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.

 

Neil Brodie: It is no surprise that the looting continues.

We thank Neil Brodie for joining pur 2013 Candlelight Vigil for Global Heritage with the following statement. Dr. Brodie, an author of “Looting and the World’s Archaeological Heritage: The Inadequate Response” with Colin Renfrew, is a SAFE Beacon Award Winner in 2008.


Ten years ago, in 2003, I was reading a lot about the looting of archaeological sites and museums in Iraq. I was writing a bit about it too. At the time, I was research director of the Illicit Antiquities Research Centre, which had been established five years earlier, partly in response to the archaeological looting that had followed the 1991 Gulf War. Iraq was firmly on my agenda, but Iraq wasn’t the only country in the news — for several years Afghanistan had been dominating headlines and the J. Paul Getty Museum’s 1999 return of three objects to Italy was a portent of things to come. In the decade following 2003, the developing Italian campaign to recover looted objects from museums drew attention away from Iraq, and over the past few years Iraq has been all but forgotten as archaeological site looting has gained hold in Syria and Egypt, and in the museum world attention has shifted to acquisitions of illicitly-traded artifacts from Cambodia and India.

Looking back, one thing is clear. The effort and resources put into protecting Iraqi sites during the 2000s have done nothing to help protect Syrian and Egyptian sites in the 2010s. Similarly, whatever international response can be mobilised now to protect sites on the ground in Syria will do nothing to protect sites in the next country along. Nor will it do anything to protect sites in Iraq. (Has the looting actually stopped in Iraq? If so, why? If not, why isn’t it being reported and what is being done about it?) The response to archaeological looting seems reactive, working on a country-by-country basis, but this is not enough. Looting will never be controlled by on-the-ground site protection, which is much too expensive and usually a case of too little too late. Looting will only be curtailed by adequate policies of trade regulation at the international level, focusing on demand, not supply.

There is an uneasy sense that the reactive response to looting is media-led, and probably for good reason. The most revealing, insightful and ultimately influential studies of the antiquities trade have been by journalists. I could name them here but they know who they are, so I will spare their blushes. The best reporting of site looting in Iraq was also by journalists. But while media research is good, it is also transient and its impact on public policy is limited. Policy makers look for hard empirical evidence and coherent reasoned arguments. Whether rightly or wrongly, they turn to academic and other professional experts. Yet there is only a small handful of archaeologists, museum curators, art historians, lawyers and criminologists who make it their business to investigate the antiquities trade, and despite the high-profile media reporting of the past ten years, the number and identities of the people involved haven’t changed much. The appropriate experts have failed to mobilise in numbers adequate for the job at hand. The inadequate response of the archaeological community has been particularly regrettable in this regard. Many archaeologists are quick to complain about looting but slow to engage in work of any kind that might help towards a solution. It is easier for them to point the finger at museums.

“Looting will only be curtailed by adequate policies of trade regulation at the international level, focusing on demand, not supply.”

One reason for this seeming failure of scholarship is that research needs to be multidisciplinary, which is difficult in a university environment where different subjects often seem to speak different languages, and where career-enhancing “excellence” is more easily assessed in well-worn disciplinary paradigms. Another reason is that high quality information about the trade is not forthcoming. Several scholars have produced good ethnographic studies of looters or subsistence diggers at source, but there is nothing comparable for demand — no ethnographic reporting of rich and powerful collectors in their native habitats of Beverly Hills or wherever. Presumably these collectors and their confederates are lawyered-up and easily able to deflect academic enquiry in a way that the people who actually do the digging aren’t. This is a sorry reflection on the self-professed “objectivity” and “disinterest” of academic research, which instead exhibits a clear and understandable self-interested desire to avoid unproductive legal quagmires. But it does highlight one of the problems associated with information gathering.

Another problem is the withholding of information. I am asked on almost a weekly basis by journalists what evidence there is of Syrian artifacts appearing on the open market. I don’t know. I don’t even know whether or not Syrian artifacts are appearing on the open market. I do know that a lot of Iraqi material never appeared on the open market. While I was writing this piece, AFP quoted an Iraqi source reporting that the United States and Iraq had reached agreement over the return of more than 10,000 artifacts that had somehow made their way into the United States over the past ten years. Perhaps in the the year 2023 AFP will be reporting the return of 10,000 Syrian artifacts, at which point I will be happy to answer questions about Syrian artifacts on the market, though by then of course, media attention will have moved on. No one has asked me about the recent AFP announcement — Iraq is last decade’s news. But there is a more serious point. Assuming the source is reliable, AFP also reported that the two sides had agreed not to reveal how the artifacts came to be in the United States. Why not? Perhaps because Syrian artifacts are travelling through similar channels and seizures are imminent? Or perhaps instead because someone has something to hide. With no mention of any arrests or indictments the latter explanation seems more likely. Is there a cover-up?

While information about the acquisition and exchange of illicitly-traded artifacts is suppressed or witheld it inhibits productive research into the trade and ultimately the formulation of novel and progressive policy aimed at constraining demand. Without such research, the fall-back position is for globally-ineffective local interventions, ameliorating symptoms but not tackling the cause. It is no surprise that the looting continues.

Faking It: A Case for Museums of “Fakes”

You may have heard in the news last week that a Chinese Museum has been forced to close following evidence revealing much of its collection to be fake. The museum reportedly cost more than 60 million yuan to build, with twelve exhibition halls of what are now apparently brilliant fakes. The Jibaozhai Museum in Hebai opened in 2010 and has a collection of more than 40,000 objects, only eighty of which the museum is now saying they’re “quite positive” are authentic.

