Monday, May 17, 2010

Report on CPAC Hearing on Italian MOU-Part IV

Last week, I summarized the testimony of those who sought to amend the MOU or who opposed new restrictions on coins. This week, time permitting, I hope to report on the testimony of MOU's proponents.

Karol Wight, the antiquities curator at the Getty, spoke in support of the MOU. She expressed some disagreement with the AAMD’s testimony during CPAC’s interim review of the MOU as well as Dr. Nyerges testimony earlier in the hearing. Specifically, she does not believe that the AAMD’s testimony about the lack of long term loans from Italian institutions reflects the experience of non-AAMD museums. She specifically mentioned the travelling Pompeii, Stabiano and Rome and America exhibits that are on a “long term” loan to the United States, if not to a specific museum. Wight also indicated that the Getty has had successful collaborations with Italy and has received loans of spectacular pieces, like the “Chimera of Arezzo.” Wight also indicated that AAMD members need to be more proactive in seeking loans from Italy. CPAC member O’Brien (public) noted that there seems to be a difference of opinion as to what constitutes a “long term loan.” Wight indicated that the Getty itself considers a period of 5 years to constitute a “long term loan” when it sends its own are out for exhibition elsewhere.

Susan Alcock is an archaeologist associated with Brown University. She has not excavated in Italy (her major work has been in Greece and Armenia), but she believed the MOU should be renewed and extended to coins. Her specialty is the “systematic pedestrian survey,” that is “field walking” with an eye to trying to understand archaeology from an examination of surface finds. She indicated that when she finds a coin during her walks, it is “a cause for celebration.” She also stated, “There may be millions of these little suckers, but they are still important.” CPAC Chairwoman Reid (museum) asked about the practicality of Alcock’s recommendations, observing that she appeared to live in an “ideal world.” Alcock responded that she stood by her idealism. When Chairwoman Reid followed up by asking her recommendations, Alcock suggested: (1) CPAC recommends an extension of the MOU; (2) the MOU be extended to coins; (3) there must be public education efforts about the evils of looting.

Elizabeth Barton is the First VP of the AIA. She claimed that while one can see Italian archaeological materials openly for sale in New York City, such materials are not sold openly in Italy. Sometimes one sees coin stores in Italy, but they never have ancient coins in for display in their windows. The market fuels looting. Exhibits are better. The Pompeii exhibit drew as many as 2000 visitors per day. Barton disputed Rick Witschonke’s claim that the MOU was not working. It has reduced sales as proven by the fact that there are fewer ancient artifacts being auctioned by companies like Christie’s.

To be continued....

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