Wednesday, May 13, 2015

More Transparency and Inclusion Needed

The well-funded and well-connected Antiquities Coalition has helped promote and organize  conferences at the Smithsonian and in Cairo to address the problem of looting in times of civil unrest and war.

Unfortunately, the conferences-- like HR 1493, legislation the archaeological lobby is promoting to address these same issues-- rely on flawed assumptions:

1.  That state ownership and control over everything "old" is justified because nation states are always the best stewards of cultural artifacts;

2.  That the only groups that "count" are governments, law enforcement, archaeologists and state sponsored museums; and

3.  That panels of experts representing these same interests, blog posts, press releases and articles meant to shape public opinion can substitute for transparent decision making.

Here, if anything, the Egyptian Generals' sponsorship of the Cairo conference and the unclear nature of the Antiquities Coalition's relationship with the Egyptian Government should give some pause.  Let's stipulate that members of the Antiquities Coalition and the other participants of these conferences are all deeply committed to preserving cultural heritage, but that does not mean that legitimate questions should not be raised about this endeavor.

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