This discovery resonates with Peru’s Museum of Gold, which, about a decade ago, was shown to have a collection of almost entirely fake pre-Columbian artifacts. Over 4,000 of their artifacts were shown to be fake by Indecopi, the Institute for the Defense of Competition and of Intellectual Property. Some of the pieces in that collection were amalgamations of ancient and contemporary gold (a la Frankenstein’s monster), while others were purely contemporary pieces made by artisans. That combination raises some interesting questions about the nature of authenticity which I won’t even attempt to delve into, but will surely be discussed as we learn more about the Jibaozhai’s collection.

Jonathan Jones of the Guardian quotes one Chinese blogger as suggesting that the Chinese museum should reopen as a museum of fakes, quipping, “If you can’t be the best, why not be the worst?” That’s actually an incredibly interesting suggestion, and deserves more thought beyond this flippant joke. First of all, is there not something that can be learned from a museum of fakes? In Washington, D.C., the National Museum of Crime and Punishment partnered with the Association for Research into Crimes against Art to host an exhibition of forged artworks, demonstrating the public’s desire to see such eery doppelgängers. It is also interesting to consider that our brains respond differently to a work of art once we’ve been told that it’s fake. While the brain signals of a viewer cannot distinguish between genuine and fake works, viewing a piece they have been told is genuine triggers the rewards section of the brain, while viewing a piece they have been told is fake triggers the section of the brain associated with strategy and planning.

Would visiting a museum full of known fakes be beneficial in some way, then? Surely it could serve as a good educational tool for archaeology students or law enforcement professionals, or perhaps it would at least be entertaining like the wax figures at Madame Tussaud’s.

jibaozhai item A possibly fake item on display at the Jibaozhai Museum.
Courtesy news.com.au.

Although the Jibaozhai Museum will likely always be associated with this rather embarrassing episode, I think that similar museums — ones that fully disclose that their collections are reproductions — could be the way forward. The objects within could be handled by children, allowing a tactile engagement that regular museums simply cannot. Moreover, museums with reproductions run no risk of accidentally acquiring a looted or stolen artifact.

As an art history student, I find it hard not to place extra value on an original work of art or artifact — something that maintains the “aura” that German critical theorist Walter Benjamin defined as an essential component of originality. However, I believe there is still a clear — although different — value that comes from displaying facsimiles (not “fakes”) rather than originals. Beyond just the shock value and excitement that comes from seeing something “fake,” perhaps there’s something to be said for a museum that communicates the past without any chance of plundering tombs or funding illicit antiquities trafficking.

What do you think? Do you think there’s some value in museums full of “fakes,” or would you rather see the real deal?

Top image: A visitor reads the notice erected by the Jibaozhai Museum after it was shut down amid reports that much of its collection is fake. Courtesy of What’s On Tianjin.

CONSERVATION CAN BEGIN AT HOME!

We are grateful to Professor Colin Renfrew, who is currently on fieldwork in Greece, for taking the time to send the following reflections in observance of our 2013 Candlelight Vigil for Global Heritage.

Colin Renfrew, Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn, received his PhD from Cambridge University writing his thesis on Neolithic and Bronze Age Cultures of the Cyclades and their external relations. After receiving his degree in 1965, he joined the Department of Prehistory and Archaeology of the University of Sheffield. In 1972, he became Professor of Archaeology at the University of Southampton. He took up the position of Disney Professor of Archaeology at Cambridge University in 1981. In 1990, he was appointed Director of Cambridge’s McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research. He directed excavations at Sitagroi and Phylakopi in Greece and Quanterness in Orkney. He has been a member of the Ancient Monuments Board for England, the Royal Commission on Historical Monuments, the Ancient Monuments and Advisory Committee of the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England, and the Managing Council for the British School at Athens. He is the author of numerous books including Loot, Legitimacy and Ownership: The Ethical Crisis in Archaeology (2000) and received the 2009 SAFE Beacon Award.


It is difficult to prevent the looting of the cultural heritage in faraway places. But you can help prevent looting, and undermine the traffic in illicit antiquities, by ensuring that your local museum (and local private collectors) have a clear and published ethical acquisitions code — and that they stick to it!

If museums did not buy or accept gifts of “unprovenanced”  — i.e.  usually looted — antiquities, collectors would not buy them.

Some museums (such as the British Museum, and more recently the Getty Museum) now have a published acquisitions code which determines that they will NOT acquire (by purchase, loan or gift) antiquities which have appeared on the market after 1970, the year of the relevant UNESCO
Convention (unless their existence prior to that date is securely documented by contemporary publication). This means such museums no longer give support to the illicit trade by acquiring possibly looted antiquities. It is massively important that the Getty took that admirable step a few years ago, and their acquisitions are now promptly published, so that the world can see what is going on.

Does your local museum have an ethics code of that kind? Does it publish all its acquisitions, and their background – i.e. that they were known before 1970 (and could thus not be looted AFTER that date)? Does it have any exhibits on loan which do NOT conform? As a citizen you are entitled to know the answer to that question. So ask, and demand a clear answer.

The (American) Association of Art Museum Directors has a website where museums can publish any acquisitions they wish to make which do not strictly conform with the 1970 Rule. Why do they need this? Ask your local museum where they stand on this issue. Exercise a little citizen power to highlight the grey areas of museum practice: they ultimately give comfort to the illicit trade.

—Colin Renfrew

Long Walks in the Museum

I met Cindy Ho when she was getting SAFE off the ground 10 years ago. At that time I was involved in the advertising industry as a creative technician, and beginning to question its ethical environment. It was exciting to volunteer for SAFE. One of the reasons SAFE was (and is) exciting is its explicit use of rhetorical technique to initiate conversations around shared cultural concerns.

