Sunday 19 November 2023

Pre-Empting What (While promoting the ALR)?

Blue Shield Initiative Working Group on Countering Trafficking Webinar: Pre-emptive Measures to Protect Movable Cultural Heritage and Enable Later Repatriation Efforts :

Join us for an insightful free online event on Tue Nov 28 2023 at 14:00 GMT, focusing on the pre-emptive actions to take to protect movable cultural heritage in the event of conflict and natural disaster and to enable later repatriation efforts.
In the first half we will look at recent cases of conflict and disaster and assess the effectiveness of preparatory measures taken, the use of Cultural Heritage At Risk Database (CHARD) to enable public and private agencies and individuals to be one step ahead by searching the art market proactively for registered 'at risk' objects, and the legal strategies countries should take in advance of armed conflict or natural disaster to facilitate the recovery of movable objects.
Hmmm. First of all, who is to take these "pre-emptive actions"? It seems to me what these folk are proposing is that the foreign communities in the source countries suffering the trauma of conflict and natural disaster should be burdened with (a) settng up the measures these folk choose for them and (b) actually implement them while that conflict and natural disaster is going on. 

The pre-emptive way to protect NOT just the "movable cultural heritage" but the sites and assemblages they are taken from is to work to make the collection of such items (especially without a full suite of legitimating paperwork) completely socially unacceptable

The whole point is the actual issue is not that American fixation with "repatriation", it is protecting the cultural resource as a whole, not the ownership of loose objects of "ancient art".  The focus on "repatriation" shows that te focus here is entirely on the "soft power" aspects of antiquities preservation, rather than the damage done by getting the artefacts on the market in the first place.  

Note: the Cultural Heritage At Risk Database (CHARD) is just another initiative of the Art Loss Register and it is to be used by enable "public and private agencies and individuals" to search for ... well, not really clear here:
proactively register objects in situ at museums, warehouses and archaeological sites, to ensure that if such items are stolen they can be identified if offered for sale. A particular focus for the project has been museums, sites and depositories in Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, Iraq, Egypt, and India – to name a few – but there is no restriction on where such objects can be located, provided that they are at risk [...] These registrations are carried out on a pro bono basis and are thus free of charge to whoever provides the necessary data. In addition, they will be kept confidential and secure on the ALR’s database so that only the ALR can access them. No dealer or auction house has direct access to the database.
So more of a gotcha than a deterrant [but actually is iot not the case that dealers can get ALR certificates on the basis of these data, is that different from a CHARD certificate?]. So when can we see the eight million objects in the British Museum's storerooms added pro bono for starters? That have demonstrably been under risk and items have already been found on the market.

Interesting business model: "you give us your data for free, we'll put it on our database making it look even more reliable and complete, and then we'll charge all those folk for access to your data...".
Now tell us again, how that's going to work here (the photo used to advertise the webinar): 

What we need is not a "pre-emptive" way to get some of those lose unprovenanced and basically archaeologically useless artefacts to an Iraqi storeroom to gasther dust and create a cataloguing and administrative nightmare for the locals, but a pre-emptive way to stop incentivising digging all those holes in an ancient site.  

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