Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Cultural Property Issues and the Election

One archaeologist/blogger associated with Savings Antiquities for Everyone ("SAFE") has already heralded Barack Obama on his historic win and with it the prospect that Prof. Patty Gerstenblith, a well known activist for the archaeological community, is now in a position to impact US policy:

Not so fast. It is still probably much too early to draw too many conclusions on this point. The new administration will have much on its plate when it takes control of the government in January. One would think there might be higher priorities than the preservation of archaeological context in other countries through the use of import controls and/or criminal sanctions. In addition, wealthy collectors have also provided support for Obama. One would also suspect they would act as counterweights to the "archaeology over all" perspective of Professor Gerstenlith, SAFE and others.

In any event, hasn't Obama himself spoken eloquently about government accountability, transparency and ethics? See generally: and

Isn't application of these principles to the State Department and CPAC what groups like the AAMD and ACCG (but curiously not SAFE) have demanded?

In other news, there has been at least some speculation that former Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns may be seeking a new position in the Obama Administration. (Burns authored an article critical of the McCain-Palin ticket shortly before the election: See: If so, hopefully the Obama Administration or the Senate will apply these very same principles and query former Undersecretary Burns about the exact circumstances behind the controversial decision to impose import restrictions on coins of Cypriot type. While some might spin this as an "insignificant matter," how the decision was actually made potentially could speak volumes about Burns' approach to decision making.

Finally, Republican Phil English (Pa-3rd) has lost his bid to seek reelection. See: Congressman English is best known in the cultural property field for his support for legislation to impose import restrictions on cultural artifacts of Iraqi and Afghan origin. When the Republicans controlled the House, Congressman English was the AIA's "go to" legislator for such efforts. Presumably, the AIA and other advocacy groups have been grooming other Democratic legislators for such a role.

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