As an artist whose concerns lie in the social environment, I am interested in the present moment. However, it is in few places more clear that the present moment is linked to historical circumstance than in a museum. How are we personally connected, or not connected to cultural lineage on display? What are the quotidian conversations associated with exceptional objects? And how are they affected by the architecture that houses them, the other people that share the space?

This weekend I am organizing a public project called Long Walks in the Museum that positions people in relation to art. It is a sequence of scheduled one-on-one walks that pass through galleries designated “Egyptian”, “American”, “Medieval”, “European”, “African/Oceanic/American”, and “Greek” in one of the preeminent cultural institutions of New York City.

This is the third in a series of one-on-one walks that ask two strangers to navigate interpersonal and real space together, done is association with the Flux Factory and the Walk Exchange. Several appointments are still open, and can be arranged by calling 917-300-9521.

Alert: SAFE still says NO to S. 2212

It has come to our attention that opencongress.org, a site which obtains information from maplight.org, is listing SAFE as a supporter of Senate Bill 2212 (United States Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Immunity Clarification Act). This is clearly incorrect. SAFE objects to this bill for reasons explained in our recent blog post and web page.

SAFE contacted OpenCongress and MapLight.org and we were told that our name would be removed from the list within the hour. Unfortunately, several hours later it has not been removed and so we feel it is necessary to clarify our position.

This situation definitely raises questions about the validity of the information on these sites. For example, the citation given by MapLight to justify SAFE’s presence on the list of supporters is our post entitled “Say NO to Senate Bill 2212″. How does that make us a supporter? And the citation given for the museums on the list is a single press release released by Dianne Feinstein announcing the bill. This is hardly reason to call these institutions “supporters”. Also, heritagepreservation.org is incorrectly listed as “Cultural Heritage Preservation” and the citation leads to the organization’s home page where there is no mention of the bill. A search of the site for anything mentioning S. 2212 returned no results. Finally, there are several organizations such as LCCHP that have openly opposed the bill and yet according to MapLight there are “0 organizations opposed”.

The mission of both OpenCongress and MapLight is to allow the public access to information. SAFE knows the importance of public awareness and we support it, we simply ask that these sites ensure their information is accurate and unbiased.

Say NO to Senate Bill 2212

On March 20th, the United States Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Immunity Clarification Act (S. 2212) was introduced by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT). It was read twice and then referred to the Committee on the Judiciary, chaired by Senator Patrick Leahy(D-VT). It is the counterpart to House Bill 4086 (H.R. 4086), which had been introduced in the House of Representatives on February 24, 2012 and subsequently passed by voice vote.

If passed, it would allow foreign governments to immunize themselves from U.S. lawsuits when loaning art and antiquities to American museums. This means American museums would be able to knowingly exhibit looted antiquities and artwork. The countries of origin would have no legal recourse to recover these items as long as the U.S. State Department first granted the U.S. museum immunity from seizure for exhibition of the object and posted the grant in the Federal Register.

Congress needs to stop and think about what this legislation truly means and the message it is sending to the public. The United States should be a leader in the protection of the world’s cultural heritage and this law, as it stands now, is a step backwards. America would be sending the message that it is acceptable to exhibit stolen items.

Visit our page about S. 2212 to read more about the bill and what you can do to stop it and sign the petition asking Congress to abandon the bill.

FROM THE FIELD: Speaking with Omara Khan Massoudi, Director of the National Museum of Afghanistan

Omara Khan Massoudi is more of a permanent feature at the National Museum of Afghanistan than many of the collections that are housed there. Now the director, he has worked at the Kabul museum for more than three decades: a tumultuous period that bore witness to the Soviet occupation, Mujahideen civil war, and Taliban regime, when irreplaceable collections were relocated for safekeeping, damaged, or destroyed.

These days, Mr. Massoudi is overseeing a period of progress. Stunning relics from the current excavation at Mes Aynak, an ancient Buddhist complex located in Logar province, are on display in a new exhibition, Mes Aynak: Recent excavations along the Silk Road. Plans are also underway to erect a new National Museum building with state of the art equipment on the lot next door with funding from the United States Embassy and the World Bank.

The director has given countless interviews in English about the history and future of the museum. But this time around my Afghan colleague, Shaharzad Akbar, interviewed Massoudi in his native tongue of Dari, so that little was lost in the conversation. What follows is Massoudi’s beautifully told account of his experiences in his own words. The interview can also be watched in the short video, Who is the Museum Director?, which includes rarely seen historical footage of the museum.

 

Q: When did you become interested in the cultural heritage of Afghanistan?

OKM: Thanks. When I joined Kabul University, the faculty of literature and human sciences, I studied the history and geography that is closely linked to museums and archaeology. In 1973, when I graduated, I worked as a teacher in Ibn-e-Sina for four years. Afterwards, I came to the Ministry of Information and Culture. For four months, I worked on Kushani international research. Then I came to the National Museum of Afghanistan (also known as the Kabul Museum) and I have been working in different parts of the museum since. It is closely linked to my field of study. You know museums are linked to history and geography both, and fortunately, I have been working in a small part of the museum since.

 

Q: When you came to the Kabul Museum, what was the situation?

OKM: The museum was in a good place then. The museum was exhibiting 10% of the artifacts from the collection of the artifacts stored in the museum. Storage was full of historical objects. There were lots of viewers and the exhibition was designed very gloriously. Until 1992, this museum was open to the viewers. In that time, not only Afghans, but also some foreigner friends visited the museum, and as days passed, the museum was making more progress.

 

Q: When did things change for the museum?

OKM: You know that in May 1988 (Afghan calendar: 1367), when the Russian troops began to withdraw from Afghanistan, rebels in Kabul’s surrounding areas began firing rockets on Kabul through the summer and fall of that year. The authorities decided to end the museum’s exhibition, because there was fear that rockets may hit the museum. The possibility of fire was also predicted.

