Friday, 18 August 2017

Doing the Right Thing: Presidenting is More Difficult than Some thought


In the US, the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities has just resigned, every member. They have made public the letter they wrote to him, very strong and fine words, It ends:
Supremacy, discrimination and vitriol are not American values. Your values are not American values. We must be better than this. We are better than this. If this is not clear to you, we call on you to resign your office too.
PCAH is an official agency, that makes this the first White House department to resign.

Hex of Exhibiting Collectors' Artefact Stashes for Them


Steinhardt said Turkey should have raised its claim
years earlier, since the idol has been displayed publicly for decades.
He said the provenance questions he has faced are typical for major
antiquities collectors, calling the episodes “a little bit of bad luck.” 

Christian Berthelsen and Katya Kazakina, 'Hex of the Idol: Steinhardt, Christie’s Fight Heritage Claim' Bloomberg, 18 August 2017
Increasingly, courts and public opinion have supported claims by foreign governments to return stolen treasures, in challenges to museums, auction houses and collectors. [...] Gary Vikan, former director of the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, said the pendulum has swung too far in favor of foreign governments. “The enthusiasm for disputing things -- which is borne from very just cases -- has gone beyond the boundaries of common sense. “If objects have been in the public domain, they acquire good title over time,” said Vikan, the author of 2016’s “Sacred and Stolen: Confessions of a Museum Director.”
Which is why Renfrew, nearly twenty years ago (Loot, Legitimacy and Ownership: The Ethical Crisis in Archaeology (Debates in Archaeology) 2000) was arguing that museums should not be showcasing poorly-documented objects from private collections, giving them a spurious legitimacy. Fortunately whether an object is illicit or not is based on other criteria than 'how many people saw it and did not ask questions'.

Teotihuacan Trophies and Teddy Bears


Apollo magazine:
The problem is that you cannot "narrate the past" by collecting loose decontextualised objects together. The "stories" you tell are your own stories, your own constructs, not that of the living culture itself.

This is the kind of narrative you get, objects selected by the owner placed in groups by the owner, associated with other objects by the owner.

Teddy Bears' picnic: Card by Susan Rinehart

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Situation in Syria August 2017


Situation in Syria right now according to Thomas van Linge‏


All this talk in compilatory 'news' articles of ISIL-looted artefacts from Syria going directly across a porous border with Turkey (WSJ this means you, too) do not take recent political events into account.

Here is the matching one of his for Iraq:


What is left of the main core of ISIL terrotory in the Euphrates valley is some 300 km long and some ten or so kilometres wide with nominal control of large areas of desert.  There are two shrinking outliers in the Tigris valley (including Tel Afar).





Scotland Yard’s Art and Antiques Unit heading for closure


On the transfer of its three members to an investigation into the Grenfell Tower fire, in west London, which killed more than 80 people on 14 June, a former head of Scotland Yard's  Art and Antiques Unit suggests that the unit may be facing closure (Martin Bailey, 'Scotland Yard’s Art and Antiques Unit heading for closure' Art Newspaper 16 August 2017)
Vernon Rapley, who led the Art and Antiques Unit from 2001 until 2010, told The Art Newspaper that he is “worried that the closure of the unit is now being considered”. He added: “I am very concerned that the Metropolitan Police is unable to give assurances on when the three detectives who have been temporarily reassigned will be returned to the unit.” The three officers are detective constables Philip Clare, Sophie Hayes and Ray Swan. There is currently no detective sergeant responsible for the unit, following the departure of Claire Hutcheon last March. The Art and Antiques Unit was set up in 1969 and has built up experience and documentation on art theft, fraud and forgery. Its London Stolen Art Database, which stores data and images of 54,000 stolen items, is the world’s most important national police register of art after that of the Carabinieri in Italy. Rapley, who is now the Victoria and Albert Museum’s director of cultural heritage protection and security, believes that London, the world’s second largest art market after New York, “needs a dedicated art squad”. He says: “Losing it now, when cultural heritage is under threat in so much of the world, would represent a very serious loss.”
I do not think there are many dealers and collectors who'll be shedding too many tears.


Monday, 14 August 2017

High-value objects stolen from Norway museum [Updated]


High-value objects stolen from Norway museum  The Local - 14 August 2017
Several burglars climbed a scaffold to raid a collection on the seventh story of the University Museum of Bergen. [...] Which items were stolen remains unclear at the time of writing. [...] items from the Viking era may have been stolen [...] It remains unclear how it became possible to enter the building via the scaffolding. “One of our primary tasks is to protect cultural heirlooms. When we fail to do this, no explanation is good enough. This hits us at a very soft spot. We are all very shaky and feeling a sense of despair,” museum director Von Achen said. No arrests have so far been made in connection with the case.
Presumably, the objects will all be fully photographed and catalogud,. so very soon the market will be aware of what has been stolen and these objects will be impossible to sell openly. One does wonder though whether they particular items might not have been 'stolen to order' for a collector with no scruples.

UPDATE
Here's a facebook page with the stolen objects.

Bronze Age hoard near Lancaster NOT 'a Chance Discovery'


Lusting after all the nice artefacts they'll find, Dig Venture is excited that they'll get to excavate site of Bronze Age hoard near Lancaster in September (Lisa Westcott Wilkins, 11 August, 2017)
A team of archaeologists from DigVentures, Durham University and the Portable Antiquities Scheme will return to Lancashire this September to investigate an untouched Bronze Age barrow near Lancaster, where a chance discovery by an amateur metal detectorist has unearthed the most spectacular hoard of this period ever discovered in North West England. The project has secured the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) North West region and has received a grant of £59,300. Made possible by National Lottery players, the project will investigate the site where the hoard was found, and follows on from dig last year also in the local area, during which the team discovered a rare Early Bronze Age (2200 – 1600 BC) funerary urn, known as a Food Vessel, which is now undergoing further research.
One look at the photo of the site makes one wonder just what kind of eye-intellect disconectivity some British archaeologists have.

Totally featureless landscape under PASTURE in Lancashire,
'just right' for artefact hunting, innit?
Hands up, who CANNOT see what looks like a barrow right in the centre of this photo? By what measure of British bonkerness is running an artefact-detection tool over such a thing and finding something a 'chance discovery'? Many artefact hunters target precisely such features because they know they will find something there.

Besides which this is an 'untouched' site - until the metal detectorists got there with their digging tools, and its under pasture, so should be out of bounds for responsible detectorists - so if irresponsible detecting is going on (targeting obvious sites under pasture) will a reward be withheld?


 
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