Monday, 17 November 2014

The $30 000 Coffin Nails

Collectors and dealers so far have been very reluctant to discuss "H.R.5703 -- Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act" currently placed before the US Congress which aims to "protect and preserve international cultural property at risk of destruction due to political instability, armed conflict, or natural and other disasters", one exception is the dealers' association's lobbyist's blog which bemoans (moaning is all they do these days): 
The bill was evidently drafted with substantial input from the archaeological lobby, what with its promises of guaranteed funding for archaeological groups, and directions for additional bureaucratic focus in the area.  Troublingly, once again the underlying assumption is that the only stakeholders that matter are academics and governmental organizations.
It is difficult to see why the bill would be drafted with any input from the Ohio Association of Neurologists, the St Louis Koi Fanciers, the Punxatawnee Off Road Racing Collective, and the Temecula Rabbit Breeders Association. I would say that archaeologists are well-suited to advise government in at least part of the measures that need to be taken, they've been doing a lot of information-gathering, thinking and writing about it.

Words are cheap (ask the IAPN), but one cannot fail to notice that in recent years the dealers and collectors of the US have done very little  to demonstrate a real concern and will to do something to protect and preserve international cultural property from destruction caused by commerce in archaeological artefacts. They all declare concern to a man, but then when a group like the ADCAEA produce 'guidelines' which are supposed to reflect that, we see that in effect they are just for show and require nothing beyond zero extra effort from either dealer or buyer. The status quo in their own market is apparently all they want to protect and preserve. When dealers and collectors do take "action" it is the kind of the Baltimore Illegal Coin Import Stunt, intended to overthrow (not strengthen) what little legislation and regulation the US applies to the protection of international cultural property from greedy middlemen, smugglers and importers with obviously no thought for the possibility of compromise.

In the light of that, ask yourselves, what possible reason would anybody have to seek the "advice" of collectors and dealers in drafting a law intended to protect and preserve international cultural property precisely from the self-interest of unscrupulous dealers and collectors? They are less "stakeholders" than the source of the problem. If, in the years since UNESCO 1970 they'd showed any real, tangible, effort to clean up the market and make it more transparent, then they'd not now find themselves alienated from discussions. In that time all they have been willing to engage in has been snidey-snipey aggression from the lobbyists and dealers with their tactics of dealing with open debate (shouting down, blocking and intimidating). Time is now running out for the no-questions-asked market. And for that, they only have themselves and their lobbyists to blame. 

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