One year later, we not only withdrew the exhibition of the objects, but we also proposed a plan to the Ministry of Information and Culture to move some of the important objects belonging to different historical areas to the center of the city for protection. Power was shifting from the communist government to the Mujahideen. And, naturally, it was predicted that transfer of power would create a power vacuum. And with a power vacuum, we predicted that some dangers or risks may face the museum. Fortunately, the Minister of Information and Culture accepted this proposal, and he shared it with the president, Dr. Najibullah, who also accepted it.

President Najibullah instructed the members of the museum to indicate a place that they deemed appropriate and safe for preserving the objects. Members of the museum studied all of the government buildings in the center of the city. At our last analysis, we chose an appropriate place, where in that small area; they specified two cabins for us. According to the capacity of the space, we chose important and unique objects from different historical parts or different historical areas. Then we packed them.

In the presence of a delegation of authorities, consisting of members of the museum and some individuals from the honorable Institute of Archeology, we moved it in 1368 (February-March, 1989). The purpose was that if there are any incidents or problems in one area, the second or third area may stay safe. Fortunately, this decision led to some very good and pleasant results for us. But unfortunately, for the objects that were mostly in the National Museum, which is in Darulaman area (southwestern Kabul), they were really damaged. Especially when the civil wars started during early 1992 until the end of 1994, many horrible battles happened here, and the objects from the museum were looted. Also, due to a rocket, on May 12, 1993, the upper level of the building was set on fire. Fortunately, the fire did not spread to the lower level. Most of our storage was in the ground floor.

Jake Simkin
Omara Khan Massoudi

The objects that were looted from the National Museum found their way to the black markets here. But the very unique objects, fortunately, did not come to the market. The looters were always looking, they always asked, ‘what happened to the Bactrian treasure?’ Because in 1357-58, these objects were excavated by Afghan and Russian archaeologists. When Viktor Sarianidi submitted these objects to the museum, there was instant attention. And it is worth mentioning that in 1980, we put some of these objects on display in the National Museum. Due to security issues, we collected these objects and put them in storage.

In this time, what I think is important is that when national and international journalists asked about the Bactrian treasure, museum staff decided not to give any information about the objects to the media. The concern was to keep it safe. Because we predicted that if, god forbid, any information about these objects gets out, they will face danger. This decision ensured protection of the objects that were placed in two locations inside the city, and they were safe till 2003. At that time, when H.E. President was visiting the central bank of the Presidential Palace, he was visiting the bank storage, I think the bank staff told him that the Bactrian treasure is safe; it is here. The president, who was extremely happy, shared with the media that the Bactrian treasure is still safe. At that point, we didn’t have any other option.

Several countries showed interest in having an international exhibition of these saved objects in their countries. Finally, I remember, in 2005, H.E. President had an official trip to France. Mr. Chirac, President of France, asked him to send an exhibition to France, based on previous relations between the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. During the kingdom of Amanullah Khan (1919-1929) and in the period of Zahir Shah (1933-1973), we had very friendly relations with France. You might know that after 1923, based on an agreement signed between the governments of Afghanistan and France, French and Afghan archeologists had excavations in various parts of Afghanistan. Thus, H.E. President agreed to Mr. Chirac’s suggestions.

President Karzai instructed for a selection of some of the saved objects by experts from both the Guimet Museum and the National Museum of Afghanistan. We selected 231 saved objects that belonged to the following four historical periods: objects from the Fullol hill that belong to the Bronze Age, Ai-Khanoum objects that belong to the 3rd or 4th Centuries BC, objects from the Bactrian treasure that belong to around the 1st Century BC through the 1st Century AD and also objects from the Bagram treasure that belongs to the 1st-2nd Century AD. We chose 231 objects that consisted of 1,441 individual pieces. Before the objects were sent there, we created inventories. We computerized the details and created documentations for them in both Dari and English, and in international standards. First, these objects were restored here for three weeks. French experts came. They were restored, fixed, and were made ready to be transferred. Then for more than two months in the Guimet Museum in France, they were cleaned by experts of both museums: the Guimet Museum and the National Museum of Afghanistan. They were made ready for exhibition, which was opened at the Guimet Museum in October 2006. Several countries put in requests (for future exhibitions), for example: Italy, Holland, Germany, and the USA. The Ministry of Information and Culture signed contracts with each museum.

I think this is a good message to the whole world. Especially to Afghans who are immigrants in a different world, in different countries. Afghanistan is always in the media. Reports are published that lead people to know Afghanistan as a country of terror, murder, bombs, explosions, and these things. But I think this exhibition at the National Museum of Afghanistan is a good message to the world, that Afghanistan is not only a country in war. Three decades of war have destroyed different aspects of people’s lives. It is a good message for the world that Afghanistan is a country with past civilizations, rich history, and also was and is rich with artifacts. This message introduces another face of Afghan people, and Afghan culture to people. Many countries have requested (the exhibition) so far and we are hopeful that it can show the authentic face of Afghanistan’s long living culture to the world. It is very effective in introducing our culture.

 

Q: This exhibition increases interest in Afghanistan.

OKM: Certainly. This exhibition, as I mentioned before, is not only a good message, but it also allows the international community to also learn about our history. And fortunately, I am very happy, that until now, more than one and a half million people have visited this exhibition. Good publicity has been done.

One of the advantages of this exhibition for us is that in addition to generating some income for the Afghan side, we have tried to get each country to print a catalogue. We have requested 1,000 catalogues from each country, translated in our national languages, in Pashtu and Dari. The Ministry of Information and Culture sends these free catalogues to all the public libraries of Afghanistan, and to libraries of all universities. We have sent them so that our youth access the research done about objects of Afghanistan in their national language, Pashtu or Dari. We have even distributed some in English for friends who know the language. We have another catalogue that we plan to officially send to libraries of all teacher-training institutions and to centers of education for teachers so that they can learn about their history and culture in their own national language.

