe!, an acclaimed exhibit that is presented in conjunction with the blockbuster exhibition Mesopotamia: Inventing Our World.

Catastrophe! The Looting and Destruction of Iraq’s Past was produced by the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute in 2008. Consisting of text panels, images and graphics, it aimed at educating the public about the looting and raising awareness to ongoing concerns. For the 10th anniversary, the Oriental Institute updated selected panels to reflect ongoing changes in Iraq and elsewhere and to include the most recent information. The Royal Ontario Museum is the first museum to present Catastrophe! Ten Years Later, the revised exhibition, in its entirety.

Catastrophe! Ten Years Later examines the severity of the looting and on-going ramifications to Iraq’s cultural heritage. The show is divided into six thematic sections: Introduction; The Museum;  Archaeological and Heritage Sites in Iraq; The Importance of Archaeological Context; Looted Artifacts;  What Has Been Done: What Can be Done? Protecting the Past. The exhibit ends with a call to action, providing information on what the public can do to preserve mankind’s cultural heritage by helping to prevent the illicit trade of antiquities.

The ROM’s commemorative programming includes a two-day symposium – Robbing The Cradle of Civilization: Preserving the Art and Archaeology of Mesopotamiascheduled for October 19th and 20th 2013.  It will include a keynote conversation with  Colonel Matthew Bogdanos and the University of Chicago’s Prof. McGuire Gibson on lessons learned from the 2003 looting.

The aftermath of the Iraq Museum still affects us today. With Catastrophe! Ten Years Later the ROM joins SAFE and cultural institutions worldwide in ensuring that the memory of what happened a decade ago will remain on the public’s mind.

Catastrophe! Ten Years Later is on display at the Royal Ontario Museum until January 5, 2014.

This exhibit was developed, written and produced at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago.

Photo:  Damage to Iraq National Museum’s façade. April 2003.  
Credit:  Joanne Farchakh-Bajjaly

Why we care about the cultural heritage of Egypt – now.

Originally posted on February 6, 2011, the following is reposted as a reminder of why we Say YES to Egypt’s Heritage! (Photo: Egypt’s Heritage Task Force: الحملة المجتمعية للرقابة على التراث والأثار )


No one knows what the future holds for Egypt. Our hearts and hopes are with the Egyptian people as they struggle toward genuine democracy. The first priority now must be the country’s stability, its citizens, their safety, their dignity.

While politicians work out ways to address the demands of the people, attention must also be focused on efforts to protect Egypt’s ancient cultural heritage, out of respect for the Egyptian people and all citizens around the world. Some may think this premature, even insensitive. We don’t. Here’s why:

– As the current government in Cairo gives way to a new political regime, and Egypt begins the process of renewal, it is essential that cultural heritage of the people – the touchstone of their cultural memory and identity – remains intact. We must work together to ensure that the new Egypt is not built on the rubble of robbed museums and plundered tombs.

– Also, protecting and preserving cultural heritage is now recognized as a key development priority for all nations: If we are truly concerned about Egypt’s social, political and economic future, we should strongly support the protection of their museums and heritage sites.

– The ancient and sacred structures and artifacts that make up the cultural heritage of Egypt represent the ultimate non-renewable resource. The world community must do everything it can to protect these treasures for all humanity and prevent irreparable damage that may that result in the destruction of ancient sites and loss of materials.

Join SAFE in solidarity for the people of Egypt and their cultural heritage.

 

Say YES to Egypt’s Heritage!

Egypt is in a state of turmoil. Life is lost while the people of Egypt continue to fight for democracy and freedom. But while the safety of human life is our first priority, there is another aspect of humanity that we must not forget: Egypt’s cultural heritage. Why? Because “wars end, and shattered lives, communities and societies must be rebuilt.” (Nature, Vol 423, 29 May 2003). In the last few days, the situation has drastically worsened: the Mallawi Museum has been looted, churches are being burned, archaeological sites and museums have been closed indefinitely and the lands surrounding the pyramids at Giza and Dahshur remains peppered with holes dug by looters.

Looted burial tombs beside Dahshur's Black Pyramid, from Der Spiegel. Looted burial tombs beside Dahshur’s Black Pyramid, from Der Spiegel.
While the situation remains chaotic, what can we do? 

SAFE has launched its “Say YES to Egypt’s Heritage” campaign, and I invite you to join us, right now.

