Monday, 30 May 2011

New York Senator Gillibrand and Cultural Policy

Readers may remember that on March 21st the Cultural Policy Research Institute (a thinly disguised reformation of the American Council for Cultural Policy ACCP) organized under the patronage of New York senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand a "seminar" in Washington attacking the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act. About two months ago I wrote to the Senator asking for clarification of her views on the international trade in illegally exported dugup archaeological artefacts.

I noted at the time that in the list of topics in the Senator's contact form to choose from, there was no mention of culture or cultural property theft, suggesting this was not a matter about which Senator Gillibrand was expecting to get correspondence from citizens. Although I did not receive an answer to my letter, I note that the Senator has since that time engaged in activities suggesting she is taking an interest in promoting culture and the arts after all. On March 23rd at the Brooklyn Museum there was a workshop sponsored by the Office of Senator Gillibrand "Promoting the Arts, Cultural Institutions and Historic Sites: An Economic Development and Grants Writing Workshop". On April 27th a related programme was offered at the Albright-Knox Gallery Auditorium, Buffalo, New York there was a session on “Promoting the Arts, Cultural Institutions and Historic Sites: A Strategy for Economic Growth and Job Creation". On 17th May, a similar event ("Promoting the Arts, Cultural Institutions and Historic Sites: A Strategy for Economic Growth and Job Creation") was held at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York (Daniel Aloi, 'Panelists promote culture, tourism benefits to regional economy development', May 26, 2011).

Based on the promotional material to these events I imagine that has Senator Gillybrand done me the courtesy of replying, the Senator's office would have sent a reply to my letter that looked something like this:
Dear Mr Barford,
Thank you for your interest in the work of this office. Senator Gillibrand considers culture is very important, and was pleased to be involved in the organization of a discussion in Washington of the Cultural Property Research Institute on the efficiency of the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act.

The Senator of course supports the State Department’s initiatives on cultural protection and is certain that Secretary Clinton and the staff for which she is responsible fulfil their duty with integrity and the best interests of America's international standing as their highest priority.

Senator Gillibrand is definitely a champion for the arts and takes great interest in what is going to happen in this regard in the next legislative session, it is important that we work with lawmakers to pursue aggressively and creatively the promise of partnerships between industry and the world of culture. She embraces the view that there are economic reason for creating efficient policies concerning culture and the arts in our country. Culture is a mighty tool for economic development which is a No. 1 priority for the senator.

To this end, the Senator’s office willingly assists arts organizations as well as small businesses, with letters of support and other services.

I hope this answers your questions. Thank you for your expression of interest in the work of this Office, /.../ bla bla

well, of course its pretty obvious that its the use of historic sites and what is in them for promoting economic growth and job creation in the United States that is at the basis of the cultural policy represented by the Gillybrand workshops. Promoting the preservation of foreign sites as a resource for economic development in the wider world seems not to be her concern. But helping US "small businesses" is of importance to her - like the US coin trade (V-Coins today 151 Dug-up Ancient Coin Dealers advertising 110,412 Items with a total value of $24,348,909). That is probably why she went along with their lobbyists' proposal to organize a meeting in Washington examining the concept of restriction of imports of dugup antiquities into the US market to those with documentation of legal export.

Here is the Senator being interviewed at the Turkish Cultural Centre's Annual Friendship Dinner, March 24, 2011:

Here she again links cultural heritage with economy: "...economic development, economic opportunity, cultural exchange, the cultures of both countries can enhance everything that we have to offer here in America". Well, cultural exchange is not very fruitful when one nation's citizens are busy making money from the sale of cultural property plundered in the other and illegally exported. Is she really of the opinion that the Turkish cultural heritage is only of value when it is being used to "enhance everything that we have to offer here in America"?

It is a great shame that the Senator refused to clarify her involvement and explain why she would allow her name to become associated with the criticism from the antiquity dealers' lobby of the efforts of the United States to curb the trade in illicit antiquities.

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