Many books written by international archaeologists about the history and culture of Afghanistan have been published in their own language. Unfortunately, as you know, Afghan people, particularly youth, can not access all foreign languages. Russians have written in Russian, Japanese have conducted research in Japanese, Germans in German and British or American experts or archaeologists have published in English. We send these (Pashtu and Dari) catalogues to libraries as donations, to encourage young people to become interested and read. In future, if we had the capacity, we plan to send these to libraries of high schools not only in the capital but also in the provinces so that our people know that their country has had a valuable history and precious objects, and it still has them. This should become clear and comprehensive for them, and they should study. I think this is another advantage of this exhibition.

 

Q: When can we bring the objects from this exhibition to Afghanistan? Is the security situation ready for this? And are you optimistic about the future of Afghanistan in this area?

OKM: The objects were here. They were sent for exhibition in 2005. Fortunately, they were saved. Today, it is every Afghan’s wish to have real security in the country. One of the main responsibilities is also to put our objects on display for our own Afghans. And now, these objects are in an international exhibition. We hope that this tour will end after all the countries send their requests. Naturally, it will return to Afghanistan.

The Ministry of Information and Culture aims to construct a new building on the west side of the National Museum, for the National Museum. This building will meet all the requirements of a modern museum that is standard globally. These requirements are security signals, humidity control system, and heating system, as well as good lightening, good storages, and good display halls. Naturally, we will display these objects in here so that all our countrymen learn about their rich history.

The current building of the museum is, unfortunately, not built for a museum. It is a historical building that was built simultaneously with Darul-aman Palace in H.E. King Amanullah Khan’s period. It was used as a municipality building. The objects of the museum were transferred here in 1931, or 1309 solar year, from the city center to here. We use this building as a museum since then. The requirements I mentioned earlier do not exist in this building and it is a historical building. Even if we bring the humidity control system, strong security signals, and also heaters and such to this building, I don’t think it can respond to needs of the National Museum in future. It was based on this need that the Ministry of Information and Culture and Islamic government of the Republic of Afghanistan decided to have a new building, a bigger building that would be a model for the whole region. We hope that these objects will be exhibited for Afghans who are interested as well. We will wait for these facilities to be put in place, so that these objects are preserved in the best possible way in the National Museum.

 

The Director of the National Museum, Omara Khan Massoudi, overseeing restoration of a statue

Q: What was the situation of the museum in the aforementioned crisis periods in Afghanistan? Was the museum closed during the Taliban-controlled period?

OKM: Unfortunately, when the civil wars started, the museum building burnt down and its objects were looted. The museum was in bad shape, but it was not closed. It was always open for visitors. At least our countrymen could come and see the destroyed museum.

During the Taliban period as well, only a few objects were on display, but visitors would come. After the fall of the Taliban, the Ministry of Information and Culture decided to reconstruct the museum as soon as possible to reconstruct the National Museum of Afghanistan. Not only the National Museum, but all of our cultural aspects had been greatly damaged. Most of our historical buildings have been destroyed during the war. Our historical sites have been looted.

I am very happy that in May 2002, the Ministry of Information and Culture took an initiative and invited an international conference with financial support from UNESCO. It was for two days. More than a hundred Afghan and foreign experts attended the conference. This seminar studied issues in all aspects of Afghanistan’s culture. The participants in the seminar visited the National Museum of Afghanistan, the destroyed museum, and fortunately, this drew considerable attention to the reconstruction of the museum. Reconstruction was financially supported by friend country Greece, the US Embassy and also UNESCO. Reconstruction work started in 2003 and ended in September 2004.

At the same time, we tried to establish departments for the National Museum from scratch. We especially paid attention to the Restoration Department, the Photography Department, and other things. The objects that were left from war were mostly damaged. They needed serious restoration. They needed to be restored, cleaned, fixed. The destroyed objects needed to be reconstructed. We took positive steps in this regard. And I am happy that staff of the museum worked and worked seriously with courage and a sense of responsibility and dedication. More than 3,000 objects needed serious restoration, and were fixed and restored. From the destroyed objects, we reconstructed 300, and some of it is put on display.

But the work is on-going. We still have big responsibilities in front of us. The objects that were left from war generally need restoration, cleaning, and reconstruction. But we have limited facilities. Our efforts have continued and, fortunately, the National Museum has been able to expand its exhibition now. We have put some objects on display and the museum is open every day to visitors.

I am especially pleased that our visitors increase every year. The majority of our visitors are school and university students. I can provide you with a small statistic. In 2002, we had 2,000 visitors for the whole year, but last year in 1389, we had more than 24,000 visitors. This year, in the first three months, we have had more than 9,000 visitors. We are hoping to have more than 30,000 visitors by end of year. I think this is still insignificant.

Our services are also limited. I hope we can offer more services one day. And I hope there will be a time when the National Museum of Afghanistan has visitors in the same proportions as advanced countries. I hope that our youth take interest. Although, we do understand the problems of our people, the problems of our school students, that they have many problems. They do not have the financial means to come from provinces to center to visit and to come to the museum. But I am optimistic that a bright future awaits us. Our youth will take interest. Our people will take interest. They will even come with their families. They will visit the National Museum. The museum is open to visitors every day, especially on Fridays, when our people can come and visit the museum without a ticket. There is lots of hope.

 

Q: Do you have any agreements with the Ministry of Education to encourage the students (to visit)?

