Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Hixenbaugh Lectures CPAC, Misconstrues UNESCO 1970 Article 5 and PAS

"All oral and written comments must
relate specifically to the determinations under
19 U.S.C. 2602, pursuant to which the Committee
must make findings".  Notice document DOS-2015-0010-0001

Randall Hixenbaugh's comment to the CPAC Comment on DOS-2015-0010-0001 is noteworthy, above all, for the way it demonstrates the damaging effects of the Portable Antiquities Scheme failing to interact with its audience on social media:
I urge that the United States should [sic] allow the MOU with Italy to lapse since Italy has failed to fulfill [sic] its obligations of the UNECO [sic] convention of 1970, in designating specific objects of cultural importance [...] The current MOU with Italy covers virtually ALL archaeological objects[...] It even includes ancient currency - coins that were minted throughout the Roman Empire, from Germany to North Africa in vast numbers.
Well, no it does NOT as anyone who'd actually read the document would know (designated List pub. in the Federal Register by the Department of the Treasury on January 23, 2001, amended Designated List - published in Federal Register by the Department of the Treasury on January 19, 2011). Dealer Hixenbaugh quite clearly has not - which in itself gives pause for thought. It's not too difficult to cjhheck your facts before making a public statement like that on behalf of dealers.

He then lectures the CPAC on what the 1970 UNESCO Convention's article 5 contains. I really think it is superfluous lecturing Professor Gerstenblith and the CPAC experts, but dealers like to appear know-it-alls. This is about the setting up within their territories one or more national services for the protection of the cultural heritage and a very seventies presentation of what it should do. The United States, despite being a state party to the Convention, has no such national body. It has not complied with Art 5 of the Convention. Hixenbaugh complains that Italy has not done it either. This is supremely weird. Unlike the USA, Italy has - Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali - MiBAC) set up forty years ago. Mr Hixenbaugh is talking off the top of his head and once again has not checked the facts he is presenting to the CPAC.  But that is not the point he's getting at:
Italy has neglected to take these steps by implementing a rational workable system, as for instance the UK has with its Portable Antiquities Scheme whereby objects found by private individuals can be vetted by government appointed archaeologists to determine if they are of national cultural significance, so that appropriate action can be taken. 
Hixenbaugh appears to think the USA should be in a position to demand that the Italians work to protect their heritage in the way Washington tells it to ("set up a PAS or else we will not Support you, even though we are a state party of this convention"). The nerve!  

But once again we see the rocket science of the English (and for the moment Welsh) system is defeating the intellect of those stateside. Duh.  1) The PAS has nothing to do with Art. 5 of the 1970 UNESCO Convention, that function is fulfilled in England by English Heritage and DCMS. 2) Whether an object is of national cultural significance is determined in England and Wales by HM Coroner on the basis of the Treasure Act. The Portable Antiquities Scheme has nothing to do with those legal provisions. 3) The CCPIA (the legal basis for the MOUs) and the Convention are primarily concerned with import and export of cultural property. I don't know how many times US collectors and - more worryingly - active dealers need to be told in plain English, the PAS is nothing whatsover to do with the export licensing process in the UK. I really think that somebody like Mr Hixenbaugh (an ADCAEA dealer) would know about legal export procedure of antiquities from a country like the UK. Apparently not, and so we find him misinforming the CPAC and everyone else through his ignorance on a number of points.

Like most contributions from the 'trade', Hixenbaugh's comments fail to address 19 U.S.C. 2602.

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