Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Virtual CPAC Meeting on Libyan MOU Request Summary

On July 19, 2017, the U.S. Cultural Property Advisory Committee held its first “virtual” meeting where some CPAC members and all speakers were linked via an internet based video platform.  According to my notes, at least the following CPAC members were in attendance:  (1) John Frank (Trade); (2) Karol Wight (Museum); (3) Lothar von Falkenhausen (Archeology); (4) Nancy Wilkie (Archaeology); (5) Rosemary Joyce (Archaeology); (6) Dorit Straus (Trade); (7) Adele Chatfield-Taylor (Public); and (8) Jeremy Sabloff (Public-Chair).

There were six (6) speakers:  (1) Peter Tompa (International Association of Professional Numismatists/Professional Numismatist’s Guild; (2) Sue McGovern (Association of Dealers and Collectors of Ancient and Ethnographic Art); (3) William Wright (coin collector); (5) Kate FitzGibbon (Antique Tribal Art Dealers Association) and (6) Nathan Elkins (Baylor).  Due to a technical problem, Gary Vikan (Global Heritage Alliance) did not speak.

Peter Tompa- The request is a troubling one.  Libya has no government to speak of and anything repatriated cannot be protected from the militias running the country.  To the extent any restrictions are granted, they should be limited to site specific restrictions for material identifiable as from Libya’s 5 UNESCO World Heritage Sites as well as for coins identifiable as being stolen from public and private collections.   Restrictions cannot lawfully be placed on coins because they are not of cultural significance.  Moreover, hoard evidence proves that one cannot assume coins struck in Libya in ancient times were also found there.  (For more, see here.)

Sue McGovern- Libya’s chaotic governance means that it cannot undertake self-help measures or protect what cultural patrimony it has, let alone that which may be repatriated under a MOU.  Libya has no open museums.  It should be taken to task for opposing UNESCO’s efforts to list its World Heritage sites as endangered.  In a troubling episode, one powerful militia (supported by General Sisi’s Egyptian military government) burned 6,000 books.  Under the circumstances, any MOU is a bad idea.

William Wright- Wright is a teacher at a community college in Virginia.  He became interested in the coins from Kyrene because they depict Silphium, a now extinct medicinal plant.  He uses coins in his history classes.  His students benefit from the tactile experience of handling coins.  He only buys from established dealers, but worries about the chilling effect restrictions are having on the hobby.

Kate FitzGibbon- The short comment period has disenfranchised Jewish groups which are incensed that Libya is seeking U.S. Government approval for its efforts to claim the property of expelled Jews as its own.  The request should also be denied as to Tuareg material  as most Tuaregs live outside Libya and one cannot tell recent tribal arts from early tribal arts that are the target of this MOU.

Nathan Elkins- Looting is well documented in Libya.  Restrictions should also extend to coins as for other objects.  Coins are special targets for looters.  CPAC should be wary of the misrepresentations of the lobbyists for the coin trade.  Nancy Wilkie (Archaeology) asked Elkins if metal detectors were used in Libya.  Elkins does not know for sure, but assumes so.   Dorit Straus (Trade) asked Elkins about documenting coins.  Elkins does not understand why collectors don’t document coins as he did as a collector before stopping for ethical reasons.  

