Monday 23 September 2013

Donna Yates at UNODC training workshop

Glasgow's Donna Yates will be making a presentation in Vienna at a training session hosted by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
Donna will be leading discussion about cultural property issues in a workshop on emerging crime. She will discuss the ways criminals circumvent the existing cultural property regulatory framework and are able to sell illegally-acquired cultural products on the open market, providing examples from investigated cases, particularly the looting and trafficking of antiquities from Sipán. While the session is not open to the public, Donna’s presentation will be available for viewing online at
Watch it, it's brilliant and very thought-provoking. It is particularly useful as based on a well-documented example (though most of it is based on seminal 2004 work: "Stealing History. Tomb raiders, smugglers and the looting of the Ancient World" New York).

It is a bit sad to see that the presentation concentrates on 'High end of market' items and for a training session, it is odd it apparently makes no reference to the more frequent low end items which form the basis of the antiquities market and are moved by more prosaic means than those described.

Dr Yates' ending is rather humbling: "we have no means to deal with false provenances" (which can occur at the higher end of the market, objects down the end that is [should be] of more concern rarely have any provenance at all). She also says that the White Hat Guys "cannot compete with the richness and "respectability" of the demand end of the market". Again, that may be true about the high end of the market (but then surely a properly executed public relations campaign can remove that false "respectability" and indeed is dictated by article 10 of the 1970 UNESCO Convention) but surely, despite the best efforts of some dealers' associations, there is little that can be done to make the grubby business of looted and smuggled artefacts at the lower end look respectable.  Why is it so difficult to get that message more widely accepted by the voting and tax-paying public?  

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