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 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!"


Katie A. Paul‏


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.