No Reason for More Ill-Considered Restrictions on Coins

     Here is what I said more or less at today's CPAC meeting:       
          I am speaking on behalf of the International Association of Professional Numismatists and the Professional Numismatists Guild, which represent the small businesses of the numismatic trade.  In many ways, this hearing is a much greater test for CPAC than for ancient coin collectors.  This is a very troubling request being rushed through the system, but for what purpose? Libya has no government to speak of, much less one that can ensure that any artifacts that may be repatriated will be protected from the militias really running the country.  As such, IAPN and PNG believe this request should either be tabled pending receipt of more information, or at most treated as an emergency request with restrictions only granted for site specific material from Libya’s 5 UNESCO World Heritage Sites as well as any material—including coins—that is identifiable as being stolen from public or private collections.
            There is no reason for more ill-considered import restrictions on coins that don’t mesh with the CPIA’s requirements that restrictions only be placed on objects of “archaeological interest” of “cultural significance” “first discovered within,” and “subject to export control by” the requesting state, here Libya. 
            There is a history here which most of you probably don’t know.  For 25 years after the CPIA was passed, there were no restrictions on coins.   This should be no surprise.  Coins are items of commerce.  So, it is difficult for modern nation states to justifiably claim them as their “cultural property.”  They are probably amongst the most common of historical artifacts and are not of “cultural significance.”  They are avidly collected and traded worldwide—including in places like Libya.  It simply makes no sense to preclude Americans from importing coins where there is no real “concerted international response.”   Indeed, when the CPIA was being discussed, Mark Feldman, a high ranking State Department lawyer, represented to Congress that it was “hard … to imagine a case where we would need to deal with coins except in the most unusual circumstances.”
            In 2007, this changed with Cypriot coins.   According to the declarations of two former CPAC Members that change was made against CPAC’s recommendations.  In 2011, a federal court was asked to look at the issue, but determined that the matter was non-justiciable which is just a fancy way of saying it’s not my problem.  So, if anything, that makes the issue “your problem” all the more. 
            Why shouldn’t coins be restricted?  The CPIA only limits restrictions to objects of cultural significance.  Just because an object is of archaeological interest does not give it cultural significance.  Coins which exist in multiples lack cultural significance.  The CPIA also limits restrictions to archaeological material first discovered within and subject to the export control of the specific country, here Libya.  The hoard evidence we discuss in our paper confirms that one simply cannot safely assume Libyan coins are found at Libyan archaeological sites.
            Let me touch on some issues raised by Dr. Nathan Elkins in his papers.    First, Dr. Elkins claims that restrictions are proper for any coins that predominantly circulated in Libya.  However, this proposed test is inconsistent with the plain meaning of the CPIA that limits restrictions only to artifacts “first discovered within” and “subject to export control by” Libya.  This language makes clear that only coins actually found in Libya and hence subject to its export control can be restricted.   Second, even under Elkins’ standard, Libyan coins could not be restricted because all recorded hoards of Libyan coins are found outside Libya.  [Note, Dr. Elkins disputed this point.  My written comments and research can be found here.]  Finally, given the small number of such coins on the open market, there is no reason to believe they are “gushing out” of Libya as he claims.  If anything, the small number and modest values of such coins on the market suggest that any restrictions would not deter pillage.  Thank you on behalf of the small businesses of the numismatic trade and collectors for your consideration of our views.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

ACCG Gets Amicus Support

Six collector and trade groups have supported the Ancient Coin Collectors' Guild's appeal seeking to ensure that the due process rights of collectors are protected.  The Guild has asked the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn an order forfeiting fifteen (15) of its coins.  

The Guild has argued that the district court could not assume away important elements of the government’s case merely because its coins were of types subject to import restrictions.  Under the Convention for Cultural Property Implementation Act, the government may only seize and forfeit archaeological and ethnological objects “first discovered within” and “subject to export control by” specific countries.  And even then, the government must make some showing that the articles left that country after the effective date of those regulations.  Here, at most, all the government showed was that the coins were of types on the “designated lists” for Cyprus and China.

The briefs of the Guild and amici can be accessed here. 

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Comment Fatigue Can't Mask Special Interest Nature of MOU Program

Given the short (7 day) comment period over the July 4th weekend, CPO is not too surprised that there were so few comments posted on the regulations.gov website concerning a proposed MOU with Libya:  https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=DOS_FRDOC_0001-4160

After eliminating duplicates and a few unclear comments, it appears that only 19% or 7 of the commentators supported the MOU with the remaining 34 opposed in whole or part.

Four of the proponents represented group interests.  Of these, one was a University and another was an archaeological group that also is a State Department contractor.  Six trade associations or collector advocacy groups were among those opposed to any MOU in whole or in part.  Most of the individual comments came from coin collectors or dealers.

No doubt some proponents will spin these the low numbers as a lack of public opposition to any MOU.  But what really should be asked is whether the whole enterprise is really nothing more than a special interest program for archaeological groups either tied to source countries where they excavate or the State Department which funds them.  Maybe there needs to be a rethink whether scarce State Department resources should be earmarked for other programs that further our national interest or promote American business abroad.

My Personal Comment on the Proposed Libyan MOU

Here is my personal comment on the proposed Libyan MOU:

Please accept these personal comments. I have also commented on behalf of a number of organizations.

1. CPAC should view this request with skepticism. Few details have emerged that support Libya's MOU request. Moreover, this request has been rushed, with a short comment period smack in the middle of a long holiday week. This action, which can only limit the number of comments CPAC receives, in itself suggests that this request should be viewed with caution-- even if the country itself wasn't a mess as it has been since its revolution of 2011.

2. The country has 3 governments, and two antiquities authorities jockeying for position. It's not even clear which of these entities supports this request. In any case, whatever "government" Libya has, powerful militias are in the background that can break these "governments" pretty much at will.

3. There are no guarantees that any artifacts Customs sends to Libya under any MOU will be protected, much less studied and displayed. None of Libya's museums are open and what staff remains have to make do under very trying circumstances.

4. Frankly, instead of yet another round of import restrictions, the State Department, along with other international organizations, should instead focus on helping Libyan community groups protect Libya's 5 UNESCO World Heritage sites from the deprivations of Islamic fundamentalists. Ultimately, Palmyra and Nimrud suffered severe damage because local communities didn't care enough to protect them from ISIS. Let's help those locals who care about these sites protect them.

