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.