Thursday, 7 June 2012

Wikiloot in the Guardian

Greek krater
Tom Kington has an article in the Guardian today about the 'Wikiloot' project . The text ('WikiLoot aims to use crowdsourcing to track down stolen ancient artefacts', Guardian 6 June 2012)describes how difficult for "hard-pressed lawyers and police forces" to struggle "against unscrupulous dealers" (though I'd say that a rather large  number of the lawyers see their niche as being on the side of the dealers and collectors):
Which is why plans are afoot to put thousands of previously unpublished photos and documents about stolen artefacts online to create WikiLoot, a new crowdsourcing, data mining experiment to help track down some of the world's oldest treasures. The brains behind the scheme is American Jason Felch, who [...] now plans to obtain and post piles of material seized from dealers during police raids and deposited for trials which have yet to be published, and let allcomers mine the data for new clues. "It's all raw, unprocessed data. Researchers can use it, but we also hope the public can use it to find out a bit more about what is on display at their local museum," he said.
The database will initially deal with illicit artefacts coming from  looting in Italy and Greece, but plans to later cover other regions ("South-east Asia, the near east, Afghanistan, Iraq – there is a huge flood of material coming out of these countries"). The journalist also summarises some of the problems, the sheer size of the market, the need for some stable funding source, but also alerting holders of looted material to the need to cover up the origins even more carefully.

[I must say that after some initial enthusiasm, the Wikiloot Facebook page seems to be flagging a bit].

Vignette: Fingering the vase (Photograph : Beatrice Larco/AP, 2005)

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