5. I do not believe that Libya and the proponents of import restrictions have made out a case for either "regular" or "emergency restrictions." Nonetheless, if CPAC feels it cannot resist bureaucratic pressure to "do something," Libya's request should be treated as an "emergency one" and restrictions limited to site specific material from Libya's endangered World Heritage Sites: (1) Kyrene; (2) Leptis Magna; (3) Sabratha; (4) Tadrat Acacus; and (5) Ghademes. (See Libya's five World Heritage sites put on List of World Heritage in Danger, (UNESCO) (July 14, 2017), available at [URL REMOVED]

6. Under no circumstances should there be restrictions placed on historical coins except those identifiable as stolen from Libyan public and private collections. Here, IAPN, PNG and ACCG have noted what hoard evidence that is available shows that "Libyan" coins are typically found outside of the confines of modern day "Libya," which would make any restrictions placed upon them contrary to governing law. Ancient Coin Collectors Guild v. U.S. Customs and Border Protection, 801 F. Supp. 2d 383, 407 n. 25 (D. Md. 2011) ("Congress only authorized the imposition of import restrictions on objects that were 'first discovered within, and [are] subject to the export control by the State Party.").

Thank you for your consideration of these comments.

Sincerely,

Peter Tompa

Monday, July 3, 2017

Ask CPAC to Limit or Table the Problematic Libyan MOU request Rather than Rush it Through

The State Department has announced an exceptionally short comment period for a proposed MOU with Libya ending on July 10th.  The exceptionally short time frame for public comment as well as the timing of this request to coincide with a raft of highly exaggerated reports claiming that the antiquities trade funds terrorism emanating from the Antiquities Coalition, a well-funded and politically connected advocacy group with ties to MENA authoritarian governments, suggests that the Libyan MOU is yet another done deal.  

Still, if one feels strongly about their continued ability to collect ancient artifacts and/or historical coins, CPO believes they should comment on the regulations.gov website here: 

https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=DOS_FRDOC_0001-4160


Why? Because silence will only be spun as acquiesce by US and Libyan cultural bureaucracies as well as the archaeological lobby with an ax to grind against collectors.

A.    The Law

The Cultural Property Implementation Act (“CPIA”) contains significant procedural and substantive constraints on the executive authority to impose import restrictions on cultural goods. 

“Regular” restrictions may only be applied to archaeological artifacts of “cultural significance” “first discovered within” and “subject to the export control” of a specific UNESCO State Party.  They must be part of a “concerted international response” of other market nations, and can only be applied after less onerous “self-help” measures are tried.  They must also be consistent with the general interest of the international community in the interchange of cultural property among nations for scientific, cultural, and educational purposes.

“Emergency restrictions” are narrower.  They focus on material of particular importance, but no “concerted international response” is necessary.  The material must be a “newly discovered type” or from a site of “high cultural significance” that is in danger of “crisis proportions.” Alternatively, the object must be of a civilization, the record of which is in jeopardy of “crisis proportions,” and restrictions will reduce the danger of pillage.

 The Cultural Property Advisory Committee (“CPAC”) is to provide the executive with useful advice about this process.
   
The CPIA contemplates that CPAC is to recommend whether import restrictions are appropriate as a general matter and also specifically whether they should be placed on particular types of cultural goods.  In the past, CPAC has recommended against import restrictions on coins.  Initially those recommendations were followed, but beginning with the renewal of Cypriot import restrictions in 2007, this has changed.  Now, there are restrictions on coins made in Cyprus, China, Italy, Greece, Bulgaria, Syria and Egypt.  
  
Import restrictions make it impossible for Americans to legally import collectors’ coins widely and legally available worldwide.   Foreign sellers are typically unwilling or unable to certify the coin in question (which can retail as little as $1) left a specific UNESCO State Party before restrictions were imposed as required by the CPIA and U.S. Customs and Border Protection rules.   Restrictions have drastically limited Americans’ abilities to purchase historical coins from abroad and have negatively impacted the cultural understanding and people to people contacts collecting fosters. 

B.     The Request

The Committee for Cultural Policy has written a good analysis of the request: https://committeeforculturalpolicy.org/libya-requests-us-to-send-artifacts-back-to-war-torn-libya/  
I quote that analysis in pertinent part here:

The Public Summary of Libya MOU Request that has been made available is actually written by the Department of State, and “authorized” by the Libyan government. The Department does not provide copies of actual requests, which makes it impossible to know if the request itself complies with Congressional criteria.

No Central Government Control

It is important to note that this request comes from the current Government of Libya, which holds only a portion of Libyan territory at this time. Libya is divided and ruled by two competing governments and its territory is controlled by six major militia factions, and many smaller parties and entities. There is no single effective Government of Libya that controls Libyan territory.

