The thorny issue of deaccession

On July 10, 2014, at Christie’s in London, a 4,000-year-old Egyptian limestone statue of an official named Sekhemka was sold to a telephone bidder for £15,762,500 (or $27,001,163, with the buyer’s premium). This sale was strongly opposed by several groups, including the UK Museums Association (MA), the Save Sekhemka Action Group, and Egypt’s Antiquities Ministry.

Why the controversy? It is because the sale violated the general deaccessioning policies of museums. Deaccession—a permanent removal of an object from a museum’s collection, usually through sale—is not undertaken lightly by museum curators. It is usually done only with artworks that are duplicated in the collection or that are too damaged for conservation or display. In good museum practice, the funds generated from the sale are used only for the improvement of the collection.

The UK Museums Association stipulates that the money raised from deaccession should only be used to improve the existing collection. In the United States, the Association of American Museum Directors’ usual standard is that artworks cannot be sold just to fix a leaky roof. The AAMD Policy on Deaccessioning, amended on October 4, 2010, specifies that “funds received from the disposal of a deaccessioned work shall not be used for operations or capital expenses. Such funds, including any earnings and appreciation thereon, may be used only for the acquisition of works . . .”

Cultural heritage is not an asset to be liquidized and monetized. Nor is deaccessioning a sustainable way of generating funds.

Does the Northampton Museum’s expansion of gallery space meet these stipulations? Probably not, as 55% of the proceeds (about £8m) will be used for a major extension project, which will double the size of the exhibition space and create new education and commercial facilities. But this is not a collection improvement project.

What is more alarming is that the Northampton Museum is only one of the many deaccession cases. In 2013, the Croydon Council was criticized for selling twenty-four pieces from the Riesco Collection of Chinese porcelain to raise £8m for refurbishing Fairfield Halls, its local arts center. This sale prompted the Arts Council England’s (ACE) Accreditation panel to remove the Croydon Museum’s accreditation status. Similar issues surrounded the attempt by the Tower Hamlets Council in East London to sell a Henry Moore sculpture in order to ease the financial problems it faced following massive government funding cuts.

The Northampton statue of Sekhemka The Northampton statue of Sekhemka
Mike Pitts from http://mikepitts.wordpress.com

In the United States, in February 2014, the Maier Museum at Randolph College in Lynchburg, VA, was sanctioned by the AAMD for selling George Bellows’ painting Men of the Docks (1912) to the National Gallery of Art in London for $25.5 million for the purpose of easing the college’s financial difficulties. The American Alliance of Museums criticized the sale as “a flagrant, egregious violation of our Code of Ethics for Museums, showing total disregard of an important tenet common to the charter of all museums . . .” Similarly, in June, the Delaware Art Museum auctioned off a William Holman Hunt painting, Isabella and the Pot of Basil (1868), for $4.25 million which it used to pay outstanding debt and build its operating endowment. The museum was subsequently sanctioned by the AAMD, which means that no AAMD member museums will loan works of art or collaborate on exhibitions with the Delaware Art Museum.

It is my understanding that there were no legal issues in all of these sales. The objects were not bound to any donor stipulation that the museum never sell the object. The issue here is not one of legality, but one of public trust. Public museums are stewards of cultural heritage. Their mission is to protect and preserve the cultural artifacts with which they are entrusted.

Cultural heritage is not an asset to be liquidized and monetized. Nor is deaccessioning a sustainable way of generating funds. Although the sale of the Sekhemka statue brought $27 million, it is probably a short-term financial gain. If the Arts Council England (ACE) revokes the accreditation status of the Northampton Museum and it loses ACE funding, this sale might prove to be costly in the long run. According to BBC, the ACE granted the museum £166,000 in 2012 and £69,000 in 2014. This is probably why the Art Fund, a charitable supporter of art institutions, decried Northampton’s decision as “financially as well as morally harmful.”

I imagine how heartbroken the New Yorkers were when Asher Durand’s Kindred Spirits (1849) left the city for Arkansas’s Crystal Bridges. For those who long loved looking at the masterpiece before entering the Edna Barnes Salomon Room on the third floor at the New York Public Library, the deaccession of the Durand painting must have been like losing a family treasure.

Perhaps that was the sentiment that Andy Brockman, an archaeologist working with the Save Sekhemka Group, felt, when he said that the Sekhemka statue “was gifted for the enjoyment and education of the people. It is held in trust for the future. This is selling the family silver.”

What can the public do to prevent the museums from deaccessioning public treasures? Please let SAFE know by commenting below.

(Featured image from Getty Images GB).

Abdulamir Hamdani on the implications of the current fighting for Iraq’s cultural heritage

The following is Dr. Abdulamir al-Hamdani’s presentation on the destruction of Iraq’s heritage made on July 18, 2014 at the Iraqi Cultural Center. The event was also live-tweeted by Dr. Damien Huffer (#ICHpanel) and reported here by Dr. Alex Nagel. SAFE is grateful for this collaboration, allowing us to raise awareness about these critical issues.