OKM: As I indicated earlier, the doors of the museum are open to everyone. My expectation from the Ministry of Education and Higher Education is to bring school and university students here. We do not require them to buy tickets. Not only do we not distribute tickets to them, but also our guide is there for them to serve them in our national languages, Pashtu and Dari. I understand that, unfortunately, the Ministry of Education also has some economic problems to provide transport. But, still our education system is improving. The Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Higher Education are slowly overcoming problems. They have international support. I hope that in future there will be an opportunity for school students to visit regularly. Every day, in every moment, the National Museum is ready to host 200-300 visitors with several breaks. We are ready to provide any service to our visitors, to our countrymen. One of the important functions of a museum is education. We are ready to provide these services.

 

Q: What were the difficult moments in the history of the museum? Have you ever lost hope in future of the museum?

OKM: Unfortunately, in the history of Afghanistan, these instances have repeated themselves. I am very disappointed when cultural issues are overshadowed by medium or big political policies. Unfortunately, there has been damage. During the earliest unrest, as you know, the National Museum of Afghanistan was in Koti Baghcha, the Presidential Palace. In 1308, it was damaged. The objects were looted. During the civil wars in years 1992-1995, and also in the unfortunate incident in 2001, the objects in the museum were destroyed.

The National Museum of Afghanistan has seen many ups and downs. I personally, serving the museum for 33 years, have witnessed these up and downs. But the sacred religion of Islam always promotes hope to individuals. One has to be hopeful. Our people should try. They should face every problem and struggle with it. Having hope is essential for life. We witnessed very difficult moments at the museum. We saw its destruction. But we did not lose hope. One has to be hopeful to serve his countrymen in all circumstances. One has to take steps with determination. They say that if you feel compassion, a blind eye also sheds tears. We did not lose hope. The big problems that were facing us are fortunately being solved slowly and day by day. And I am optimistic that in future, real peace will come to this country. The mistakes Afghan people made must not be repeated. They should beware that war does not bring happiness to any nation. War has no outcomes but destruction.

In a peaceful environment, one can focus on knowledge, on education, and serve one’s people. I am hopeful that our culture can play a big role in creating peace. It can restore national unity. We have the best examples in the National Museum. The objects of the museum, if one pays proper attention, are storytellers of different aspects of lives of Afghan people, be it political, social, economic, and cultural in different periods. We have great examples in this country. This country has seen up and downs in the period when it was great Ariana, or in the period of Khorasan, when this country was called Khorasan for 1,500 years, or when it was named Afghanistan. Fortunately, this country has offered artists to society. It has been influenced by all different civilizations. It has used them positively and has merged the influences within its own culture.

The product of this, when offered to the world, is very beautiful. It has amazing power. The objects in the National Museum tell us about all aspects of social, political, culture, and even religious aspects of life in different periods of Afghanistan’s history. We hope that in future our people hang on to their past culture, that they go back and search their past, that they pay attention to the present, and predict the future and that this long-lived Afghan culture plays its appropriate role in the national unity of Afghanistan.

 

Q: Do you have anything else to say? Any messages?

OKM: My wish, and my message to the nation of Afghanistan and to international friends, is to not forget Afghanistan’s past culture, that they help us with reviving it, that they help us with all hardships and problems we face, and help us with reconstruction. My wish from Afghans is that they pay attention to themselves. They should make an effort to preserve their objects as their national pride and national wealth. They shouldn’t cause the destruction and ruin of these objects, because the identity of a country is made of its history. We wrote a small slogan at the front of the museum, it is encrypted on a stone: a nation stays alive only when it can keep its history and culture alive. This seems like a small sentence but it has wider meanings. They should hang on to this and pay more attention to preserving their cultural wealth that is a source of pride for every Afghan.

This interview is part of a series, ‘Untold Stories: the Oral Histories of Afghanistan’s Cultural Heritage’, funded by a Hollings Center for International Dialogue Grant. The series will be available on video, made in collaboration with Kabul at Work, and available on their website at: http://www.kabulatwork.tv/

Jake Simkin

Joanie Meharry is currently completing an MA in International and Comparative Legal Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. This summer she lived in Kabul while researching the archaeological site of Mes Aynak with a Global Heritage Fund Fellowship and a Connecticut Ceramics Study Circle Grant, and directing the project, Untold Stories: the Oral History of Afghanistan’s Cultural Heritage, with a Hollings Center for International Dialogue Grant. She writes often on Afghanistan’s culture and politics. Joanie also holds an MSc in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Edinburgh.

Jake Simkin

Shaharzad Akbar is partner and senior consultant with QARA Consulting, Inc. in Kabul, Afghanistan. Shaharzad studied anthropology at Smith College and recently completed an MPhil in Development Studies at University of Oxford. Shaharzad has extensive media and development work experience in Afghanistan. In 2005, she was the journalism intern for the book Women of Courage. Reporting for the book, she traveled across Afghanistan to meet and interview active Afghan women in all sectors. She has also worked as local reporter for BBC for Afghanistan, producer and host of a youth talk show on radio Killid and writer and editor for several Afghan magazines and newspapers.

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

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

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

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

- Patty Gerstenblith (Professor of Law, DePaul University)

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

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

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

- Nancy Bookidis (archeologist, Corinth excavations, Greece)

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

Museum Objects Waiting for the Right Label

In “The Don’s Life” blog published by The Times Literary Supplement, Cambridge professor Mary Beard has posted a cogent (and blessedly brief) observation and commentary on the corrosive effect of fakes and forgeries while viewing a rogues gallery of bogus objects that purport to be ancient, now on display in a glass case at the Musées Royaux d’Art et d’Histoire in Brussels. “Once you had seen the ‘fakes’ case, everything [on display in the adjoining ancient art galleries in the museum] started to look not quite right … They can’t all be fakes, but once your suspicion has been aroused — it spreads. Were they all waiting to be part of a big exhibition of fakes, and just hadn’t got their labels yet?” Then Professor Beard quickly adds, “I don’t want to give the wrong impression of the museum.” Certainement pas. But let’s back up.