As part of every US agreement on cultural property, the US agrees to send any art that enters the US back to the source country. This policy applies even to art that has poor prospects of surviving in conflict-ridden nations, and art from oppressed ethnic or religious minorities that have been forced out of the source country. The CPIA does not provide for return of embargoes art to anyone but a source country government.

The Request is Over Broad

The request for the imposition of U.S. import restrictions covers the entire history of the geographic region that is Libyan territory from the Paleolithic through the Ottoman Era (12,000 B.C.-1750 A.D.). and on its ethnological material dating from 1551 to 1911 A.D. That is – virtually everything – up to 1911.

The material covered would be “archaeological material in stone, metal, ceramic and clay, glass, faience, and semi-precious stone, mosaic, painting, plaster, textile, basketry, rope, bone, ivory, shell and other organics. Protection is sought for ethnological material in stone, metal, ceramic and clay, wood, bone and ivory, glass, textile, basketry and rope, leather and parchment, and writing.” That is, everything one can think of.

No Cultural Administration

The cultural administrative staff of Libya appear in the request to have been scattered and in considerable disorder. The request fails to demonstrate that there is currently a government hierarchy capable of administering cultural heritage in much of the country, even if it wished to do so. The request provides numerous examples of failure by the Libyan government to address cultural heritage issues. It notes that

  • “[A]rtifacts, which had been excavated from temples, were also stolen from the storerooms.”
  • “Museums have also been vandalized and looted by invading militias.”
  • “There are also reported thefts from museums and storerooms of documented and undocumented objects.”
  • “[A]ll of the country’s twenty-four museums are closed.”
  • Lacking government support, Department of Antiquities staff “continue to take personal responsibility for the objects housed in their institutions.”
No US Market for Illicit Artifacts

The Libyan request’s description of the U.S. market for ancient artifacts in Libyan style does not claim that any came recently from Libya or that any were not legally acquired.

The Tuareg materials and Islamic objects of the 18th and 19th century for which “protection,” i.e. embargo is sought were legally available for trade in Libya for many decades and are widely and legally available in European, Asian, and US markets. The request does not even claim that ethnographic materials were restricted in export from Libya in the past.

No Access for US Citizens, No Study, No Sharing of Excavated Materials

The request fails to meet criteria set by Congress that require that US citizens have access to Libyan culture through museum exhibitions or other venues. There is not a single traveling exhibition mentioned in the request.

Although the request acknowledges that foreign institutions and missions have done extensive archaeological work in Libya, these archaeological agreements do not allow sharing or even permanent export from Libya of any objects for study.

Based on the written request as presented by the Department of State, Libya’s recent governments have done little or nothing in the last decade to protect Libyan sites. Nor has any Libyan government made any effort to ensure that US citizens were able to access Libyan art and artifacts through traveling exhibitions, museum loans, or even through providing digital online access to art in Libya itself.

US Organizations with Middle East Ties are Promoting the Libyan Request

This request appears timed to coincide with a raft of recent presentations about the trade in looted Middle Eastern art by the Antiquities Coalition and its various partners – much of it based on discredited data. The presentations have focused on the evils of the international trade in looted art from these regions, and by wholly unsubstantiated statements that looted artifacts from the crisis areas in the Middle East have entered the US market or are being sold here. In these presentations, the value of the legal market in provenanced antiquities, especially the auction market, are used to justify claims about a supposed illicit market. In the view of the Antiquities Coalition, agreements under the CPIA with authoritarian Middle Eastern governments are seen as positive because they will end the art trade.

C.     What You Can Do

Admittedly, all the evidence points to the matter being already decided—no matter what the CPIA says, what the facts really are, and what American citizens or others interested in collecting Libyan artifacts may think.  Still, to remain silent is to give cultural bureaucrats and archaeologists with an ax to grind against collectors exactly what they want-- the claim that any MOU is not controversial. 
So, to submit comments concerning the proposed MOU, go to the Federal rulemaking Portal and enter Docket No. DOS-2017-0028 and by all means speak your mind.  For a direct link, try here:  https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=DOS_FRDOC_0001-4160  and click on the “comment here” button to make your case.
 

What should you say?  Provide a brief, polite explanation about why the request should be denied or limited.  Indicate to CPAC how restrictions will negatively impact your business and/or the cultural understanding and people to people contacts collecting provides.   Coin collectors should add that it’s typically impossible to assume a particular coin was “first discovered within” and “subject to the export control” of  Libya and that Libyan historical coins while not as common as others, are widely and freely available for sale elsewhere, particularly in Europe.  And, of course, feel free to mention any concerns you might have about government transparency, whether this is a real “emergency” of “crisis proportions,” and how the State Department has generally handled this request.   Finally, you don’t have to be an American citizen to comment—you just need to be concerned enough to spend twenty or so minutes to express your views on-line.  

Friday, June 16, 2017

Problematic MOU Request

The State Department has notified the public of its receipt of a request for a MOU with Libya.  It remains to be seen how a country with two competing governments, that is over-run by militias and which remains in danger from ISIS can meet its obligations under UNESCO and the CPIA to protect and preserve is own cultural property let alone that which may be repatriated from the US under the terms of any agreement.  Libya needs our help, but that help should be focused on protecting its world class archaeological sites from the depredations of ISIS and other radical Islamic groups. Turning US Customs loose to seize and forfeit "undocumented" "Libyan" artifacts will only harm legitimate trade and the appreciation for Libya's ancient cultures.  It certainly won't help protect Libyan archaeological sites and museums from their greatest threat, which is hammer and explosive wielding religious fanatics.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Desperately Seeking Continued Funding?

On June 8, 2017, CPO attended a panel discussion entitled, "Preserving Northern Iraq's Cultural Heritage."   The major theme of the event was to document the good work the Smithsonian is doing stabilizing what is left of Nimrud after ISIS dynamited and bulldozed much of the site.

However, the continued hype about the supposed value of ISIS looted material ($80 million!) as well as surprising claims that cultural heritage preservation fights terrorism and fosters minority rights seem calculated to sway Trump Administration and Congressional budget officials as much as anything else.  Indeed, it probably was no coincidence that representatives of the House Foreign Relations Committee were in the audience.

If anything, the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR) should be subject to serious scrutiny from appropriators given the $900,000 taxpayer costs of ASOR's cooperative agreement with the State Department, ASOR's efforts to lobby on issues related to that same contract, and the continuing efforts of ASOR members to hype the value of looting by ISIS long after other, more disinterested sources have questioned such hype.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Museum and Auction House Work Together To Reunite Collector With His Coins

This is a great story about the efforts of Virginia State authorities, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and CNG, Inc. to find the owner of a box of ancient coins that had been lost.  A happy ending about how government officials and private industry worked together to reunite a collector with his collection.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Import Restrictions Without End

The drafters of the CPIA contemplated that import restrictions would give breathing space for source countries to get their own house in order, but they were never supposed to go on forever.  Yet, the State Department and US Customs have extended import restrictions on Peruvian goods for the fourth time.  So, Americans have been limited in their ability to import Peruvian goods from third countries for yet another 5 years.

The extension expands restrictions to colonial era manuscripts although it is dubious that they meet the definition of ethnological objects under the CPIA.  Presumably, the restrictions were put into place to keep Peruvian citizens from selling off old manuscripts to foreigners.  Materials within Peruvian institutions are already restricted from entry in the US under the CPIA's stolen property provisions.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

K-9 Looted Antiquities Detector Dog Funding Solicitation Relying on Misleading Data?

Red Arch Cultural Heritage Law and Policy Research is soliciting public funding for detector dogs to roam airports in search of looted antiquities.  Leaving aside questions about practicality and the potentially self-serving nature of such an effort, CPO notes that Red Arch is soliciting funds based on dubious claims about the value of antiquity exports from the Middle East.  However, as CPO has explained over and over again, this data relates to "country of origin," which typically means place of manufacture NOT PLACE OF EXPORT.  So, it is not at all clear that the values cited actually support the supposition that is claimed.   So, instead of antiquities detector dogs, perhaps, then a BS detector is what is really needed more than anything else.  

A German View of How American Cultural Policy is Made

Coins Weekly questions whether Goldman Sachs money, power and influence have corrupted US cultural policy.  At a minimum, it is a legitimate question where the Antiquities Coalition's non profit archaeological advocacy and the for profit business interests of its founder begin and end.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

ICE Sends Roman Coins From Middle East To Italy Because Roman Means Italian?

While Customs rightly repatriated manuscripts back to Italy in a ceremony today in Boston, as CPO pointed out back in 2015, Roman coins from Middle Eastern mints are an entirely different matter.  Hopefully, someone in the Trump Administration will catch onto this example of ICE overreach. This is yet another situation where the importer appears to have had a viable defense to forfeiture, but the cost of legal services greatly exceeds the value of the subject coins.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Pointing Fingers the Wrong Way?

A well known scholar who would like to remain anonymous asks if  fingers are being pointed the wrong way after the Cleveland Museum voluntarily repatriated a Roman portrait bust to Italy.