What can you do? Sharing knowledge about Iraq’s vanishing cultural heritage

A public panel, “The Implications of the Current Fighting for Iraq’s Cultural Heritage” was held on Friday evening, July 18, 2014 in Washington, DC. The panel was organized by the Iraqi Cultural Center (ICC), the Iraqi Ministry of Culture and The American Academic Research Institute in Iraq (TAARII). The following is a report of the presentations.

The goal of this panel was to focus on the current situation in Iraq, particularly on the cultural impact of the fighting which broke out in the beginning of 2014. From the beginning it was clear that the implications for the future of Iraq’s cultural heritage are a major concern. In a packed room of approximately 80 people, Jabbar Jaffar (ICC) moderated the panel discussion.

The first speaker was Abdulameer Al-Dafar al-Hamdani, a member of the Iraqi State Board of Antiquities and Heritage. ISIS has been gaining control over much of the north-western and western parts of Iraq, an area that includes approximately 4,000 important cultural heritage sites that are in immediate danger of being lost. In the Nineveh province these include the important sites of Ashur and Nimrud, Nineveh in Mosul, and the Mosul Museum. According to his information, because of security concerns and lack of guards, staff cannot check in on the sites, leaving many of the sites and institutions open for looters. We should be deeply concerned about Hatra, because of its isolation, and because the area has been used as a camp for ISIS training.

ISIS destroyed shrines 5 Beautiful Historic Shrines Destroyed Forever by Militants in Iraq
AP

The al-Askari shrine in Samarra, which was attacked in 2006, has become a target again. Among the shrines and tombs that have been destroyed (partly by bulldozers), are the tomb of the Mosul scholar and historian al-Jazari (1160-1233), the Tomb of Jonah on the Eastern side of Mosul, the shrine of Sheikh Fathi, the golden dome of the Shiite’s Saad bin Aqeel Husseiniya shrine, and the shrine of Imam Sultan bin Asim Abdullah ibn Umar, southeast of Mosul. Yesterday, two shrines in the Basheer village, some 15km south of Kirkuk were destroyed. Destruction is not limited to sites of Sunnite or Shiite worship.

Modern statues that have been targeted or destroyed include the statue of the poet Abu Tamman (c. 788-845) and the statue of the 19th century composer Othman al-Mousuli. Among other places of worship already destroyed are the Al-Jawad Husseiniya mosque in Tal Afar and the Al-Qubba Husseiniya mosque in Mosul, both important sites for Shiites. Eleven sites of Christian worship have been destroyed including the Chaldean archdiocese. A statue of the Virgin Mary in a church in Mosul was also destroyed. There are expectations that more is to come. Among the libraries lost is the Diyala Province Library where some 1,500 books were burned.

Mr. al-Hamdani ended his presentation with a call for cooperation from the international community. There are many legal frameworks and international protocols that prevent stolen artefacts from leaving the country. Iraq needs support from the surrounding countries including Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Turkey, but it also needs the help of dealers, collectors, and museums .They must pay particular attention to stopping the illicit trade in materials. We all must work together, as protecting Iraqi cultural heritage– the memory of humankind– is a global issue. On Wednesday, an official Iraq delegation asked UNESCO for immediate help.

The second speaker was Dr. Katharyn Hanson, Program Director for the Archaeological Site Preservation Program at the Iraqi Institute for the Conservation of Antiquities and Heritage in Erbil, Iraq. In her work, Dr. Hanson combines archaeology, remote sensing, and cultural heritage policy. Throughout her presentation, Dr. Hanson stressed the role of satellite images in documenting the ongoing looting of sites.  Dr. Hanson focused on the risks of (1) unregulated building activities, (2) damage caused by armed conflict, (3) targeted destruction and intentional damage, and (4) looting. Unregulated building activities were witnessed at Nineveh in 2005 and in Syria’s Dead Cities, which became a refugee crisis camp. Dr. Hanson spoke of other sites in Syria, including Palmyra, the crusader castle of Crac de Chevaliers in the western part of the nation, and Aleppo where damage was witnessed on a weekly basis in March 2013. Via the website of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) it is possible to assess images of the destruction. She addressed the situation at Tel Jifar, east of Apamea in Syria, which is now topped with a military garrison and where images show looting holes on the site.

In her report on looting, Dr. Hanson began with the looting of the Iraq Museum on April 10, 2003 and introduced the site of Umma, where some 18,000 looting pits have been identified via satellite imagery since 2003. Turning again to Syria, Dr. Hanson spoke about Apamea, where more than 15,000 looting pits have been identified. At this point, Dr. Hanson referred to the important role of the public media, which can help connect the links between looting and terrorism. The International Business Times and The Guardian reported on “How an arrest in Iraq revealed ISIS’s $2billion network.” Dr. Hanson stressed that the media has the power to reveal the fact that stolen artifacts are used to raise money for terrorist organizations.

