Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Jack Josephson on a CPAC Historical Perspective

At the IFAR Panel (see below at http://culturalpropertyobserver.blogspot.com/2009/07/ifar-event-who-what-why-and-how-of.html ), Jack A. Josephson provided a historical perspective about the Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC) and its role at the State Department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). Mr. Josephson is an Egyptologist. He served as CPAC's Chairman from 1990-1995. He currently serves as IFAR's Chairman.

Josephson provided a brief historical overview about looting and the UNESCO Convention before turning his attention to the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act (CPIA). He noted, "The debate on how the U.S. should enforce embargoes of cultural property lasted 10 years. The opposing sides were principally archaeologists versus museums, collectors and dealers. Clearly, Senators Moynihan and Dole, the bill's sponsors, tried to make regulation even-handed for the two factions, or perhaps a little tilted to the latter group."

It did not turn out that way....

Jospehson continued,

"There can be little doubt about the sympathies of the framers of this law [the CPIA], who did not wish for unfair or blanket embargoes. Unfortunately, rarely has Committee membership been in conformity with the Act. During my experience on the Committee, this was not the only part of the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act (CPIA) that was disregarded. The law is very specific on the requirement that public diplomacy by the State Department must be invoked in order to prevent the dispersal of embargoed cultural property to markets in other countries, thereby simply transferring sales overseas. I never saw this happen or it was not reported to the Committee. The Act also required proof that the U.S. was a principal market for the material in question. This important and necessary question was only cursorily touched on during the deliberations I was a part of."

Josephson then noted that an exhaustive 10 year report to Congress about the program was evidently ignored. He also indicated that Senators Moynihan and Schumer proposed some amendments to bring the law back to what was originally intended, but they failed to pass Congress.

In closing his prepared remarks, Josephson proposed greater efforts to help source countries "to make a greater commitment to conserve and protect monuments from an increasingly hostile ecology and escalating population and to put in place more effective policing to control and eliminate looting." He also suggested that "archaeologists should become more restrictive in excavating sites," noting that "[m]odern non-invasive methods of determining what lies under the ground are readily available and do not expose fragile remains to disasters of all kinds."

Mr. Josephson only participated in the question and answer period to a limited extent. There, he indicated that the vetting process for CPAC nominees was far less extensive during his time on the Committee. He also indicated that an initial request from the Greek Cypriot government dealing with religious artifacts was denied because Turkey was in control of the territory Cyprus was bitter about. [This has certainly changed.]

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