Thursday, 7 May 2015

Coin Collectors Posing as "Academics"

"People in glass houses should not throw stones"
Attributed to Petrarch, the first coiney.

The IAPN and PNG continue their anti-conservation crusade through their lobbyist Mr Peter Tompa who has no idea where in such a provincial backwater as the centre of Washington DC he will ever find a copy of the "obscure" and "unavailable" periodical the Journal of Field Archaeology to see what might be written there by a US professor about the distribution of coin finds as documented in the numismatic literature.

The rest of us who do not expect to have everything handed to us on a silver platter can check and see if the journal is available in any Washington DC academic institution where people with academic pretensions can try and access it. Someone prepared to make the effort with their mouse-clicking finger can check the Washington Research Library Consortium (here). Then, there is that small collection of books there known as "the Library of Congress" (here - the call number for the Journal of Field Archaeology is CC1.J69). There do seem to be some public libraries in the US too, like the DC Public Library system. This seems to me to be information that anyone who wants to pose as an noomis-academic needs to have at their fingertips. They just have to learn  how to use a library first, and then remind themselves how to use a book. Although Mr Tompa warns that using a library to read the Journal of Field Archaeology would however be "subsidizing anti-collector academics", we may pose a typing monkey question: if there are 50 000 of these dugup coin collectors (the ACCG says) all busily doing home-grown academic work on their heaps of ancient coins acquired no-questions-asked from ACCG dealers, how long will it take ONE of them to get hold of a copy of the paper and scan it for the rest? 

Mr Tompa has a go at Professor Elkins for not posting up the full text of his article online so he can get hold of it for free and "interested members of the public can judge the quality of his work for themselves". So, coiney amateurs are going to try and stand judgement over the  university professor? On what grounds? I think many of us who have little sympathy for smug, selfish and stupid no-questions-asking collectors would all like to see the results:
Without reading the allegedly "inaccessible" text [UPDATE: "Only a Washington lobbyist could write this!," - David Gill, see further comments], Mr Tompa attempts to persuade his readers that "it is questionable that Elkins' claims that the State Department acted properly are justified". I really think he ought to acquaint himself with the facts about what Professor Elkins said before criticising it. That's what real (not pretend) academics do. They get to know the opposing views and then discuss them. Mr Tompa exhibits the typical behaviour of the antiquitist (artefact collector) mindset, which takes as its starting point the immediate dismissal of the opponents view and never bothers to learn what it is.Oh, and by the way I think most of us consider Prof. Elkins' text to be a contribution to the debate, not any "authoritative text". I have seen what Tompa wrote in his lobbying for the IAPN and PNG and compared it with Elkins' reply - and I know which one I see as presenting the better case and better arguments to support it.

Peter Tompa proclaims: "Elkins may be entitled to his own opinions, but in the end the issue is one of law, an area in which he most certainly lacks expertise". Leaving aside the question of what "expertise" Mr Tompa himself has in certain areas of cultural property law (those of Japan for example) he seems oblivious to the topic of discussion in Elkin's paper. That is the difference between ACCG's representation of where certain types of coins are "first found" (sic) in their battle against legislation intended to cut down artefact smuggling, and what a more balanced use of the literature shows the real situation on the ground to be.  This is not a legal issue, but one of correct use of the numismatic sources. I would suggest that this is an area where certain lobbyists and dealers' profit-seeking interest groups demonstrably lack expertise. 

Let the noomis-lobbyist earn his keep (at least one dealers' asssociation is reportedly paying Bailey and Ehrenburg what looks to me like an excessive amount of money for Lobboblogger's services). A challenge has been posed by a text published in a recognized and authoritative academic journal. Let is see how long it takes the dugup coin industry's chosen representative to work out how he can get a copy, and reply to it in an appropriate manner, so that "interested members of the public can judge the quality of his work for themselves". I would say that means a reply article in the JFA or the equivalent "Journal of Contextual Numismatics", necessarily citing the relevant literature to support his counter-arguments . But that, of course means using a library to access the literature. Can Mr Tompa do that, or will he need help? We will see.

Perhaps the IAPN and PNG to address the concerns and doubts raised in the public arena by academics, might instead (or in addition) employ somebody who can handle the task of addressing them in a manner recognizable as proper discourse and can actually find a copy of a professional journal in a library.

UPDATE 8th May 2015
Thanks to prompt aid from a reader in Washington who DOES know how to use the library system, I was able to correct the links in the above post to where the JFA can be found. But this is of no interest to the black hat guys who are only interested in sniping, if you look at the Cultural Property "Observer" blog of the lobbyist for the IAPN and PNG, instead of addressing the substantive issues raised by the publication of this paper, coineys Peter Tompa and his "Arthur Houghton III" sock puppet engaging in patronising insult. Once again, reason to question whether this individual is an appropriate choice to represent a "professional" body.

Then after all the discussion  of academics placing their research online for coin collectors to access without raising themselves from their chairs, Wayne Sayles ("art historian") announces he has posted a "short paper" on the portal. Look at it, self-published essay with no proper apparatus, it is just his most recent "Ancient Coins" blog page, sidebars and all - journalism masquerading as a piece of "academic research". I suggest his academic supervisors (Prof. Jane Hutchison, Prof. Warren G. Moon and Prof. Sandy Kita) did a very poor job of explaining to this student how to go about writing a paper. If this is to be treated as an academic paper, for "interested members of the public to judge the quality of the work of this graduate for themselves", we really should be seeing here some bibliographic references to the statements and series of quotes taken out of context.  Even wikipedia cites references. 

and by the way, with regard to the nastiness both Sayles and Tompa posted over on Derek Fincham's blog about Prof. Elkins posting on only the abstract of a copyright paper, just take a look at the list of titles Sayles has on his page, and then look how many he himself has actually made available through the portal (three). Then have a look at Tompa's own page, a scissors-and-paste celator article about coins in his collection and a couple of ACCG-lobbying texts. 

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