The vast amount of money that can be raised through selling antiquities was illustrated by the case of the notorious Elamite lion goddess, which sold for $57.2 million at Sotheby’s auction house in December 2007.

Dr. Hanson then asked “What can we do?” Much of the looted material is still hidden at this point, but collections, dealers, and museums will eventually acquire these objects.

ISIS destroying mosques Destruction of places of worship across northern Iraq, in areas recently taken over by extremist militants.
AP

Therefore, Dr. Hanson stated, “Go to museums and private collectors, and ask – if the label does not say so—where an object is from! We need to decrease the demand in museums.”

Finally, Dr. Hanson stressed the role of the Blue Shield Organization, and mentioned current initiatives directed by the Penn Cultural Heritage Centre and the Smithsonian Institution, working in collaboration with the American Association for the Advancement of Science and other institutions. She also mentioned the effectiveness of the implementation of the UN Resolution 1483. Regarding Iraq’s antiquities laws, in 1926, it passed one of the best laws safeguarding antiquities (No. 40), and more recently in 2001, it added Law No. 55. The 1954 Hague convention addresses the protection of cultural, scientific, and artistic works during warfare. Iraq became a signatory in 1967. There are also US laws that specifically ban the import of such works.

The final speaker was Brian Michael Lione, Executive Director of University of Delaware Programs at the Iraqi Institute for the Conservation of Antiquities and Heritage (IICAH) in Erbil, Iraq which was first funded by the U.S. government and officially opened in 2010. Mr. Lione introduced the IICAH and provided a brief history of its activities. He focused on the collaboration of people and networks  and asked the audience to spread information about the Institute. The students at the Iraqi Institute at Erbil are diverse and represent all of Iraq. Typically, there are about 10 students per class. The first classes took place before the official opening in 2009. Approximately 200 students have attended the program since its opening. Courses focus on (1) archaeological site protection, (2) architectural site preservation and conservation of built heritage, and (3) collections care and conservation. Students also have the chance to study English. Outreach and expansion are major components, and several international institutions have become partners. A new course “Skills for Heritage Preservation” is planned for the fall 2014.

The panel presentations were followed by a Q&A session. Mr. Jaffar opened with questions to the panelists. “What have you as subject matter experts done to help?” Dr. Hanson was quick in replying. “Not enough!” The global scholarly community needs to be involved. Mr. Jaffar then asked, “With the military might of international community, why didn’t you stop ISIS before it started?” Questions from the audience addressed the role of the media and provided suggestions on how these reports of destruction might reach the press more easily as conflicts involving the protection of cultural heritage are still only marginally covered in international media.

One member of the audience asked about the particular role of the media in boosting ISIS. Recent reports have expressed doubt about the true extent of destruction. Mr. al-Hamdani said that he is in touch with colleagues in Mosul on a daily basis. Another audience member referred to the inspirational role of the “Monuments Men”. Dr. Hanson noted that while she understands the aesthetic appeal of many of the objects that are being looted, it is the context that we need to care about first, as looting destroys the only information we have about the origin of these works. According to Mr. al-Hamdani, it is clear that those who demand these artifacts share equal blame with ISIS which profits from their sale. Mr. al-Hamdani therefore asked Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Turkey– the countries surrounding Iraq– to help with the problems, and noted the responsibility of the international community, particular dealers, collectors and museums.

The evening panel was a reminder for all of us to think about how we as individuals can help. The main task is to increase public awareness of the situation. The Iraqi State Board of Antiquities is in a difficult situation and needs your help spreading the word out about a growing disaster. Time is crucial as there is new damage every day. Our world cultural heritage is at stake.


Note: Please also view the discussion on twitter: #ICHP and 2009 report on the Mosul Museum

The vote is in: We want international cooperation for cultural heritage protection

On May 29, SAFE opened up an informal poll to gauge public opinion on the issue of international cooperation on cultural heritage protection. This was inspired by Egypt’s request for a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to restrict imports of Egyptian archaeological and ethnological material into the United States. The goal was to raise public awareness, a core mission of SAFE.

In fact, the poll did an excellent job—it got people talking. A total of 142 people voted on the poll, and more than twenty-five experts and concerned public took the trouble to put thoughtful comments on the SAFE webpage, the poll website, and LinkedIn group pages.

An overwhelming majority of the voters (89.44%) voted for the first choice—a simple “Yes,” that all nations should help protect each other’s cultural heritage.

It seemed that many people who responded YES saw the international cooperation on protecting cultural heritage as an obvious, basic moral duty. But what intrigued me the most was that some people have voted for the runner-up choice (albeit only with 5.63% support): “No, a nation only deserves assistance if it has a stable government, incorruptible officials and adequate museum facilities in which to preserve the protected materials.”

This was a kind of argument that the stubborn retentionists of the 80s and 90s often used to undermine source countries’ ability to take care of their cultural heritage.