Here’s how:

  1. Set and share your Facebook profile image with the “Say YES to Egypt’s Heritage” image at the top left corner.
  2. Set and share your Facebook cover photo with the “I Say YES to Egypt’s Heritage, Our Heritage” banner at the bottom of this post. (Please be patient, Facebook servers are busy.)
  3. Tweet the message “I Say YES to Egypt’s Heritage, Our Heritage” with #sayyestoegypt! (Don’t forget to tweet us at @saveantiquities)
  4. Join the Say YES to Egypt Cause page here and stand with  thousands of other individuals pledging their support of Egypt’s cultural heritage
  5. Spread the news about this campaign, like and share this post

Let’s come together and do something to show solidarity for the people of Egypt. Raise awareness about the urgent risks to one of humanity’s greatest legacies. So please join me and SAFE to show the world that we are all saying yes to Egypt’s heritage because it is our heritage.

The US State Department’s Iraq Cultural Heritage Initiative

At the 10th anniversary of the looting of the Iraq Museum the US Department of State issued this press release about its efforts to “protect, preserve, and display the rich cultural heritage of Iraq.” It is reposted below.

Iraq-Museum-Islamic-Gallery-2011Commemorating a Decade of U.S.-Iraqi Collaboration in Renewing the Iraq Museum

Media Note

Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
April 10, 2013

For ten years, the U.S. Department of State has been working closely with Iraqi counterparts and American academic and nonprofit institutions to protect, preserve, and display the rich cultural heritage of Iraq. Cultural heritage cooperation is a major pillar of the Iraq-U.S. Strategic Framework Agreement, reflecting the high value both nations place on this irreplaceable resource.

A major continuing effort has focused on the Iraq Museum in Baghdad, where looting in April 2003 left the facility physically damaged and an unsafe environment for both staff and the Museum’s collections. In summer 2003, State Department personnel were among the first responders to the museum’s needs, providing replacement photographic equipment, office furniture, and supplies. An assessment in autumn 2003 conducted by experts in museum security, environmental control, conservation, and information technology initiated a 2004 project of major improvements to the museum’s physical plant, IT capabilities, and security.

This assessment also laid the groundwork for the Iraq Cultural Heritage Project, a $12.9 million initiative developed and funded by the State Department, and implemented by the nonprofit International Relief and Development from 2008 to 2011. This project rehabilitated and furnished 11 of the museum’s public galleries, a 3-story collections storage facility, and the conservation labs, as well as providing a new roof and upgraded climate control systems.

Along with physical improvements to the building, the State Department sponsored and organized trainings for museum staff as part of its comprehensive approach to partnering with Iraqis in the preservation of their cultural heritage. In 2004, the Department funded a special five-week “Cultural Heritage Institute” through the Council of American Overseas Research Centers, to bring 22 Iraqi museum staff to the Smithsonian Institution for training in museum management, conservation, and curatorial practices. In 2009-2010, the Department’s Iraq Cultural Heritage Project also provided training for 20 museum professionals from throughout Iraq at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, covering topics from exhibit design and museum education to archaeological site excavation and stabilization.

Iraq Museum Hatra Gallery 2011Funding for these projects was provided through the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ Cultural Heritage Center and Office of Academic Exchanges, the U.S. Embassy Baghdad, and private foundations. Images and more information about other cultural heritage projects in Iraq can be found here.

Media contact: Susan Pittman, eca-press@state.gov, (202) 632-6373.

Project Planned for Training Buddhist Monastic Caretakers in Preservation & Digital Documentation

Ann Shaftel sent us the following contribution to the 2013 Donny George Candlelight Vigil for Global Heritage.

Ann Shaftel is a Fellow of the International Institute of Conservation, a Fellow of the American Institute for Conservation, and a member of the Canadian Association of Professional Conservators. She has an MS degree in Art Conservation and MA degree in History of Art. She has written and published many scholarly and practical articles, including in the Journal of Art Theft. Ann’s clients include governments, museums, universities and churches worldwide. In February 2013, she presented a talk on the topic of art theft from monasteries for the Interpol conference held in Thimpu.


Protection and preservation of international cultural heritage sites and collections is a top priority in today’s rapidly changing world. Traditional Buddhist monasteries are experiencing rapid demographic and cultural change, an increase in art theft, and the continuous deterioration of old and fragile treasures.

Tashi Delek May-June Issue Click to download

There is a major project planned to train Buddhist monk/nun caretakers in digital documentation of their monastic collection, and in emergency planning and response. Fundraising is in progress from diverse donors: foundation, corporate and private donors.

The SAFE Candlelight Vigil further demonstrates the need for public outreach on preservation issues. Bhutanese Druk Airlines magazine, Tashi Delek, has just published an article that explains scientific preservation theory in an easy to read and enjoyable style, with full color images. Read by royalty, tourists, business travelers and Bhutanese citizens, the magazine is an excellent way to share information on Cultural Heritage Preservation for the Himalayan region (see attached Tashi Delek article).

 

Ann Shaftel MS, MA
FIIC, FAIC, CAPC
ICOM-CC
annshaftel@gmail.com