Monday 26 April 2010

Antiquity Collectors Want to Recommend Changes in US Law

I reported here moves in the internationalist collecting community aimed at reviewing US accession to the 1970 UNESCO Convention. It now seems that to ACCG board members Dave Welsh and Wayne Sayles, we should add Peter Tompa as being interested in conducting such a "review". This is of course taking the so-called "internationalist" position in antiquities collecting (otherwise known as the "what's yours is mine and what's mine is mine" position) to its logical conclusion. Withdrawing the US from the UNESCO 1970 Convention would not only be a public relations disaster for the country's antiquities trade, but the international position of the country as a whole. Not only then is such a move to bring disrepute on the US and its people and government potentially unpatriotic, but is a move calculated to weaken the concerted international response to looting of which the US is a part. Welsh however begs to differ. He says:
Despite the impression one might get from credulously reading a certain "toxic blog," the true goal of this review is a balanced and objective reappraisal. It is hoped that the result will be recommendations for legislation that would eliminate the problems that presently exist in US implementation of this Convention: - management of the CPIA by the State Department - unresolved conflicts between the CPIA, the NSPA and ARPA.
Well, he should really have included a link to the specific toxic blog he has in mind so readers can see the comments to which he is replying, it seems to me that there are so many to choose from that he is just trying to confuse his readers. But certainly this blog is 100% against any form of credulous reading. This is not a blog for credulous readers, this is a blog which throws down a challenge to credulous reading.

So for the incredulous reader there are two more "essays" by Mr Welsh to peruse now madse available on the Internet:
UNESCO 1970 Review III: Implementation of the 1983 CPIA and Bureaucratic Bias and
UNESCO 1970 Review IV: A Viable Model - Origins and development of the British legal regime
Now actually as anyone who has ploughed through its redundant turgidity and special pleadings will know, these are not so much "Dave Welsh's essays" as edited extracts from the ill-organized text "Coin Collectors and Cultural Property Nationalism". In fact these four essays comprise a large part of that text in fact. What is odd about this is that the latter is ascribed to "Wayne Sayles AND Dave Welsh" ("Ed."). So it is a bit unclear who is the author of which bit. Anyway the fourth "essay" (on Britain) includes huge chunks on Treasure Trove copied out of Wikipedia without any acknowledgement, and really should have said more about Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The ACCG dealers say they are only interested in making "recommendations for legislation that would eliminate the problems that presently exist in US implementation of this Convention: - management of the CPIA by the State Department - unresolved conflicts between the CPIA, the NSPA and ARPA". Well, as for the first of those problems (if such it is) the Convention itself (Article 5 and 14) has an answer - one the US ignored, but certainly one which would remove some of the inconsistencies in the US system and who would e a more appropriate body to be making legislative recommendations to the federal government than a group of ranting coin-dealers.

As for the gripe about the US being exceptional in its battle against cultural property theft, that really is a bit far-fetched, as Patty Gerstenblith noted:
given the accession of so many countries to UNESCO, the concerted international response requirement has been met. She also argued that the concerted international response requirement does not anticipate that other countries will apply restrictions in the same way the US does. Indeed, Switzerland is the only country that applies the UNESCO Convention in a similar manner as the US does.
Though other nations, including dozy old Britain could do a LOT more, to fight archaeological culture crime, it is actually a bit insulting for US collectors to claim they are the only nation to be out there doing this all alone. The Convention's articles 2-15 oblige all states party to co-operate in this field. Be it noted that the convention has an article 8, an article 10 and an article 13a and the US has signed up under each of them.

But then, let us see the ACCG "recommending" the US government that it should remove the Archaeological Resources Protection Act and replace it by new legislation modelled on the United Kingdom's nineteenth century laissez faire archaeological resources "protection" legislation, with its PPGs and all. Is that really the way US cultural resources management should in fact be going?
Vignette: cowboy collector ready to fight for his "rights" and "recommend" how the system should be changed.

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