One of the commenters on the SAFE website, Nigel Sadler, perhaps provides an insight into why some people might prefer partial or limited repatriation. First, Sadler reasoned that his understanding of this answer choice was not that objects should never be returned to politically unstable countries, but that they should ultimately be at some point. Then he said,

“there has to be a degree of stability in the government and there must be museums or organisations that can house, safeguard, and even display the items in a secure environment.”

This view suggests that some people might think temporary retentionism is permissible. However, Ian MacLeod, Executive Director at Western Australian Maritime Museum, seems to disagree, for he wrote,

“All nations deserve support regardless of the stability of the country—it is a shared cultural resource we protect.”

<caption>Results of the poll</caption> Results of the poll

Another idea that was echoed in several comments was that cultural heritage belongs to all humans regardless of nationality and cultural affinity. Christ Durham wrote:

“It is the heritage of all humans no matter which country it resides in.”

As a college student who has studied both the retentionism and restitutionism arguments, I personally thought that this idea could go either way. That is, if cultural heritage belongs to all mankind, you can argue that the museums with the highest number of visitors and the best conservation resources should keep the objects—a classic retentionism argument. But you can also make an opposite argument for repatriation: because cultural objects belong to all people, the objects should be placed within their source countries’ cultural context, where they can be best understood for the benefit of the entire world.

This is why I thought that Shruti Das raised an interesting point—she broke away from the dichotomy of retentionism and restitutionism. She wrote that there is the

“need to create a common platform for all the nations, where they can stand for the preservation of cultural heritage irrespective of national bias or discrimination.”

Therefore, she is talking not from the point of view of ownership, but from the point of view of shared efforts and shared knowledge. Sachin Bansal chimed in, writing,

“we should have a knowledge transfer exercises [sic] on the heritage preservations as ‘one world’ concept. People should share insights . . .”

Despite some disagreements, it was apparent that everyone wanted to advocate for more action to establish a worldwide culture of respect for every culture’s heritage. Jack Rollins’s eloquent comment might be a nice point to wrap up this summary. He commented on June 21:

“However tragic these losses are, the fact is that if someone has the power to do something, he also has the power not to do it. If the world sits by watching one minimally civilized group destroy—forever—any part of the world’s culture, how unendurably self-absorbed are we; a shiftless, spoilt, selfish, coarse citizens of the world we must see ourselves as ‘rudely stamp’d.’”

That is, apathy, laziness, and neglect are the worst enemies of safeguarding the heritage of all cultures.

Let SAFE know about your thoughts on another important issue on cultural heritage protection: Should the St. Louis Art Museum voluntarily return the mummy mask of Ka-Nefer-Nefer to Egypt? Vote here.

How the Ka-Nefer-Nefer/SLAM case could finally be put to rest

After more than three years of legal battle, the curious case of U.S. v. Mask of Ka Nefer Nefer finally came to a denouement. On June 12, Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decided that the 3,200-year-old mummy mask of an Egyptian noblewoman should stay at St Louis Art Museum (SLAM). To the frustration of many who have been following the case, it was closed because of the attorney’s office’s administrative blunder—it failed to timely file a request to extend the deadline to amend its case. Consequently, the court affirmed the April 2012 decision by the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Missouri, which stated that the government failed to articulate exactly how the mask was brought to the U.S. “contrary to law.” So Ka-Nefer-Nefer is still on view at SLAM.

But is this really the end of this story?

Maybe there could be a different ending to this story. What if SLAM simply offers Ka-Nefer-Nefer back to Egypt? For the past few years, the antiquities world has seen a tremendous shift in major museums’ and auction houses’ attitude toward repatriation. Recently, for example, the Metropolitan Museum of ArtSotheby’sNorton Simon Museum, and Christie’s all returned tenth-century sculptures looted from the Khmer temple of Prasat Chen in Koh Ker. These repatriation cases were all enthusiastically welcomed by Cambodia, with promises of future collaborations and loans for exhibitions.

SLAM, too, can turn this into a golden opportunity. This does not have to be a contentious and costly fight, but an opportunity for a demonstration of good will. Although the cases of Koh Ker sculptures had more obvious evidence that they had been looted (including the feet and bases of the sculptures left in Koh Ker), it is also true that Ka-Nefer-Nefer’s journey to the U.S. has many unanswered questions. For example, Malcolm Gay, a reporter of St. Louis’s Riverfront Times, writes that “an anonymous Swiss collector” in SLAM’s provenance cannot be convincingly identified. David Gill, 2012 Beacon Award Recipient and Professor of Archaeological Heritage at University Campus Suffolk, points out that the mask could not have possibly been in Cairo and the Kaloterna collection at the same time. Paul Barford, in responding to David Gill, rightly claims that even after the court ruling, SLAM still has ethical and moral obligation to fulfill.

SLAM’s insistence on keeping the object, therefore, seems rather outdated.

