Wednesday, January 21, 2015

It's Official: AIA Against All Dealing in Cultural Artifacts-Violators to Be Terminated

In conjunction with its revocation of the Charter of the AIA's St. Louis Society, the AIA has now also made quite clear that it's against all trade and private ownership of archaeological objects, not just those without a collection history dating back before the 1970 UNESCO Convention.

According to the AIA's new membership rules,

Cause [for termination] shall be deemed to be any action taken individually, or as an officer or director of an affiliated Society, detrimental to the purpose, interest, public image or principles of the Institute and shall include, without limitation, the use of the name of the Institute in connection with or in the furtherance of transactions involving archaeological artifacts which could have the effect of removing such archaeological artifacts from general availability for scholarly investigation or public display.

It remains to be seen how far the AIA will take this in practice and whether there will be a backlash against the AIA leadership once the effect of this rule change sinks in with the AIA's non-academic members whom are presumably the source for most, if not all, of its funds.

1 comment:

Wayne G. Sayles said...

If there could ever have been a trace of doubt, it has since been removed. The governing body of the AIA has lost all touch with reason and reality. If

"the furtherance of transactions involving archaeological artifacts which could have the effect of removing such archaeological artifacts from general availability for scholarly investigation or public display"

is cause for termination of membership, I suspect there will be very few members left in the AIA after this pogrom.

The stated intent of this new rule makes private ownership itself, not just illicit commerce in antiquites, the AIA target. Of course the AIA leadership has the right to impose this draconian (need I say unAmerican) restriction on its own members. And, AIA members have the right to aquiesce, resign or send their illustrious board off to that Wonderland that Alice discovered. What in the world do these highly educated people think? Have they no idea how many people in the world legally and devotedly collect antiques and ancient artifacts? They might as well condemn shopping at WalMart for all the good this will do them.

I don't pesonally know a LOT of archaeologists, but I do know a score or more of them who are active collectors of ancient coins. One might wonder if they will all resign from the AIA and encourage their friends to do so? I really doubt they will give up collecting. In fact, I actually know more that a score because I also know a good many Art Historians that are AIA members and they DEFINITELY have transactions with the trade in cultural property. Another elephant in the room is the number of AIA affiliates that have done exactly what St. Louis Society did buy remained under the radar? I'm reminded of the U.S. military's "don't ask don't tell" fiasco of a few years back. I doubt that the AIA really wants to go there.

Keep in mind, UNESCO 1970 is the AIA leadership's Bible, and it contains a huge laundry list of "cultural property" that in their view needs protecting—ostensibly through trade restrictions. Does AIA really intend to apply this new rule to everything in the UNESCO list? If so, there may be a lot of old furniture sitting out on the street for trash pickup. If not, do they thereby open the door for exemptions by other special interests—like coin collectors?

How could AIA ever know which of these myriad cultural property items are archaeological and which are from very old collections? By mandating provenance records? That is merely a way of turning orphans into victims. Who gives AIA any right to reverse the burden of proof and deny the assumption of innocence granted under law? Maybe the AIA will next require lie detector tests of its members and banish all offenders along with the St. Louis Society folks?

OMG, what a mess the AIA brainpower has created for themselves. Maybe they should all resign and let archaeologists go back to doing what they do best. The money saved would hire a lot of security guards in source countries.