Thursday 29 October 2015

The Ethical Pitfalls of Working on "Possibly Illicit Artefacts"

Julia Halperin, 'Bible museum founders may have illicit antiquities from Iraq' Art Newspaper 27 October 2015:
In an interview due to appear in a forthcoming issue of the Atlantic, Steve Green, the chief executive of Hobby Lobby, denied knowingly acquiring illegal antiquities but acknowledged that some could have found their way into the collection. “Is it possible that we have some illicit [artefacts]? That’s possible,” he said.
Were all the Green Scholars appraised of this before they signed their contracts and non-disclosure agreements? Do the latter include a clause which makes them void if the terms of the contract force them to work on "possibly illicit" material - and so go against the code of ethics of their profession?

According to the webpage of the Green Scholars Initiative (formed in summer 2010), there are a lot of people affected by any due diligence fail, some are based in the UK and Germany (it seems no eastern European specialist and few Middle Eastern ones was keen to take up the invitation to join):

Senior Scholars

Distinguished and Research Scholars

  • Christian Askeland, PhD: Distinguished Scholar of Coptic Texts, Münster, Deutschland
  • Michelle Brown, PhD: Distinguished Scholar of Illuminated Manuscripts, University of London, England
  • Robert Duke, PhD: Distinguished Scholar of Hebrew Texts, Azusa Pacific University
  • Jeffrey Fish, PhD: Distinguished Scholar of Greek Texts, Baylor University
  • Peter Head, PhD: Distinguished Scholar of New Testament Textual Criticism, Tyndale House, Cambridge & Fellow of St. Edmunds College, University of Cambridge
  • Marty Michelson, PhD: Distinguished Scholar of Hebrew Texts, Southern Nazarene University
  • Curt Niccum, PhD: Distinguished Scholar of Ethiopic Texts, Abilene Christian University
  • Stephen Pfann, PhD: Research Scholar, Middle East Artifacts, University of the Holy Land, Jerusalem
  • David Riggs, PhD: Distinguished Scholar of Latin Texts, Indiana Wesleyan University
  • Benno van den Toren, PhD: Distinguished Scholar of Dutch Texts, Wycliffe Hall, Oxford Distinguished Scholar, Professor of Intercultural Theology and Head of the Department of Systematic Theology at the Protestant Theological University in Groningen, Netherlands
  • Peter Williams, PhD: Distinguished Scholar of Aramaic Texts, Tyndale House, Cambridge

Regional Directors 

Museum of the Bible Curatorial Staff

  • Michael Holmes, PhD: Executive Director of the Green Scholars Initiative
  • David Trobisch, PhD: Director of the Green Collection
  • Seth Pollinger, PhD: Assistant Director of the Green Collection
  • Karen York, PhD: Head of the Curatorial Department
  • Lance Allred, PhD: Curator of Cuneiform
  • Daniel Arnold: Director of Exhibits
  • Allyson Bold: Associate Registrar
  • Heather Bryant: Assistant Curator of Events
  • Norm Conrad: Curator of Americana and English Bibles
  • Josephine Dru, PhD: Curator of Papyri
  • Amy Van Dyke: Curator of Art and Education
  • Herschel Hepler: Assistant Curator
  • Susan Jones: Curator of Antiquities
  • Sherry Klein: Assistant Curator of Events
  • Francisco Rodriguez: Conservator
 Only one conservator? For 40 000 objects? Are there any "professional numismatists" from the commercial side here?

Vignette, ethics


Unknown said...

Did you notice the "credentials" for the ONE conservator? He has a BS in psychology from Pontifical Xaviarian University. I'm wondering how he is otherwise qualified to be a conservator. Most conservators I know have multiple, advanced degrees.

I hope to see some follow up on this investigation. This entire thing smells fishy to me.

Paul Barford said...

Yes, Lynda Albertson is working through the staff list and has dug up some amazing "issues" with the people that are employed to curate this stuff, but it'd be only fair to let her discuss it first as it is her work. It is indeed highly "fishy", but I think the truth will come out.

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