Thursday, February 7, 2013

Should Transparency Be a Two Way Street?

Archaeo-Blogger and Cultural Heritage Lawyer Rick St. Hilaire wants to mandate additional record-keeping for dealers in cultural goods in the name of "transparency."  Leaving aside whether creating more red tape will accomplish anything other than to place additional administrative burdens on the small businesses of the antiquities and coin trade, one wonders whether he would also acknowledge that transparency should be a two way street. 

So, how about some transparency for the State Department and CBP concerning their process for imposing import restrictions on cultural goods?  Or how about imposing new record keeping requirements on archaeologists, such as requiring them to publish their findings within in a reasonable time on the Internet so they will be easily accessible to interested members of the general public?

After all, State, CBP and the archaeological community all purport to act in the public's interest, so is some transparency from them too much to ask?


Ed Snible said...

It does seem that if a Cultural Resource archeologist is digging at state expense their field journal is a government work and should be made available for all to read. It would also be nice to get the raw stratigraphy in machine-readable format so that big data techniques may be applied to yield new kinds of insights traditional archaeology can't provide.

St. Hilaire's proposal seems quite broad. There are privacy concerns. Perhaps I will send him a 251-year-old coin as a gift and offer to publish his address.

There is room to improve typical numismatic practices. I recently purchased an ancient coin for less than $100. It came with a nice dated receipt listing the total paid but lacking image and weight for the coin. The envelope also came with a very nice signed certificate saying the coin was not "Italian or Greek Coins defined under 19 USC section 2606". Unfortunately the only thing linking the two documents is a staple I applied myself. I feel that this dealer is incredibly close to providing documentation I can use should I later sell the coin, but not quite there. If only the two documents could be on the same piece of paper with the photo used in the dealer's on-line shop.

Cultural Property Observer said...

Same with export permits from Italy. Even if the collector keeps the information do we know if it will be transmitted to the next collector? Today, the best evidence is auction catalouges, but perhaps some day a computerized id tag could go along with the coin, linked to the internet. The problem is who pays for it and can it be done in a ratiional fashion.