Tuesday, March 13, 2012

High Tech Witch Hunt?

The authors of Chasing Aphrodite have now embarked on a new plan. Apparently, they hope to put out documentation received from Italian and Greek law enforcement onto the web, and then rely on activists to play the part of vigilantes in identifying looted material on the market and in museums. See http://chasingaphrodite.com/2012/03/12/introducing-wikiloot-your-chance-to-fight-the-illicit-antiquities-trade/

I agree with the following comment on their blog:

Elizabeth Marlowe March 12, 2012 at 6:33 pm Reply

Has the photo archive been made available to the museums, dealers and auction houses yet? The ‘gotcha’ approach of this project seems unnecessarily antagonistic. If the goal is to embarrass museums, then yes, let members of the public catch them with their pants down. But if the goal is to track down as many of the pieces in the Medici archive as possible, then wouldn’t it be more productive to let the museums check the archives against their own inventories and come clean first? And THEN post the photos of whatever pieces still haven’t been located?

I would also note that this project presumably blurs the lines between investigative journalism and activism. But that is more an issue of journalistic ethics than cultural property law.


Dorothy King said...

I thought you were for releasing the Medici Polaroids? Isn't that what they intend to do?

Let's give them a chance - I took a lot of flack over www.LootBusters.com but now that people have seen it, they are mostly pro it. Can we please give WikiLoot the same chance? After all theirbook went out of it's way to be fair.

kyri said...

hi peter,i would like these archives made public to,not to help the dealers but to protect the innocent collectors[like graham geddes and others]who are unwittingly buying these tainted pieces with made up provenances.let them put the archives on line,as a collector,i welcome the publication of all the photos and its someting collectors and dealers have been calling for,for years.

Cultural Property Observer said...

Well, I am, but not for "gotcha." Frankly, I prefer the lootbusters approach. Also, I'm not sure as journalists they should be helping to set up such a website. Best, Peter

Cultural Property Observer said...

If you don't think this project will promote vigilante actions, see this from the SAFE blog:

"With this archive online, anyone with an iPad or laptop could walk into a museum, auction house or antiquities shop and identify a looted pot or statue." See http://safecorner.savingantiquities.org/2012/03/wikiloot-invitation-to-everyone-to-join.html

Paul Barford said...

Sorry, what is "wrong" with that? Do you think museums, auction houses or antiquities shops should have looted objects in them? I am not sure what your point is.

I myself would rather the museums, auction houses and antique shops had their ipads and laptops out and looked up their own stuff before they put the objects on public show. If they do not, when the information is freely available, then they are fair game for - as you put it - public "gottcha".

That, surely, was the whole reason why, a few weeks ago, you were saying the "Medici" polaroids should be released.

Cultural Property Observer said...

Jason Felch asked me to post this comment:

I understand your concern about gotcha. The nature of a wiki is that it's open to all to use, and our hope is that folks across the conversation will participate.

I'd encourage you and your readers to voice their thoughts and suggestions on a FB group we've set up to hash these things out in public:

As for your comment about journalism, making hidden information public for all to see is a core part of what we do.