Right now, SLAM is swimming against the tide. Just to mention a few more well-known examples, the Met returned the famous Euphronios Krater in 2006; the Cleveland Museum of Art returned fourteen Italian antiquities in 2008; MFA Boston returned Weary Herakles in 2011 to Turkey, as well as eight antiquities to Nigeria last June. All cases included an agreement that the source countries recognized that the museums had acquired the objects in good faith without knowing their questionable ownership history.

SLAM’s insistence on keeping the object, therefore, seems rather outdated. The twenty-first century is finally moving away from the dark shadows of colonialism. The old guards of the museum world who once put up a fight for retentionism are losing their voices. As a college student, I admit that I do not know all the nuances and intricacies of the cultural heritage law and precedents. What I do know is this: ethics, morality, and good will are more important than retaining an Egyptian mask. SLAM already has the fabulous mummy case of Amen-Nestawy-Nakht and many other important Egyptian antiquities, whose ownership is not in question as far as I know.

Perhaps SLAM can consider returning the beautiful noblewoman’s mask back to her home in Egypt, maybe with a condition that Egypt recognizes that SLAM purchased the object in good faith under the limited information available to it in 1998? The Egyptian government has been very appreciative of all the recent repatriations, but has not been afraid to retaliate if agreements were not reached. Look at the case of this German couple, who was honored in a gala at the Egyptian Embassy in Germany for their return of a smuggled relief. But Egypt temporarily severed its tie with the Louvre and refused to permit French excavations on its land in 2009 when the Louvre did not return four wall reliefs stolen in Egypt in the 1980s.

For the Egyptians, repatriation is a question of pride. Former Egyptian Minister of Antiquities Mohamed Ibrahim said that Egypt “will not abandon its right to Ka-Nefer-Nefer mask.” SLAM could use this opportunity to establish renewed friendship with Egypt. Who knows, Egypt might loan invaluable treasures for future exhibitions at SLAM, just like Cambodia has done for the “Lost Kingdoms” exhibition currently on view at the Met.

If SLAM wants “to continue to provide all visitors to the museum, and the citizens we serve, this rich experience in the ancient art,” as SLAM director Brent R. Benjamin claims, then returning the mask to Egypt would truly serve these purposes.

What do you think?

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.

 

Public hearing on Egypt’s request for import restrictions of antiquities into the US

On June 2, 2014 the Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC) held a public session in consideration of Egypt’s request for a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to impose import restrictions on certain categories of archaeological artifacts into the US.

There were approximately 40 attendees in addition to the members of the Committee and Cultural Heritage Center personnel. Of the 11 presenters, eight spoke in support of the MoU, a ninth speaker found it redundant, two opposed the inclusion of coins.

The CPAC Chair Patty Gerstenblith began by asking speakers not to read their comments already submitted in writing and to focus their five-minute presentations on the four determinations in question.

Presenters supporting the US-Egypt MoU Presenters supporting the US-Egypt MoU, from left to right: Douglas Boin, Elizabeth Varner, Monica Hanna, Brian Daniels, Carmen Arnold-Biucchi, Sarah Parcak. Not in photo: David O’Connor, Laurel Bestock
Cindy Ho

A common sentiment expressed by the supporters of the MoU request throughout the hearing is that the implementation of US import restrictions would create a ripple effect that would lower market demand and thereby reduce the incentive to loot. An MoU with the United States will stimulate engagement among local communities and public educational programs in Egypt and support important long-term foreign policy goals over a broad range of issues between the US and Egypt. While Egypt is doing its best with limited resources to protect its cultural patrimony, assistance via an MoU with the US is urgently needed. By providing such assistance to Egypt, the US would join a growing number of States Parties to the Convention who have given similar assistance, a necessary prerequisite to approving an MoU.

The speakers who opposed import restrictions argued that since Egypt’s problems are internal, and the will of the Egyptian people to solve this problem without foreign assistance is uncertain, it is unfair for US collectors and to dealers to be asked to curb their activities. While the MoU requires documentation and export permits in order for material to be imported into the US, opponents argued that it is unrealistic to expect small businesses to do this work. Since documentation is not required in EU countries, collecting and trading will simply bypass the US to avoid the restrictions, thereby hurting business.

Since the two representatives on the opposing side were only interested in excluding coins and not import restrictions per se, it suggests that if there are any others outside of the coin trade who are against the proposed MoU, they chose not to have their voices heard. This is further confirmed by the 352 comments submitted online.

The following summary is a recap of the points that were made by the speakers (in order of appearance), not quotes. We thank Damien Huffer and Elizabeth Kiggs for their contribution of notes:

Dr. David O’Connor, Lila Acheson Wallace Professor of Ancient Egyptian Art, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, American Research Centre in Egypt:

  • supports MoU—an important step in furthering US-Egypt cultural and scientific exchange and collaboration
  • is aware of the severity of unprecedented looting in Egypt since 2011
  • ARCE dedicated to supporting research Egyptian history and culture, fostering broader public knowledge about Egypt, strengthening American-Egyptian cultural ties
  • ARCE supports 15-20 excavations per year, about 500 American scholars and 6-12 fellows in Egypt
  • Most ARCE-trained Egyptians continue work in the public sector in site management and site security
  • Egypt has reasonably successful record in protecting sites
  • when one of the sites at Abydos was hit hard by looters, Egyptian government provided additional guards and looting stopped

Dr. Laurel Bestock, Vartan Gregorian Assistant Professor of Archaeology and the Ancient World and Egyptology and Ancient Western Asian Studies, American Research Centre in Egypt:

  • supports MoU, including coins
  • has been working in Egypt for many years, hiring and training local workers, working with local specialists and conservators
  • reported finding a cache of 300 Ptolemaic III-IV era coins in January, 2011. Buried and taken out of circulation, find allows team to date site and shed light on the use of money in ritual donations, providing leap in understanding religious practices. Egyptian government instrumental in protecting the cache and site from looters, whose attempts were successfully deterred.
  • archaeological information from coin cache could not be gained from a single coin found in the same context. These coins are common issues, of multiple denominations, some with mint information, all from Egypt.
  • Egypt’s Antiquities Ministry is doing what it can under difficult circumstances
  • MoU would strengthen respect and emotional bond between US and Egypt

Dr. Douglas Boin, Assistant Professor, St. Louis University History Department:

  • supports MoU
  • protection for papyri and ancient manuscripts needed
  • some scholars, blinded by the hope of discovering the next great ancient or biblical text, will destroy Egyptian mummy masks to extract the papyri (all of which is legal today)
  • trade in ancient texts big business
  • MoU must include ancient texts, papyri, and mummy masks
  • MoU would compel researchers to be more diligent and to only publish finds with full provenance
  • MoU would lead to proper presentation of papyrus finds by professional associations

Elizabeth Varner, President-Elect, Board of Directors, Lawyers’ Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation, Executive Director, National Art Museum of Sport:

  • supports MoU
  • if we don’t help Egypt now, when do we?
  • ICOM Red List confirms Egypt’s looting problem
  • increased number of market countries are states parties to 1970 UNESCO, showing increased international effort
  • Egypt has met all four of the criteria required for an MOU set forth by CPIA
  • Egypt has had legislation protecting its cultural patrimony for two centuries
  • Egypt party to international treaties and conventions
  • Egypt is doing its best given the vastness of sites

Peter Tompa, Lobbyist, International Association of Professional Numismatists (“IAPN”) and the Professional Numismatists Guild:

  • objects to the MOU a “done deal” as suggested by New York Times editorial, goes against American democracy
  • OK with the MoU as long as it is limited to large, obvious, Pharaonic period objects, not coins
  • Is request of MoU timed to glorify the new Egyptian government? (Note: Egypt presidential election took place between 26 and 28 May 2014)
  • corruption and oversight along with rebellion against symbols of the former ruling regime are reasons Egyptians loot
  • CPAC should take into account the 91% of public comments requesting that coins be exempted from designated list
  • Egypt is a mess
  • coins should be exempt
  • MoU unfairly burdens private citizens who wish to collect
  • coins are too small and widespread during the reign of any given empire to matter
  • cites Portable Antiquities Scheme (UK) as great model to follow instead
  • no documentation for coins, no database
  • did not answer question why coin collections cannot be inventoried
  • money should go towards security not legal efforts to draft MoUs
  • no similar international effort; EU does not require documentation for antiquities trade between EU borders
  • EU traders will just keep Egyptian material to themselves to avoid strict US customs if MoU is passed
  • what about orphans? (Note: An “orphan” is an unexcavated, ie. likely plundered, object that left its country of origin without an export permit)

Mr. Wayne Sayles, Founder, Ancient Coin Collectors Guild:

  • does not oppose MoU as long as coins are excluded
  • coin collector for 50 years
  • does not deal in fresh dug-ups
  • MoU hurts business
  • MoU will push out avocation of 50,000 collectors and many clubs
  • we all need to follow the law
  • we are not evil people
  • Italians are openly selling coins without export permits despite the MoU because they are not considered culturally important
  • Egypt does not have the will to do anything about looting (qualifies comment as merely subjective perception)
  • collectors and small business owners have no time to inventory coins
  • coins don’t have provenance
  • Egyptian coins found in 16 countries
  • keeping inventory and documentation should be matter of law; if legislated, will follow
  • property rights issue
  • has not fully inventoried his own collection (Note: CPAC has made it clear for years that coins outside the country of origin that are documented,or inventoried, prior to the signing of the MOU are exempt to the provisions of the proposed MoU)

Dr. Carmen Arnold-Biucchi, Ancient Coins Curator, Harvard Art Museums:

