Monday, 4 August 2014

ADCAEA Code of Conduct

In the post above, I make a few comments on the new (?) Association of Dealers and Collectors of Ancient and Ethnographic Art (ADCAEA) which has a Code of Conduct which seems worth discussing and comparing with the others (in parts it is quite close to the IADAA one). Here's the wording as published (bold typeface by me):
All ADCAEA members subscribe to and maintain the following code of conduct:
1- ADCAEA members (hereafter “Members”) shall strive to attain the highest possible standards in all aspects of collecting cultural property, including, but not limited to, fully complying with national and international cultural property laws, conservation, documentation, research, and education pertaining to the object(s) within their possession.
2 - All members must be governed by an informed respect for the objects, its unique character and significance, and the people or person who created it.
3- All members undertake not to purchase, sell or exhibit an object until they have exercised, to the best of their ability, due diligence to ensure such object was not knowingly stolen from excavations, architectural monuments, public institutions or private property.
4 - All members undertake to keep electronic and photographic records of each object in their possession that accurately describes, but is not limited to, all known provenance, dimensions, medium, known defects/conservation/restoration and any other relevant information pertaining to an object. These records will be passed, in their entirety, together with a written invoice, to a buyer or donation institution.  A Member’s invoice is a warranty that the object is authentic and that clear and unencumbered title is passed to the buyer.
5 - All members will inform the Board about stolen objects and thefts and will cooperate with national and international law enforcement authorities in their efforts to identify, locate and recover stolen objects.
6 - While recognizing the right of society to make appropriate and respectful use of cultural property, all members shall serve as an advocate for the preservation of cultural property.
7 - All members will not dismember and sell separately parts of one complete object, and will undertake, to the best of their ability, to keep objects together that were originally together.
8 - All members shall act with honesty and respect in all professional relationships, seek to ensure the rights and opportunities of all individuals in the association, and recognize the specialized knowledge of others.
9 - All members shall contribute to the knowledge of cultural property. This contribution may be made by such means as continuing development of personal knowledge, sharing of information and experience with colleagues, adding to the Association’s written body of knowledge, and providing and promoting educational opportunities.
10 - All members shall promote awareness and understanding of collecting principals through open communication with allied collectors and the public.
11 -Claims that a Member has acted in violation of these guidelines should be made in writing to ADCAEA, which will investigate all such claims and, where appropriate, hold hearings under such rules, as have been adopted by the Board of Directors. Violation of any provision of this Code may be grounds for censure, suspension or expulsion from ADCAEA.
We look forward to seeing some exemplification of the phrase "fully complying with national and international cultural property laws". There are not too many "international laws", and the national ones only refer to objects and dealings with them within a particular territory. US dealers and collectors are notorious for defiantly stating "no US law was broken" and consider their due diligence is done.

What does it mean that members shall strive to attain the highest possible standards in 'reseaerch and education'? What are those highest standards, and by what measure, and in what framework are they expected to do 'education'? What is this about? Something like those 'Ancient Coins for Education' folk?

Principle 3 starts off well, but then... there's the get-out phrase "to the best of their ability" ("I asked the dealer, he said he could not tell me - protecting his sources"). How about replacing that with "make every effort"?). But then, surely this should read, "if you are UNable.... don't buy"! And what the devil is this?
to ensure such object was not knowingly stolen from excavations, architectural monuments, public institutions or private property
Whether or not it's "knowingly stolen" still is stolen. It does not matter whether a Buddha head is knocked off a temple in a jungle by a toothless peasant who never went to school, but was tempted into it by a middleman, or a commercial looter, the statue in the jungle temple is still trashed. And surely preventing that happening is the whole idea behind responsible collecting. What is the meaning of teh term "excavations" here? Is Archar in Bulgaria (the main excavations going on there at the moment are of looters) an "excavation"? Does this code mean an archaeological project in progress, or is this a synonym for archaeological site? Why are wrecks and scheduled/legally protected sites omitted? Many sites are on private property, in the US that's where you can legally dig. The way you dig it though determines the degree to which a site is damaged or destroyed. The phrasing of this all important principle is too vague to be of any use.

Note there is absolutely no mention made here (in a US-based code) of anything connected with the movement of artefacts between countries. Most of the artefacts collected by these folk do not come from the soil of the US and how they arrive in the US is a key question (and is the one which the 1970 UNESCO Convention regulates). So why on earth is there no explicit mention here of the issue of smuggling, and where the money middlemen earn from the transcontinental trade goes?

Principle 4 sounds satisfyingly like Article 10 of the UNESCO Convention. Good. But then what does it means "undertake to keep"? Are the records deleted when an object is sold, or are they to be archived (for example as a hidden part of the national database mentioned in point 11)?  The invoice of a member (collectors too selling stuff to each other?) cannot be used as a warranty "that clear and unencumbered title is passed to the buyer" if copies of the records on which that title is based are not available for inspection. That is no better than we have now when 'legitimacy' is based on the 'reputation' of the seller/dealer. The ADCAEA offer to bolster that reputation of those who pay their 500 dollars and don't get thrown out, but it is unclear how they propose policing it.

Principle 5 jolly nice and good, but does it mean that if Bazza Thugwit proposes them some nice gold coins from the UK which they suspect have not been through the Treasure process, ADCAEA members are obliged to report him? What happens if they do not? How do the ADCAEA propose to police that? Note the typical US object-centred response, the aim is to "identify, locate and recover stolen objects" but no mention is made of prosecuting the culture criminals. This has to be the main aim in order to clean up the market.

Principle 8 seems to be written with dealers, rather than collectors in mind.

Principle 9 obliging all members to contribute to the knowledge of cultural property is a weird one. We have seen how the motif that collectors are researchers is utilised to oppose preservationist arguments (if the flow of fresh goodies is 'cut off', then knowledge will suffer is what we are told). When you ask to see that extensive list of published research, things go quiet. There is an embarrassed shuffling of feet. It seems ADCAEA wants to improve on the poor record. What happens is a member is not found "continuing development of personal knowledge" or "sharing of information"? Do they get thrown out of the Association? What happens to those people that collect what is, after all, sold as "ancient art" purely to appreciate it from the aesthetic point of view, or the "cool stuff" bragging opportunities?  How can people who cannot even rad the CCPIA without Peter Tompa telling them what it says be in any position to "provide educational opportunities"? That's just nuts.

Principle 10, we all look forward to the "open communication with allied collectors and the public" of collecting principals (sic) by "all members".

Surely a Code of Conduct should be addressed to "A member" (and "no member") rather than "all members"?

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