Saturday, July 17, 2010

Invest in Museum Risk Management - Don't Always Count on Someone Being There When Disaster Strikes

Back in June 2008 flooding damaged areas of Iowa. One place hit by the rising waters was the University of Iowa's (UI) art museum. The good news is that the Figge Museum in Davenport was able to house and protect some of UI's artwork after the flood. Just as when Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana and other nearby states, several art museums came to help out institutions affected by the disaster. However, long-term help cannot always be counted on. In UI's situation, Lloyd's of London will not insure a new museum building for UI if they construct it in the same spot. And the Federal Emergency Management Agency(FEMA) has just denied UI's request for funds to help build a new museum. The lesson is that an investment in risk planning can help a cultural institution mitigate or prevent problems later.

Operation Andromeda - Carabinieri Cultural Heritage Protection Command Press Release

CONDENSED PRESS STATEMENT (TRANSLATED FROM THE ITALIAN)
Unedited original available at
www.carabinieri.it/Internet/Cittadino/Informazioni/ComunicatiStampa/2010/Luglio/20100716_100000.htm

On July 16, 2010, the Carabinieri Cultural Heritage Protection Command presented to the press ... three hundred thirty seven exceptional archaeological finds, from Lazio, Puglia, Sardinia and Magna Graecia, dating between eighth century BC and fourth century AD, and returned from Geneva, Switzerland on June 25, 2010.

Among the many outstanding heritage items are ... loutrophoros, marble statues depicting the goddess Venus, Apulian and Attic volute craters, craters mask Canosa, kylix Chalkidiki, bronzes, frescoes from Pompeii, a basket and two nuraghic warriors, whose value is determined on the illicit market based on their size in centimeters (about ten thousand euros per centimeter).

The total asset value of the works exceeds fifteen million euros. The exhibits were seized earlier this year by the Swiss authorities and by the Carabinieri, as a result of an investigation commonly known as "Andromeda" in the free port of Geneva, where they were stored by an art dealer and a Japanese Swiss businessman ....

...

Thursday, July 8, 2010

No Prison Means No Deterrence

Crimes against culture rarely appear on the radar of law enforcement authorities. And when such crimes are investigated--oftentimes after years of time and effort--many prosecutors tend to let such cases fizzle. That is what happened again today when a plea bargain was accepted in a Utah courtroom. A federal district court judge sentenced Brent Bullock to five years of probation supervision and sentenced Tammy Shumway, widow of the infamous antiquities looter Earl Shumway, to three years of court ordered supervision after a half year of home confinement.

The over two year investigation into antiquities looting and trafficking in the Four Corners area of the United States is just the latest example of intense investigative efforts being rewarded with light sentences. Five defendants have now been convicted and sentenced to no time in prison. To be fair, one of today's defendants received a time-served sentence. But serving three weeks pre-trial time in jail is different from being sentenced to jail.

Prosecutors across the country took years to recognize that domestic violence was a legitimate crime. When it was acknowledged as a crime and jail sentences were pursued by the authorities, there came a marked increase in the detection and deterrence of the criminal activity. Crimes against culture require this same kind of recognition.

That is why crimes against culture must earn meaningful court sentences that include incarceration. Weighty sentence tell other law enforcement and prosecution agencies that this crime is serious. Moreover, meaningful sentences tell other would-be grave robbers and antiquities traffickers that the price of doing illegal business by erasing history includes losing one's liberty. If the cost of site looting is of no consequence, then there is little incentive to deter a looter or trafficker.

Organizations like the Archaeological Institute of America and others must continue to educate authorities about the damage done when archaeological material is ripped from its context. That is to say, the irreparable harm caused by removing evidence of our past from the ground without proper documentation.