  • supports MoU, coins included
  • coins should not be treated separately from other archaeological material because they are an essential part of almost any excavation
  • coinage only exists in Egypt since the Ptolemaic period, through the Ottoman period
  • the multiple-object argument against inclusion of coins does not hold water, it also applies to ceramics, glass, etc.
  • coins of all types were minted by specific ancient governments; thus valuable to the study of ancient government structure
  • coins are not just made for export as some have claimed…but exchangeable for goods and services and other currencies
  • even small, ugly coins can give us much information
  • to document a coin not a question of law, reputable dealers do document, but duty to document and record provenance
  • not only Custom’s responsibility to catch illegal exports at the border, experts called upon to identify coins. Task difficult, but not insurmountable
  • foreign coins are known to have been present in Egypt in multiple periods
  • without inventory and documentation, museums would not accept donations of disassembled coin collections

Alan Safani, Art Dealer, International Association of Dealers in Ancient Art (IADAA):

  • publicly supports the MoU but only for newly surfaced loot
  • alarmed at current Egyptian situation
  • real distinction between licit and illicit markets; he and IADAA members deal with the former strictly
  • blanket ban on the importation of artifacts of Egyptian origin would not follow intent of the law which was only to restrict those of “cultural significance and importance”
  • MoU import restrictions are redundant because reputable dealers already follow the 1983 Egyptian law restricting the exportation of artifacts out of Egypt
  • what date should we follow? 1970 Convention? 1983 Egyptian exportation law? Hypothetical date of the signing of an MoU?
  • uninformed collectors may abuse the pre-MoU timeframe and disregard the 1983 law, causing more harm than good in regulating the antiquities market
  • issue is internal
  • Egypt disregards its own heritage
  • Egypt’s preference for developing tourism over site protection further encourages looting
  • Egypt has more than 100 years’ history of antiquities dealing, plus looting in antiquity
  • Cairo Museum used to have a shop selling antiquities
  • questions if looting frequency is actually getting worse, or we’re just more aware now
  • MoU would not impede practice of IADA, would have insignificant effect

Dr. Monica Hanna, Archaeologist, Egypt’s Heritage Task Force:

  • looters armed with guns and geo-sonar equipment
  • exponential increase of looting since 2011 affecting all artifacts
  • unregistered and unexcavated sites looted
  • foreign excavations need to do much more to build capacity and leave behind skills and economic incentive to not loot between seasons, Valley of the Kings a good example of success
  • antiquities smuggled out of Egypt use same channels as drugs and arms, eg. through the Sinai into Israel
  • drug bust three weeks ago also recovered smuggled statuary
  • human traffickers also move antiquities, smuggled in building supply shipments to Gaza, via ports with migrants to Europe
  • huge online market for prehistoric, Pharoanic, Coptic, Islamic and more recent antiquities
  • use of bulldozers obvious sign of organized activity. Eg. in Antinopolis, looters destroy conservation work to go after coins and mummies
  • guards, archaeologists, and individual citizens are being shot at, and risking their lives to protect their cultural heritage
  • children used to dive into tunnels get sanded over and killed
  • villagers targeting Luxor
  • the market should stop entirely until we get it under control
  • to a poor Egyptian farmer with 2-3000 objects, selling antiquities for $15 on eBay is worth the effort
  • usually what sells on eBay not saleable on the black market
  • every archaeologist should think about community development and promoting local people’s connection to the past
  • American archaeological teams should publish in Arabic
  • MoU a start to fostering economic connection between the local populations and archaeological sites
  • not enough policing before, getting better
  • objects coming to the US
  • US scholars buying looted material
  • new Parliament will have strict laws, wrote to both presidential candidates
  • MoU would help train 12,000 guards
  • will meet with EU and UAE representatives to discuss bilateral agreements similar to MoU with US

Dr. Sarah Parcak, Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Society for American Archaeology:

  • supports MoU
  • expert in GPS remote sensing use for archaeological survey and looting patrol
  • satellite imagery only way to show evidence, location, extent, time of looting, also provides helpful information into what objects to look for on the market – i.e. 26th dynasty shabtis that were looted from a specific location
  • looting increased significantly since 2011
  • government acknowledges looting problem
  • job and research changed dramatically since 2011 Arab Spring from general study and research to establishing a methodology to document looting of known and unknown sites
  • satellite imagery cannot provide evidence or data for looting under houses and in tombs

Dr. Brian Daniels, Director of Research and Programs, Penn Cultural Heritage Center:

  • maintains a database of 900+ records regarding Egyptian and Syrian cultural property “events”
  • since 2011, increased effectiveness in Egyptian law enforcemens with help from Customs and Border Patrol, Department of Homeland Security, Carabinieri
  • Egyptians interested in protecting cultural sites
  • 12,000 site guards is not insignificant number
  • site guards only get paid $500 a year, foreign excavation teams should help pay for them
  • increase in volunteer groups and citizens efforts
  • some low-end items seen on eBay, but most artifacts likely sitting in warehouses at present
  • foreign archaeological teams should publish in Arabic
  • appears to support the hypothesis that some looting is performed on commission
  • 3-5 year lag between looting of objects and appearance on the market. Examples: 10 year lapse in the Robert Hecht/Giacomo Medici items;10 years after looting of the Iraq Museum, objects still not surfacing

Intern with SAFE and become part of the family

When I started my internship at SAFE I only had a vague idea of what I was getting myself into. I had seen the post written by SAFE’s previous intern Beatrice Kelly about her time at the organization and I knew that there were numerous ways to be involved. It was a daunting but exciting prospect. It did not take long to be put to work in a meaningful and educating way.

