Sunday, March 18, 2012

Harvard Protects its Own?

This is how the AIA has described the public testimony of Prof. Carmen Arnold-Biucchi of Harvard at January's CPAC meeting:

"Carmen Arnold-Biucchi, representing the Harvard Art Museums, noted that she was not arguing against collecting coins, but that the looting on the island was now such a problem that extraordinary steps must be taken to combat the loss of knowledge that comes when coins are taken out of context."

Professor Biucchi's and Harvard's appearance at this CPAC meeting was unexpected. The Harvard Coin Collection has been the beneficiary of money and donations from both dealers and serious collectors, and it contains thousands of unprovenanced coins of the sort Arnold-Biucchi apparently now condemns.

Interestingly, Nicholas Burns, the former Undersecretary of State who apparently ordered import restrictions on Cypriot coins over CPAC's objections as a "thank you" to Cypriot advocacy groups who had given him an award is now a professor of "good government" at Harvard.

Why did Harvard and Arnold-Biucchi now decide to provide vocal support for import restrictions on Cypriot coins? Was it done to help protect Nicholas Burns' reputation?


Voz Earl said...

Not sure I follow the logic here. How would this serve to protect Burns' reputation?

I personally think any import restrictions that are not matched by other destination countries are unfair and probably not very effective. However, support for the restrictions as an emergency measure to combat looting is not necessarily equivalent to a blanket condemnation of all unprovenanced coins.

Voz Earl

Cultural Property Observer said...

Voz- The AIA mantra holds that unprovenanced equals likely looted, and this carries through with the logic of import restrictions in that you need to prove a provenance back to 2007 for Cypriot coins.

And why wouldn't having a coin expert say that the decision was right, even if it was done for a wrong reason, help Burns?

Voz Earl said...

Yes, but my point is that one cannot assume that any person or institution that backs a given import restriction necessarily buys into that mantra. They may see it as an emergency stop-gap measure needed to deal with a particular situation. I don't know one way or the other--simply speculating.

Cultural Property Observer said...

I'm not sure what emergency. Import restrictions were first imposed in 1999 and extended to coins in 2007. The supposed emergency is the division of the Island but most commentators point fingers at the Greek Cypriots for contributing to the problem.