I suppose you have heard the story of this marble head in Cleveland, that either has been, or is in the process of being, returned to Italy because it turns out that it was stolen from the museum in Sessa Aurunca in 1944. The usual suspects are making rude remarks and pointing fingers about it, but, in fact, I think it might be a very good and exemplary story for you to tell on your blog.
The big thing is that it, and another piece, appeared at auction in Paris in 2004 - illustrated - but no one said peep about them. Apparently two Italian scholars wrote about the head around the time Cleveland acquired it, illustrating, FINALLY, record photos of a number of heads from Sessa that were discovered in excavations there in 1926. I want to stress the fact that despite there being record photos, taken in 1926, of some sculpture stolen in 1944, those photos were never publicly shown prior to 2011 or so!!! In any case, we can be sure that Cleveland actually did everything that was normally and humanly possible to do when they acquired the piece in 2012. The story they had: that the head was from a collection in France, brought there from Algeria in 1960 (when A was part of France), and previously in a collection in Algeria (they said since the 19th century), was by no means implausible. In any case, the possibility that the head had been looted in Sessa by French troops from Algeria in 1944 would go far to explain the head's supposed Algerian origins.

That the head should go back to Sessa is clear: it is modern war loot. But when does the story end? The way the usual suspects use the story to attack the "bad" American museum and the "bad" dealer, but say poo about the fact that a clear photograph, that was in existence by 1926 of an object that was stolen in 1944, remained unpublished until 2011/2013 or so is an even greater scandal!  

Thursday, April 6, 2017

District Court Rules in Government's Favor in Long Running Forfeiture Action

The ACCG will likely appeal Judge Blake's ruling largely favoring the government in the long running forfeiture case.  It's important to defend the principle that the government must make out every element of its prima facie case before it can take private property.  More here.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

President Putin Awards Russia's Highest Honor to Two American Archaeological Advocacy Groups

CPO republishes this post from "Patriotic Russia Today" and hopes the reader will draw their own conclusions.

President Putin Awards Russia's Highest Honor to Two American Archaeological Advocacy Groups

President Putin has designated two American Archaeological advocacy groups, "Saving Antiquities from Everyone" and the "Context Coalition,"  Heros of the Russian Federation for their efforts to spotlight Islamic State looting and destruction of Syrian cultural sites.

The groups' extensive media efforts-- funded with the generous support of the Geldman Sox investment bank-- have not only exposed the problem of greedy Western collectors and museums and their desire to own Syrian cultural patrimony.  In addition, their work has sown confusion and suspicion within terrorist ranks.  Patriotic Russia Today has learned from sources within our glorious military intelligence service, the GRU, that the groups' social media efforts have also directly led to the execution of some key Caliphate financiers who could not explain why they never turned over a reported  $7 billion in funds made from stolen antiquities to their brother terrorists.  A mission well done!

In a break with tradition, the award ceremony will take place not at the Kremlin, but at the posh headquarters of Geldman Sox in New York.  There, it is also expected to be announced that Geldman Sox will provide financing to the legitimate Assad government for restoring Aleppo, another victim of the destruction wrought by Islamic terrorists.  Yes, there will be much to celebrate.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Cultural Heritage Center Faces Budget Cuts

The State Department's Cultural Heritage Center (CHC) along with the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) faces severe cuts in the Trump Administration's Budget proposal.  That proposal,

"Reduces funding for the Department of State's Educational and Cultural Exchange (ECE) Programs. ECE resources would focus on sustaining the flagship Fulbright Program, which forges lasting connections between Americans and emerging leaders around the globe.”

While the CHC's programs have been characterized as "soft power" diplomatic efforts, its MOUs have devolved into special interest programs that only benefit small numbers of archaeologists and foreign cultural bureaucracies that offer them excavation permits. Meanwhile, associated embargoes on cultural goods have thoroughly alienated large numbers of legitimate dealers and collectors both here and abroad. So, any supposed "soft power" benefits may in reality be deficits as far as the most of the general public is actually concerned.

It may be too much to hope for, but going forward the Trump State Department CHC should consider retooling to promote people to people cultural exchange that sees collecting as an asset and not an enemy.  Such an inclusive vision would increase CHC's popularity dramatically and help stave off any budget cuts going forward.  

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Short Comment Period for Proposed MOUs with Belize, Guatemala and Mali

Regulations.gov is now accepting public comments for the Cultural Property Advisory Committee's review of proposed renewals of MOUs with Belize, Guatemala and Mali.  Simply click on the above link, read the background information and then click on the blue "Comment Now" button to make your views known.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Antiquities Coalition Chief of Staff: "Dealers Don't Have Civil Rights!"

FROM TWITTER:

Katie A. Paul‏

@AnthroPaulicy

Katie A. Paul Retweeted Peter Tompa

What a shameful accusation to compare the plight of antiquities dealers to those fighting for civil rights. Dealers don't have civil rights!

Katie A. Paul added,
Peter Tompa @Aurelius161180
@AnthroPaulicy No, stance this is a drop in the bucket and does not justify efforts to undercut collectors' and dealers civil rights.


No wonder why the Antiquities Coalition apparently thinks the burden of proof should be shifted away from the government and onto collectors and dealers to prove their collections are "licit" under obscure foreign laws, many of which are the products of dictatorships like that of Egypt.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Destruction of Mosul Artifacts Further Undercuts Archaeological Lobby's Narrative

Confirmation that ISIS appears to have destroyed the contents of the Mosul Museum should be a cause for sadness rather than an excuse for yet another sound bite condemning the purchase of "blood antiquities."  If anything, the destruction of portable antiquities like cuneiform tablets contradicts the archaeological lobby's narrative that ISIS loots rather than destroys for ideological reasons.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Real Turn Around or Business as Usual?

It would be nice to think that Deborah Lehr and her well-funded Antiquities Coalition have had a real change of heart about how the antiquities market encourages cultural exchange and the preservation of artifacts, but given the group's consistent efforts to portray collectors as witting or unwitting accomplices of terrorists and cultural racketeers one has to really wonder if any change is just for the moment and for business purposes related to her international consulting firm.  Only time will tell.

Friday, February 24, 2017

ANA Warns Import Restrictions Damage Mission

The American Numismatic Association explains how import restrictions on coins that focus on place of minting in ancient times rather than modern find spots have damagesd its educational mission.  CPO once again expresses hope that the Trump Administration will perform a cost benefit analysis of such restrictions and their impact on various stake holders.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Thomas Murray, an Appreciation

CPO expresses thanks to Thomas Murray for his all too short service on the Cultural Property Advisory Committee.  President Obama appointed Mr. Murray to serve on CPAC in April 2013 to replace Bob Korver (who had resigned), but he was never allowed to serve a full term on his own.  This is a shame.  Mr. Murray, a past President of the Antique Tribal Arts Dealer Association, not only has real, tangible experience in the trade of ethnographic artifacts.  In addition, he actually represented the interests of his trade constituents by asking some "hard questions" at CPAC hearings.  In contrast, President Obama's replacement  for Mr. Murray may have political connections (albeit not with the party in power), but it remains unclear how he can actually "represent" the interests of the trade in either archaeological or ethnological objects as contemplated by the Statue. See Senate Report 97-564 at 9.  And, after all, "representing the interests" of  designated stakeholders is a major reason why CPAC exists.

Monday, January 23, 2017

CPACKed Again on the Way Out the Door

Before leaving office, the outgoing Obama Administration made late appointments or reappointments to all the available slots for the 11 member Cultural Property Advisory Committee.  CPAC members are appointed to three year renewable terms.  As such, the late appointments or reappointments appear calculated to try to ensure that CPAC continues the Obama Administration's "archaeology over all" approach to cultural heritage issues well into the new Administration.

As contemplated by Congress, CPAC is to represent the interests of the public (3 members), the trade (3 members), museums (2 members) and the archaeological community (3 members).  See Senate Report 97-564 at 9.

Under the Obama Administration, however, CPAC picks have been steered to individuals supportive of the retentavist views of the archaeological lobby.  Of course, this also dovetails nicely with the Department of State Cultural Heritage Center's use of MOUs as a "deliverable" to foreign cultural establishments to promote "good will."   At a minimum, all this "good will" helps ensure that the Cultural Heritage Center's allies in the archaeological lobby continue to get the foreign excavation permits they need to continue their work.  These permits allowing for excavations by foreign missions are then portrayed as prime examples of "cultural exchange" fostered by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

But archaeology is supposed to be only one stakeholder, not the only stakeholder with an interest in the issues.  Moreover, CPAC ought to provide the President with useful advice so that he or his designee will exercise the "independent judgment" of the U.S. as to the need and scope for import controls.  Senate Report at 6.  Indeed, the Senate has emphasized that "U.S. actions need not be coextensive with the broadest declarations of ownership and historical or scientific value made by other nations."  Id.

Hence, the Obama Administration can and should be faulted for appointing NO ONE representing the interests of the antiquities and coin trade or the interests of members of the public who are collectors. Indeed, having some passing knowledge about trade issues is certainly not the same as "representing" those interests. (The one true "trade representative," James Willis, is an expert in ethnographic artifacts, not antiquities.)

CPO hopes the Trump Administration will undertake a full review of the operations of CPAC and the Cultural Heritage Center to ascertain whether both are operating as contemplated by statute.  CPO also hopes Obama picks (other than Mr. Willis) will be replaced at the earliest time possible with individuals that will provide useful advice reflective of the interests of all stakeholders.

Here are the recent appointments and reappointments to CPAC.

Key, A-Archaeology; M-Museums; P-Public; T-Trade. Where the affiliation is unclear from Obama Administration official announcements, the designation is followed by a ?

January 11, 2017 Announcement

John E. Frank (T?)- 
John E. Frank is Microsoft's Vice President for European Union Government Affairs, a position he has held since 2015 From 2002 to 2015, Mr. Frank served as Vice President, Deputy General Counsel, and Chief of Staff in Microsoft’s Legal and Corporate Affairs Department He worked as Associate General Counsel for Microsoft Europe, Middle East, and Africa from 1996 to 2002 and Corporate Attorney for Microsoft Europe from 1994 to 1996 Mr. Frank was an Associate Attorney with Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom from 1988 to 1994 and with Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP from 1985 to 1987 He is a member of the Board of Trustees for the Seattle Art Museum and served as Board Chair from 2013 to 2015 Mr. Frank received an A.B. from Princeton University and a J.D. from Columbia Law School.

ABC News lists Frank as a campaign donations bundler in the $500,000-plus category.

Karol Wight (M)- Was senior curator of antiquities at the Getty Villa and internationally renowned specialist in Roman glass, was named the next executive director of The Corning Museum of Glass, the world’s foremost museum dedicated to the art, history, and science of glass.

Lothar von Falkenhausen (A)- Lothar von Falkenhausen is Professor of Chinese Archaeology and Art History and Associate Director of the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology at UCLA, where he has taught since 1993. He was educated at Bonn University, Peking University, Kyoto University, and Harvard University, and received his PhD in anthropology from Harvard in 1988. His research concerns the archaeology of the Chinese Bronze Age, focusing on large interdisciplinary and historical issues on which archaeological materials can provide significant new information.

Nancy Wilkie (A)- Nancy Wilkie is a distinguished archaeologist who has lectured on numerous study tours worldwide, especially in the Mediterranean. She is William H. Laird Professor of Classics, Anthropology, and the Liberal Arts, Emerita, at Carleton College where she was co-coordinator of the Archaeology Concentration. Nancy has worked on archaeological projects in Greece, Egypt, and Nepal, authored more than 30 articles, and co-edited three books on archaeology. From 1998-2002 she served as President of the AIA, and in 2009-10 she was the AIA’s Charles Eliot Norton lecturer, one of the highest honors that the Institute bestows. In April 2003 the President appointed Nancy to the Cultural Property Advisory Committee of the U.S. State Department, on which she continues to serve. In April 2013 she was elected President of the U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield, an organization dedicated to the protection of cultural property in times of armed conflict.


January 6, 2017 Announcement

Rosemary Joyce (A) - Cultural Property Advisory Committee; first appointed to CPAC in 2011.
Rosemary Joyce is an American anthropologist and social archaeologist who has specialized in research in Honduras.

James Wright Willis (T) - Cultural Property Advisory Committee; first appointed to CPAC in 2003.
James Wright Willis is the founder of James Willis Tribal Art in San Francisco, which he has owned and operated since 1972.  He is a member of the San Francisco Art Dealers Association and Friends of Ethnic Art in San Francisco.  In addition, he served on the boards of the Museum for African Art, the San Francisco Craft and Folk Art Museum, and the Ancient and Tribal Arts Study Committee of the M. H. De Young Museum.  Mr. Willis received his B.A. from Pomona College and his M.A. from San Francisco State.

December 15, 2016  Announcement

Dorit D. Straus (T?)- Dorit D. Straus is an Art and Insurance Advisor for Art and Insurance Advisory Services Inc., a position she has held since 2013.  Ms. Straus was previously Vice President Worldwide Specialty Fine Art Manager for Chubb, where she held various management positions from 1982 to 2013.  She has been a Visiting Lecturer at the Association for Research into Crimes Against Art since 2009 and was an Art Culture and Entertainment Manager at ACE USA from 1998 to 2000.  Ms. Straus was a Curatorial Researcher at the Jewish Museum from 1981 to 1982, an Assistant Collection Manager at the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnography at Harvard University from 1978 to 1981, and an Assistant Registrar at the Museum of Contemporary Crafts from 1976 to 1978.  She serves on the Board of Directors of AXA Art Americas Corporation, and the International Foundation for Art Research.  Ms. Straus received a B.A. from The City University of New York.

September 16, 2016  Announcement

Adele Chatfield-Taylor (P?)-Adele Chatfield-Taylor, a native of Virginia, is an American prominent arts administrator. She served as president and CEO of the American Academy in Rome from 1988 to 2013.

Shannon Keller O'Loughlin (P)- Former chief of staff of National Indian Gaming Commission. Ms. She also supports repatriation of indigenous artifacts.

James K. Reap (M?)-Secretary General of ICLAFI, ICOMOS International Scientific Committee on Legal Administrative and Financial Issues.  He also is associated with the Lawyer's Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation.

Jeremy Sabloff (Chairman) (P?) -Jeremy "Jerry" Arac Sabloff is an American anthropologist and past president of the Santa Fe Institute. Sabloff is an expert on ancient Maya civilization and pre-industrial urbanism.