One of my first projects at SAFE was to write a blog about Modern Day Monuments Men and Women in the wake of the release of the star-studded film The Monuments Men. Not only was it an opportunity to learn more about the history behind the Monuments Men but it was also an introduction to the work of Dr. Monica Hanna, the 2014 SAFE Beacon Award Winner. (Later on in my internship I had the chance to meet Dr. Hanna and live tweet her lecture). In the following weeks I was taught how to effectively promote an event via several platforms including Facebook and LinkedIn. With my second blog post,  I provoked thoughtful reflection on the effectiveness of using Twitter and other social media platforms as a means of raising awareness on the issues of looting. The LinkedIn groups of Cultural Heritage Connections, UNESCO’s Friends, and the Society for American Archaeology provided great forums for discussion among professionals in the field. I was also given the opportunity to work on SAFE’s monthly curated list of news articles, which ensured that I and our subscribers were up-to-date on the current events related to antiquities looting.

These are only some of the projects I had the chance to work on while interning with SAFE. Perhaps the best part of working with SAFE was that I was immediately treated as an equal whose opinions and ideas were valued and heard. The breadth of assignments that one can do at SAFE is reflective of their mission to spread awareness of the destruction caused by looting that is happening around the world. I am extremely grateful for my time at SAFE as it allowed me to grow as a writer and it broadened my understanding of and appreciation for the effort and dedication it takes to raise public awareness of these issues. It is truly a mission that will not stop until looting comes to an end, but being a part of an organization like SAFE instills hope that change can happen.

If you are interested in interning at SAFE, contact us now for the next cycle of internships. You need to be deeply passionate about heritage and a self-starter when it comes to tackling new projects, but with those two qualities, your internship will not only be a fantastic experience for you, but an incredible contribution to saving antiquities – for everyone!

2014 SAFE Beacon Award raises public awareness

Monica Hanna and Leonard Lopate Monica Hanna after interview with radio talk show host Leonard Lopate at WNYC.
Cindy Ho

True to its mission, SAFE accomplished its goal to help maximize the impact of Dr. Monica Hanna’s message in the United States — a major market country for Egyptian antiquities — by honoring her with the 2014 SAFE Beacon Award on April 10, 2014. The SAFE team’s months of preparation paid off handsomely with featured coverage in the New York Times, the PBS “NewsHour” and on live radio with WNYC, the New York City affiliate of National Public Radio, CBC Radio in Toronto, and BBC, to name a few.

The success of this year’s Beacon Award marks an achievement for not only Dr. Monica Hanna, but also host organization, SAFE. The long and careful planning of this year’s event offered a special opportunity to lend support to one of the field’s most vocal and inspiring figures, and introduce her to a new audience in the United States. Dr. Hanna’s unique affinity for the media combined with her depth of knowledge proved SAFE’s decision to focus on reaching out to members of the press with this year’s Award events. Most important, it was Dr. Hanna’s compelling story that members of the public are clearly interested in.

Thanks to the diligent work of SAFE members and volunteers, as well as the Beacon Award Hosting Committee and donors, both Dr. Hanna and SAFE were able to achieve the common goal of raising public awareness surrounding the destruction of our shared cultural heritage. Read a recap of the evening’s events here.


Monica Hanna, New York Times Click to read Tom Mashberg’s New York Times article “Taking on Egypt’s looters of antiquities using Twitter
Karsten Moran/The new York Times

We thank members of our Hosting Committee

and the following for sponsoring the 2014 SAFE Beacon Award:

  • Lucille Roussin
  • Rebecca Rushfield
  • Elizabeth Simpson
  • Marina Papa-Sokal

SAFE is grateful to the following for their skills, care, hard work and kind support that made the 2014 SAFE Beacon Award a reality:

Betsy Hiel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review whose articles introduced SAFE to Dr. Monica Hanna

Shawn Baldwin for his portrait of Dr. Hanna, which no one can ignore

Quicksilver Media and Unreported World for their documentary “Egypt’s Tomb Raiders”

SAFE’s volunteers and interns without whom the SAFE Beacon Award would not have been possible: Elizabeth Gilgan, Alyssa Gregory, Damien Huffer, Mary Montgomery, Sandra Roorda, Rebecca Rushfield, Michael Shamah, Tessa Varner, Marni Blake Walter

And to Monica, for inspiring us all.