Professor Beard poses an excellent question. How many forgeries, or old objects that have been “improved” in modern times to make them more palatable to the modern eye (hence more profitable at the point of sale) can be found in the galleries of today’s great museums, waiting for the right labels to be applied? Another question: how many similarities do the forgeries that Professor Beard discusses, have in common with the unprovenanced (probably looted) artifacts that exist in many museums today? Similarity Number One (in a long list of parallels): both the forgery and the looted artifact have no origin or find spot, no circumstance of manufacture, no provenance or history that the museum wishes to share with the public. Relegated to the lowest and most transitory rung of understanding (“aesthetics”), the forgery (or looted artifact) remains mute, while the viewer, seeing no fact or story worth remembering on the nearby gallery label, turns and walks away.

Photo: Fakes

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

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.

Should museums sell objects to cover operating costs? An additional choice

The choices offered as possible answers to the SAFE poll question, “Should museums sell objects to cover operating costs?” are “Yes,” “It doesn’t matter to me,” “Museums should sell objects for acquisitions only,” and “Only if there is a publicly disclosed policy.” These choices reflect the general perception of what the options are for museums. But there is another option that should be on the table: “Yes, but only if the objects are sold to another museum, or at least offered up for auction to museums.” Whether a museum engages in deaccessioning to raise operating cash or cash for acquisitions, the real issue is whether or not the public is going to lose access to an artwork worthy of remaining in a museum. Of course, residents of Buffalo may no longer be able to see Artemis and the Stag without traveling to New York, but the opposite was true beforehand, and the general public has not been impoverished. 

Bernard Frischer proposes a solution to looting

In a December 22 New York Times op-ed piece “Museums Should Dig In,” Bernard Frischer, archaeologist and director of the Virtual World Heritage Laboratory at the University of Virginia, proposed a solution that “would put looters and smugglers out of business while uncovering more of the world’s cultural treasures at far lower cost: excavate archaeological sites themselves.” Frischer previously authored “The Grand Compromise: A Hybrid Approach to Solving the Problem of Looted Art,” presented at an international conference in 2006.

Frischer’s op-ed suggests that museums excavate archaeological sites in partnership with source countries which would in turn own the excavated finds but allow the partner museums to borrow a percentage of the finds and exhibit them on a rotating exchange. Ancient sites in Turkey, China and Italy are cited as potential examples for such partnerships. “It’s not too late for museums to start digging.” Frischer concludes.

Paul Barford has responded to the proposal with thought-provoking questions. What is your opinion? Would Frischer’s suggested solution work? More importantly, would source countries agree?

Floods threaten Pakistan’s cultural heritage


The monsoon rains sweeping across Pakistan have seriously destroyed archaeological sites, historical districts, monuments, museums, libraries, rock carvings, ancient tombs, mosques and shrines, according to news reports. While our main concern focuses on human life, we should not forget how floodwaters and landslides also ravage cultural heritage, the other human toll with long-lasting effects that can never be reversed.

One of the many examples of this devastation is Mohenjodaro from the 3rd millennium B.C., the centre of Indus Valley civilization. Known as the oldest planned city in the world, most of the site has yet to be excavated and the information it holds remains undiscovered. Another site is Amrijo-daro (pre-Harappa), the site of a pre-Harappa fortified town which flourished from 3600 to 3300 BC.

Photo: A portion of a wall that runs parallel to the main street in the five-thousand-year-old ruined city has crumbled after the recent rains. (Courtesy NetKarachi)

Publicity Where Publicity is Due

The PRNewswire has picked up on a story first aired by Fabio Isman, writing for the Art Newspaper, and now being disseminated and further investigated by David Gill on his Looting Matters blog. It concerns the serious allegation that “a number of antiquities acquired by the National Museum of Archaeology in Madrid appear to feature in the dossier of Polaroid photographs seized from dealer Giacomo Medici.” The investigation has revealed that in 1999, the museum purchased 181 pieces from “Spanish financier Jose Luis Varez Fisa” for $12 million, boasting about the “great leap forward” this purchase would make to their collection. However, the work of the journalist, in conjunction with archaeological and photographic-assessment experts, have cast the original “surfacing” conditions of 22 of these artifacts into doubt, tentatively identifiable as they are within the Medici dossier, some still covered in soil or pre-restoration. As followers of this blog and Looting Matters will know, this is certainly not the first case of Medici objects surfacing again long after the legal case has finished. I doubt it will be the last. We eagerly anticipate further developments as this investigation moves forward.

Will museum displays tell it as it is?

Derek Fincham’s post Paracas Textiles makes an interesting point about an exhibition of endangered textiles from Peru in the Museum of World Culture, Gothenburg, Sweden. Entitled “A Stolen World”, the exhibition not only highlights one of “the most sought-after heritage objects in the illegal market”, it describes how the textiles were looted and donated to the Ethnographic Department of Göteborg Museum. In plain, simple language. No disguise, no nonsense.

When will the Museum of World Culture’s U.S. counterparts follow suit? We think that they could do a better job educating the public simply by telling us what the museums themselves already know. One such rare example is described here where provenance was the topic of exhibit discussion.

The recent SAFE Tour led by Haidy Geismar brought this deficiency into sharp focus. The newly renovated Pacific Hall of the Rockefeller Wing at the Met is filled with objects with virtually no descriptive text about the people, and how the objects were used, or are still being used. A tiny map on the wall of one of the entrances is hardly visible and mostly overlooked. Left without information, a visitor can only respond to superficial qualities. If something pleases the eye, one can then imagine how an object would look in their home. Not much more.

Museum visitors deserve more. “All that matters is how it looks” doesn’t work anymore.

Phoot: Museum of World Culture

Vanishing rupees for museums, yet another side of war and heritage

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

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

"Orphan" Antiquities Study

The Cultural Policy Research Institute, a think tank formed last year “to build a viable legal framework for the protection of world historical remains”, has issued its first research study. It focuses on “orphan” artifacts: archaeological material or ancient art in private hands that the AAMD’s recently-adopted guidelines exclude from being acquired by Member museums because these artifacts lack clear provenance showing they were outside their country of probable modern discovery before 1970 (or were exported legally after 1970). This first pilot study limited itself to Greek, Roman, and associated material, coins excluded, with a value of $1000 or more. CPRI researchers — unnamed in the report — interviewed museum staffers, major US dealers, private collectors, and scholars. The interviewing methodology is not described, and sources remain anonymous, so there is no way to evaluate the accuracy of the results. We have no way of knowing how those interviewed determined that provenances were inadequate, but it seems obvious that dealers and collectors have a vested interest in exaggerating the number, so these figures need to be taken with a big grain of salt.

The study estimates that 67,500-111,900 classical artifacts with inadequate provenance are being held by collectors or dealers. It would be very interesting to know what percentage is in the hands of dealers rather than collectors, and even more interesting to know how many total artifacts, well-provenanced as well as “orphaned”, worth $1000 or more are now in private hands. One thing at least is deducible: the market for only inadequately provenanced Roman/Greek/related antiquities involves capital to the tune of at least $67,500,000-111,900,000 (since all the artifacts reported are supposedly worth at least $1000 each).

The CPRI could do a major service to all students of the antiquities markets if it could ascertain how many of these “orphans” change hands annually, at what prices, and in what country.

But the aim of the CPRI is not to throw light on the operations of the antiquities market. Rather, it is to call attention to the existence of these objects, which supposedly are endangered by being held in private hands:

objects excluded from acquisition by Member museums cannot have the benefit of professional museum exhibition, publication, or conservation.Such objects can have no permanent parentage or protection (many run the risk, over time, of deterioration, damage or destruction).


The problem with this line of argument is that even if the objects in question were not excluded from acquisition most of them would not be acquired. And the notion that dealers and collectors would be negligent towards objects worth thousands of dollars seems very questionable.

The hope seems to be to persuade AAMD to rescind its guidelines. But those guidelines were created in response to a recognition that the antiquities market is being fed by looters. One has no way of knowing how many of the 67,500 “orphaned” artifacts were orphaned from their contexts by Bulgarian, Cypriot, or Turkish looters, but we do know that site looting of these countries’ Greek and Roman sites is ongoing.

That does not mean that the guidelines in themselves will have much if any effect on this ongoing looting, at least not in the short run. The market will continue to function, and “orphaned” antiquities will continue to flow into it. But at least the guidelines lay down a challenge to dealers and collectors: figure out some way for your industry to play a progressive role in reducing looting and clean up its act by establishing a strictly licit market. Come up with a plan like that and maybe bringing in the orphans can be part of the final deal.

 

 

Oscar Muscarella’s "Fifth Column" of Plunder Culture

All too often, debates about cultural property are made to look simply like battles between curators/collectors/dealers and archaeologists. In an article published in Studies in Honor of Altan Çilingiroglu. A Life Dedicated to Urartu on the Shores of the Upper Sea, Eds. H. Saglamtimur, et al. Arkeoloji ve Sanat Yayinlari, Istanbul, 2009, “The Fifth Column Within the Archaeological Realm: The Great Divide,” Dr. Oscar White Muscarella looks at the network of plunder in all the complexity it deserves, and pays special attention to an overlooked accomplice in the continued destruction of the past.

According to Muscarella there are four visible mutually supporting columns operating within the realm of “Plunder Culture.” These groups, in order, are: on-site looters or tombaroli, smugglers and local dealers, professional antiquities dealers, and lastly, wealthy collectors, including museums and universities, both public and private.

Cultural heritage may be endangered most, however, by the fifth invisible column whose members are within the archaeological community. Muscarella illustrates the ways in which professional archaeologists facilitate Plunder Culture, and their participation does not just include the more obvious examples of performing authenticity evaluations for wealthy collectors. Members of the archaeological community also enable plunder by accepting money, invitations, committee memberships and appointments from fourth column institutions with dishonorable acquisition policies and compromised attitudes toward the value of context.

The hypocrisy in these affiliations has yet to be broadly acknowledged by the media and by the field of archaeology. The members of the fifth column have yet to be publicly denounced, and as a result:

They continue to flourish, their activities proceed successfully and unabated, they get awarded – revealing that the discipline of archaeology has no comprehensive sense of itself, no unclouded self-knowledge, no awareness of its moral and academic weakness.

Muscarella is unafraid to name names (of both the good and bad, the individuals and institutions) and avoids ambiguous and ineffective discourse about the problems of cultural property. He urges archaeologists to reconsider the consequences of their professional, academic, and personal associations, and to those who consider themselves clean, he urges active participation in the protection of cultural heritage.

To join Dr. Muscarella’s SAFE tour at the Metropolitan Museum on Friday, October 23 at 6:30 PM, you can buy tickets from our website.

Ethics in the Museum?


A great topic to be discussing in this day and age! With the Metropolitan Museum of Art reviewing its policies and museum associations like the American Association of Museums drafting new guidelines, ethics in the museum should be discussed.

The Institute of Museum Ethics has announced the 1st Biennial Graduate Student Conference: “New Directions in Museum Ethics.” The event will be held on November 14, 2009 at Seton Hall University. Visit the website to register!