Saturday, December 20, 2008

Milken Institute Speaks on Cultural Property Issues

The Milken Institute (founded by the former "Junk Bond King" who is now hoping for a Presidential pardon in the waning days of the Bush administration) held a symposium about the "illicit antiquities trade:" This is from an email publicizing the conclusions of the gathering:

The illegal antiquities trade has grown into a $4 billion market - but financial innovations and market-based incentives can change that, while supporting economic development in countries of origin and preserving the world's cultural heritage. A new report from the Milken Institute has the details from a gathering of minds on the topic that was designed with help from the Cultural Policy Center of the University of Chicago. Press release is here:

Full report is available for free download after brief registration here:

I have not had an opportunity to review the full report. However, I was sorry to see that there was no reference to England's and Wales's "portable antiquities scheme" and "treasure trove" law in the summary of the Institute's suggestions found in the press release. Derek Fincham (Illicit Cultural Property Blog) was invited to speak about the subject, but his recommendations do not appear to have won the day.

This does not surprise me at all. Despite claims that the symposium included divergent views from various stakeholders, from what I recall of the guest list, it seemed to me that the whole effort was orchestrated from the beginning to ensure a result that would be acceptable to the members of the archaeological community. Certainly, the involvement of Larry Rothfield (a frequent contributor to the "SafeCorner" blog) in setting up the effort suggests as much. The gathering was by "invitation only" with no general "advance publicity" that might have attracted those with contrary views to the session. Thus, while it was nice that Mr. Milken's Institute tackled the issue, limiting participation to the "right people" only undercuts any pretensions that anything useful might come from the effort.

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