Friday, May 15, 2009

"Looting Matters" Takes to PR Newswire

David Gill promises weekly stories to be circulated to media outlets via PR Newswire. See: and

The ACCG has also used PR Newswire in the past, but only on an occasional basis due to cost concerns. PR Newswire is not a free service. The base cost for posting in the "top public interest markets" is $450.00 with an additional $115.00 fee per each additional 100 words. See: Presumably, Gill is paying these or similar rates weekly unless he is eligible for some particular discount.

I don't begrudge Gill publicizing his views on unprovenanced artifacts and repatriation to source countries, but the cost of PR Newswire raises an obvious question about funding.

Gill does not identify the funding source(s) for this effort. He should do so in the interests of transparency. (I've asked him point blank in the comments section to his blog. Hopefully, he will provide an answer. If he is funding it himself, I will be duly impressed by his level of commitment. If, on the other hand, his work is being funded by some entity associated with a foreign government seeking repatriation of artifacts, that would suggest something entirely different.)

In any event, by placing stories on PR Newswire, Gill ultimately simply underscores the fact that his work (like that of fellow SAFE associated bloggers Elkins and Barford) has precious little to do with dispassionate academic research and, instead, has everything to do with advocacy for an "archaeology over all perspective." However impressive Gill's credentials, readers of "PR Newswire" should judge that work accordingly.


Unknown said...

If it is reasonable to raise the concern that Gill is funded as a mouthpiece for a foreign government, would it be equally reasonable to question if dealers trading in unprovenanced antiquities are fronts for organised crime, and should be expect the same transparency from them?

Cultural Property Observer said...

Alun- As an archaeologist yourself, I'm sure you are aware Gill et al. make that particular claim and demand for transparency over and over and over again. I just feel those who demand transparency of others should be utterly transparent themselves. Gill is not. He was a featured speaker at a recent "repatriation fest" at the new Acropolis museum. He refused to answer my last question of him as well as whether his trip to Athens was funded by by the Greek Government or any related entity. I believe journalists have ethics rules against accepting funding from the subjects of their journalism. In my opinion, archaeologists who operate as "pseudo-journalists" should at a minimum divulge whether their work has been funded by entities that have something to gain. I note on my own blog that I have been a registered lobbyist for numismatic groups in the past. That requires me to list my clients and what they have paid for lobbying services. Archaeologists have no such legal requirement, but those that claim time and time again that those who take a different view have a "financial interest" in doing so should look in the mirror themselves.


Peter Tompa

samarkeolog said...

Peter, my concern is that your expressed suspicion looks like an attempt to create associations in the minds of the readers without evidence (and as you have commented there, in the minds of the readers of his blog as well as of yours).

I also think it has taken, less of a logical step, more of a triple jump. As you put it, less gently, on his blog, if he doesn't disclose the source of the funding for his access to Newswire, 'we might just suspect that you are merely acting as an undisclosed agent of influence for some nationalistic, repatriation seeking foreign government, like that of Greece'.


Are you sure there is no middle ground, nothing between him funding himself and him being a tool of nationalist state apparatus?

Cultural Property Observer said...

Sam- There may be a middle ground, but that can't really be judged given Prof. Gill's refusal to provide any disclosure.

Really, I only ask of Prof. Gill what he demands of others often in the most pointed fashion, i.e., transparency. I should also note in some of his own posts, Dr. Gill appears to imply I am a mere "tool" of coin dealers because I have done some lobbying for them. See: Under the circumstances, I don't think my question to him is off-base.


Peter Tompa

samarkeolog said...

If he isn't funding himself or being funded by a foreign government, if a private individual is funding his access, would mention of "a private individual" suffice, or would that individual source need to be named?

I still fear that the tone is wrong. The schtick of him being an "agent... [of a] foreign government" smacks of treachery and treason.

Moreover, talk of a nationalistic state is oversimplistic. Using an example from my area of work, during the Cyprus Conflict, British "agents of influence" worked to unite the communities - and worked against other British agents trying to divide the communities. Both sets of agents were "in the pay of a foreign power", but the ones working to restore and keep the peace were working in the interest of the victim community.

How would you distinguish between non-nationalist and nationalist state support of cultural advocacy, or would you dismiss and disgrace any action by an antiquities source state as nationalism?

Cultural Property Observer said...

Perhaps, but what if that individual is a member of the "elite" of a nationalistic foreign state? It really may be difficult to distinguish between the State and an individual in such a case.

In this context, "agent of a foreign government" does not suggest anything other than representing the interests of a foreign government. After all, we are talking about cultural property issues and not issues of war and peace.

I don't think all foreign states' actions on the cultural property front are inherently nationalistic, but certainly a major focus of the Gill blog-- cheerleading repartiation-- has much more to do with nationalism than archaeology.


Peter Tompa