Monday, September 12, 2011

Libya: What Emergency?

There they go again. Only months after apparently receiving assurances from their buddies at the State Department about "emergency import restrictions" on Egyptian cultural artifacts, archaeological trade groups are again taking advantage of another supposed emergency to call for yet another round of emergency import restrictions, which of course, are just the first step towards a permanent ban. See

Yet, the facts seem to conspire against them. See (noting that there was no looting of archaeological artifacts at the Libyan national museum).

If I were a member of the Libyan provisional government, I might be a bit peeved that foreign academics are implying that the Libyans themselves are incapable of caring for their own cultural patrimony (despite considerable evidence to the contrary) and view this call for import restrictions as nothing more than a paternalistic violation of Libyan sovereignty.

One also has to wonder what, if any contacts, members of these groups had with the deposed regime. If past history in places like Egypt and Iraq are any guide, these relations could have been considerable. And certainly, this should be considered by Libyan officials as well in determining whether the help of these groups is necessary or desirable.

But do the facts on the ground and the desires of the Libyans really matter when the cronies of these groups run the State Department's Cultural Heritage Center? Or, will Libyan cultural officials be convinced to go along whatever the true facts and what the need for emergency restrictions says about Libya's own competence to care for its own cultural patrimony?

No comments: