Friday, February 28, 2014

Save the Date: U.S. Federal Power and the Repatriation of Cultural Artifacts

When:  April 3, 2014 @ 2-4PM

Where:  New York City Bar Association, 42 W 44th St, New York, NY 10036

Cost:  Open to the Public Free of Charge

The use of civil and criminal forfeiture actions, as well as broad  informational demands by foreign governments pursuant to mutual legal assistance treaties (MLAT), have impacted the ability of collectors, museums and antiquities and paleontological dealers to acquire objects.  The panel will discuss the use of these prosecutorial instruments and the questions they raise about how U.S. policy is being made and applied to effectuate the repatriation of cultural artifacts to their countries of origins. 

Speakers: Peter K. Tompa (Program Co-Chair and Moderator, Bailey & Ehrenberg PLLC); Michael McCullough (Program Co-Chair, Michael McCullough LLC, art law practitioner); Sharon Levin (Assistant U.S. Attorney and Chief of SDNY Forfeiture Section); Evan Barr (Steptoe &  Johnson LLP, white collar crime practitioner); James McAndrew (Grunfeld, Desiderio, Lebowitz, Silverman & Klestadt LLP; Former Senior Special Agent, US Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations).

For the NY City Bar Association's Announcement, see here.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Senate Resolution on Iraqi Jewish Archive Received Strong Bipartisan Support

Here is the list of Senators that co-sponsored the S. Res. 333.  The original sponsor was Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.).  The names of the original co-sponsors are marked with an asterisk (*):

Sen Blumenthal, Richard [D-CT] - 1/16/2014 *
Sen Schumer, Charles E. [D-NY] - 1/16/2014 *
Sen Kirk, Mark Steven [R-IL] - 1/16/2014 *
Sen Cardin, Benjamin L. [D-MD] - 1/16/2014 *
Sen Rubio, Marco [R-FL] - 1/16/2014 *
Sen Roberts, Pat [R-KS] - 1/16/2014 *
Sen Kaine, Tim [D-VA] - 1/16/2014 *
Sen Boxer, Barbara [D-CA] - 1/16/2014 *
Sen Menendez, Robert [D-NJ] - 1/16/2014 *
Sen Moran, Jerry [R-KS] - 1/27/2014
Sen Inhofe, James M. [R-OK] - 1/27/2014
Sen Coats, Daniel [R-IN] - 1/28/2014
Sen Casey, Robert P., Jr. [D-PA] - 1/28/2014
Sen Wicker, Roger F. [R-MS] - 1/29/2014
Sen Hatch, Orrin G. [R-UT] - 1/29/2014
Sen Markey, Edward J. [D-MA] - 1/29/2014
Sen Murphy, Christopher S. [D-CT] - 1/30/2014
Sen Risch, James E. [R-ID] - 2/4/2014
Sen Boozman, John [R-AR] - 2/4/2014
Sen Blunt, Roy [R-MO] - 2/4/2014
Sen Coons, Christopher A. [D-DE] - 2/6/2014
Sen Coburn, Tom [R-OK] - 2/6/2014
Sen Nelson, Bill [D-FL] - 2/6/2014
Sen Grassley, Chuck [R-IA] - 2/6/2014
Sen Cochran, Thad [R-MS] - 2/6/2014
Sen Murray, Patty [D-WA] - 2/6/2014
Sen Johanns, Mike [R-NE] - 2/6/2014
Sen Cruz, Ted [R-TX] - 2/6/2014
Sen Collins, Susan M. [R-ME] - 2/6/20


Senate Urges State Department to Ensure Iraqi Archive Remains Accessible to Iraqi Jews

On February 6, 2014, the US Senate approved the following Resolution (Sen. Res. 333 ATS) by unanimous consent:

Strongly recommending that the United States renegotiate the return of the Iraqi Jewish Archive to Iraq.

Whereas, before the mid-20th century, Baghdad had been a center of Jewish life, culture, and scholarship, dating back to 721 B.C.;

Whereas, as recently as 1940, Jews made up 25 percent of Baghdad's population; 

Whereas, in the 1930s and 1940s, under the leadership of Rasheed Ali, anti-Jewish discrimination increased drastically, including the June 1-2, 1941, Farhud pogrom, in which nearly 180 Jews were killed;

Whereas, in 1948, Zionism was added to the Iraqi criminal code as punishable by death;
Whereas, throughout 1950-1953, Jews were allowed to leave Iraq under the condition that they renounce their citizenship;

Whereas, as result of past persecution, few Jews remain in Iraq today, and many left their possessions and treasured artifacts behind; 

Whereas the Ba'ath regime confiscated these artifacts, later dubbed the Iraqi Jewish Archive, from synagogues and communal organizations;

Whereas, on May 6, 2003, members of the United States Armed Forces discovered the Iraqi Jewish Archive, which included 2,700 books and tens of thousands of documents, in the heavily damaged and flooded basement of the Mukhabarat (secret police) headquarters;

Whereas, under great urgency and before adequate time could be dedicated to researching the history of the Iraqi Jewish Archive, an agreement was signed between the National Archives and Records Administration and the Coalition Provisional Authority on August 20, 2003, stating that the Iraqi Jewish Archive would be sent to the United States for restoration and then would be sent back to Iraq after completion;

Whereas, the Iraqi Jewish community is the constituency of the Archive and is now represented by the diaspora outside Iraq;

Whereas, the current Government of Iraq has publicly acknowledged the importance of the Archive and demonstrated a shared respect for the wishes of the Iraqi Jewish diaspora by attending the December 2013 burial of several Torah fragments from the Archive in New York;

Whereas United States taxpayers have invested $3,000,000 to restore the Iraqi Jewish Archive, and the National Archives and Records Administration has worked diligently to preserve the artifacts;

Whereas the National Archives and Records Administration is displaying the Iraqi Jewish Archive in Washington, DC, from October 11, 2013, to January 5, 2014, and in New York City from February 4, 2014, to May 18, 2014; and

Whereas the Iraqi Embassy to the United States has said that the Iraqi Jewish community, like other communities in Iraq, played a key role in building the country, shared in its prosperity, and also suffered exile and forced departure because of tyranny: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the Senate--
(1) strongly urges the Department of State to renegotiate with the Government of Iraq the provisions of the original agreement that was signed between the National Archives and Records Administration and the Coalition Provisional Authority in order to ensure that the Iraqi Jewish Archive be kept in a place where its long-term preservation and care can be guaranteed;
(2) recognizes that the Iraqi Jewish Archive should be housed in a location that is accessible to scholars and to Iraqi Jews and their descendants who have a personal interest in it;
(3) recognizes that the agreement between the National Archives and Records Administration and the Coalition Provisional Authority was signed before knowing the complete history of the Iraqi Jewish Archive;
(4) reaffirms the United States commitment to cultural property under international law; and
(5) reaffirms the United States commitment to ensuring justice for victims of ethnic and religious persecution.

But will the State Department and its Cultural Heritage Center pay heed to the Senate's directions?

And how will ardent repatriationists within the archaeological community react to the Senate's action? 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Law Students Take on Issues First Raised in ACCG Test Case

This year's "National Cultural Heritage Law Moot Court Competition" obviously borrowed heavily from issues first raised in the ACCG's test case.

Perhaps, those issues are far more significant than some less sophisticated commentators in the archaeological blogosphere have suggested.

CPO wonders what issues next year's competition will address.  Dinosaur forfeitures?  Why not?

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Investors Take a Shine to Rare Coins--So What?

Archaeo-blogger Paul Barford has highlighted a CNBC article about investors and rare coins.  Though there may be some unstated implication a recent run-up in coin prices caused by American investors will encourage looting of archaeological sites in source countries, CPO doubts it.  First, CPO suspects most investors are focusing on high quality American coins and modern foreign issues.   Ancient coins by comparison are far less accessible, far harder to grade, and have so many subjective factors associated with their value that by comparison they don't make for an "easy" way to "make a fast buck."

CPO does acknowledge that there has been a long-term increase in the value of high-quality ancient coins, but this trend probably relates more to a relative decline in the value of the dollar and a large increase in the numbers of wealthy collectors in "source countries" than anything else.   So Mr. Barford and his friends in the archaeological blogosphere should have little to worry about if American investors take a shine to historical coins.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Chinese and Bulgarian MOUs: Export Certificates for Cultural Goods Promised; But Are They Illusory?

The State Department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and its Cultural Heritage Center have released copies of the recent revised MOU with China and the new agreement with Bulgaria.   In return for an embargo on the import of undocumented artifacts from third countries, China and Bulgaria appear to promise to make export certificates available for such items exported directly from those two UNESCO State parties.

Specifically, in its MOU with the United States, China promises:

"With respect to Chinese cultural objects that meet the following four conditions: a.) legally exported as part of a private collection of Chinese heirlooms, b) legally transferred among owners, c) purchased and imported by residents of China, and d) declared upon import to China and registered with relevant authorities, the Government of the People's Republic of China shall seek legislative action that permits their re-export."

See Art. II, Sec. 8.

Moreover, in its MOU with the United States, Bulgaria promises:

"Regarding export permits, the Government of the Republic of Bulgaria shall (1) gather and track certificates on the number of such permits requested and issued for both temporary and permanent export of cultural property pursuant to existing laws and regulations; and (2) ensure the process of applying for such permits of export and temporary export is accessible and clear."

See Art. II, Sec. 5.

But how does this square with information that China has recently banned the export of any artifact produced before 1911 and that Bulgaria has only issued export permits for temporary exhibitions abroad, most notably for a controversial exhibition of artifacts called, "the Grandeur of Bulgaria," exhibited at the European Parliament?  (Of course, as a practical matter, no export permits are required for the movement of Bulgarian cultural artifacts throughout the rest of the EU.)

More to the point, are these MOU provisions for "cosmetic purposes" only?  And, if so, is the State Department and its Cultural Heritage Center misleading Congress and the public about the true nature of these MOUs?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

PAS Maps Finds For All to See

The Portable Antiquities Scheme has unveiled this nifty tool to help visualize the distribution of coin finds from different periods within Britain and Wales.  When will the Italians, Greeks, Cypriots and Bulgarians come up with something similar?  Likely never.  Why not?  Simply because they have nothing akin to the Treasure Act and PAS that encourage the public to report finds so they can be recorded and used to tell us something about the distribution and use of historical coinage. But why don't they have such a system?  Well, perhaps because its not primarily about conservation for their cultural bureaucracies, but rather mostly about control.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Which Office Do I Go To To Get My Reputation Back?

Federal prosecutors have dropped  all smuggling charges against Joe Lewis II, a well-known collector of Egyptian antiquities.   The much ballyhooed case against Lewis and two co-defendants never lived up to the initial hype, stoked by the U.S. Attorney's press office, the archaeological blogosphere and former Egyptian Antiquities Pharaoh Zahi Hawass (who at the time was desperately trying to keep his job).  And now,  with Lewis exonerated, he's the one who should be asking that famous question, "Which office do I go to to get my reputation back?"

Friday, February 14, 2014

Secret CPAC Meeting to Discuss the Italian MOU

The Federal Register has announced a closed CPAC meeting to discuss the MOU with Italy to take place on March 13-14, 2014.  CPAC should be discussing whether the MOU should be scrapped altogether   because Italy is no longer living up to its end of the bargain.  But more likely, the closed session will be used to spoon feed CPAC members with information about seizure of ancient coins in Italy in support of a claim that restrictions should be continued and even expanded.   Of course, the fact that ancient coins are widely and legally available within Italy and the rest of the EU will not warrant mention.

Speculation?  Sure.  But CPO notes that the Bush Administration conducted an open CPAC meeting to discuss the interim review of the Italian MOU so we would know at least some of what was discussed.  President Obama promised that his Administration would make transparency a priority, but apparently the State Department and its Cultural Heritage Center never got the word.  At least, State still promises that an open meeting will be scheduled if Italy asks that the MOU be renewed.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Speakers Announced For Cardozo Program on April 10th

The Committee on Cultural Policy and Cardozo law school have announced speakers for its upcoming April 10th program discussing the reform of US Cultural Policy.  CPO first publicized this event here.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Roundtable on the Reform of US Cultural Property Policy, Law and the Public Interest

The Committee for Cultural Policy is hosting a roundtable to address practical steps to resolve serious issues in current cultural policy affecting the public interest: conflicting laws create uncertainty for museums and private collectors, secrecy and failure to abide by Congressional mandate in government agencies, and the prospect of hundreds of thousands of art objects in circulation without clear title on Wednesday, April 30, 2014 at 12 p.m. at the National Press Club, Washington, DC 529 14th Street, NW, 13th Floor, Washington, D.C. 

  • Moderator: Timothy Rub, Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Philadelphia Musuem of Art and President of the Association of Art Museum Directors
  • Timothy Potts, Director, J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, California 
  • Matthew Polk, art collector and founder of Polk Audio 
  • Kate FitzGibbon, Esq., FitzGibbon Law, Santa Fe, New Mexico 
  • Michael McCullough, Esq., Michael McCullough LLC, Washington, DC
  • Andrew Adler, Esq. Associate, Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP, Miami, Florida
Where: Conference Room, National Press Club, 529 14th Street, NW, 13th Floor, Washington, DC 20045 

When: Wednesday, April 30, 2014 at 12 p.m. to 2 p.m.

RSVP: Registration is required to attend. 

Museum and legal specialists will discuss how best to preserve heritage worldwide while enabling the movement of art between nations and cultures and honoring museums’ commitments to research, publish, and exhibit the art of the world. The discussion will also include comments on A Proposal to Reform U.S. Law and Policy Relating to the Exchange of Cultural Property, by William G. Pearlstein, publication forthcoming in Cardozo Arts & Entertainment Law Journal, Volume 32, Issue 2 (2014). 

Have questions about Roundtable on the Reform of US Cultural Property Policy, Law and the Public Interest? Contact Committee for Cultural Property 

New Rules on Ivory: Precedent for a Ban on the Sale of Ancient Coins and Antiquities?

The Obama Administration has announced some tough rules on the sale, export and import of ivory meant to protect endangered African elephants. While archaeological activists will no doubt be encouraged by this ban, hoping it will set precedent for a similar ban on the sale of antiquities, the differences between a trade in material taken by killing endangered species and one relating to inanimate objects like ancient coins that are widely and legally traded in source countries themselves should be obvious to all but the most ardent opponents of private collecting.

Monday, February 10, 2014

New Metal Detecting Blog

Andy Baines, a youthful metal detectorist at age 28 from the UK, has set up this new blog.  One may agree or disagree with his views about what is and what is not ethical metal detecting, but it will be interesting to see how his blog develops and CPO wishes him luck.

What's Left of the MOU with Italy?

In 2011, our State Department sold out the interests of American coin collectors for no good reason when it approved new restrictions on ancient coins of  Italian type in conjunction with an extension of a MOU with Italy.  Unbelievably, those new Customs regulations bar entry of the exact same types of coins that are openly and legally available for sale within Italy itself.

Under that same MOU, US museums were supposed to benefit from long term loans from Italy of high-quality archaeological artifacts.  Now, however, Sicily says not so fast-- it wants to renegotiate such agreements, presumably by charging high loan fees for what decides to send abroad.

CPO submits that Sicily has every right to do so, but then so too should there be a "renegotiation" of the MOU with Italy.  In particular, it should be scrapped altogether or at least modified so that there are no longer any restrictions on the same types of artifacts freely available within Italy and EU itself.  That would certainly include coins, but some other types of artifacts as well.

The burdens such restrictions place on Americans could never really be justified as necessary to "protect archaeological context" given such an internal market within Italy.  And now, with Sicily's decision to scotch further loans, what's the remaining reasons for any  MOU with the Italian National Government?  None, it would seem, unless, of course, it's really always only been about suppressing the trade at the behest of the State Department's Cultural Heritage Center and its allies within the archaeological establishment.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

This Era's Monuments Men

The Wall Street Journal has named CPRI President Arthur Houghton as a latter day "Monuments Man" for his work in helping to preserve Iraqi Cultural Sites from bombing during the Second Gulf War.  CPO congratulates Arthur for this well-deserved mention for this important work.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

What is Ethical Collecting as Far as the Archaeological Blogosphere is Concerned?

David Knell's recent comments on this blog raise questions about what it means to be an "ethical collector"  as far as the archaeological blogosphere is concerned.  I'm not sure whether or not David is an academic or museum professional,  but on his informative blog he indicates that his collection of oil lamps was largely formed long ago and suggests that any more recent additions have a provenance back to 1970 as required by recent museum accession rules.

So then,what does an "ethical collection" of ancient coins look like as far as the archaeological blogosphere is concerned?

Would it be limited to coins with a secure pre-1970 provenance?  If so, it might have a few high priced Greek coins, but little else-- only very few Greek coins have secure provenances pre-dating 1970 and hardly any Roman coins do.

How about a collection of coins recorded under the PAS and Treasure Act?  There would certainly be more material to collect.  Such a collection could include a wide variety of Celtic, Roman Imperial and Medieval British issues.  On the other hand, it would contain virtually nothing from the Greek world and only a few Roman Republican coins.  In any event, would the fact that the coins were recorded under the PAS or Treasure Act make collecting them "ethical" as far as Paul Barford, Nathan Elkins or David Gill would be concerned?   CPO doubts it given their qualms with the system in place in Britain and Wales.

How about a collection of unprovenanced coins of the sort widely and openly available in places like Italy, China and Bulgaria?  Building such a collection might make sense to the non-archaeologist.
One might ask,  "Why shouldn't we be able to buy anything that is freely available for sale in such countries? "  And better still, such a collection would certainly include a wide variety of coins, indeed, much of what is collected today in the United States.

But, of course, common sense does not appear to be the primary consideration here, but rather one of "ethics."  And what's the problem with "ethics?"  Well, ethics is in the eye of the beholder, and it's all too easy to make such ethical rules for others.

And more practically, can one really create an "ethical collection" of ancient coins today that meets the criteria of the archaeological blogosphere and still find anything to collect?   Probably not.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Peace Through Coins

Well, since everyone else is jumping on the "Monuments Men" bandwagon, why not coin collectors?

Coin collections were very likcly seized along with all sorts of other artifacts by the Nazis.  Moreover, many historical coins were also destroyed in bombing or shelling.  And millions of others were most certainly melted to recover prescious or strategic metals deemed necessary for the war efforts of the combatants.

But CPO wants to focus on the positive: how numismatics helped bring people together during the dark days of WWII and its immediate aftermath.  First, there is the story of a loving couple that shared an interest for old coins through internment in a concentration camp and refugee status during and following the war.  Thereafter, in a true Hollywood ending, they achieved the American dream, eventually running the Smithsonian Institutions's coin cabinet together for decades.

Then, there is the International Association of Professional Numismatists, an organization CPO's writer represents as an attorney and lobbyist.   The IAPN was formed in 1951 to help restore relationships among professional numismatists that had been badly frayed during years of war.  Today, the IAPN has 114 members in 23 countries in 5 continents around the world.

Coin collecting has fostered people to people contacts and cultural understanding for generations.  Coin collectors might not be "Monuments Men," but their shared interest in studying, preserving and displaying these miniature "cultural ambassadors" serve the same goals celebrated by Hollywood in its well-publicized movie.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Is this Science?

Let CPO say it respects archaeology and all it has contributed to the understanding of the human past.  On the other hand, CPO also questions whether archaeology is really a "hard science," as has been claimed by activists who believe that private collecting should be suppressed in "the name of furthering knowledge."   In this regard, CPO notes that the latest on Paul Barford's and David Gill's blogs suggest that it's not really about "science" at all, but about rumor mongering in order to further an agenda.  It's one thing to have principled concerns about the Portable Antiquity Scheme and the publication of poems found on an unprovenanced artifact.  But it's quite another to imply -- based on little more than rank speculation-- that the Crosby Garrett Helmet was actually found outside the British Isles or that the "Sappho papyrus"  was possibly part of a cache from a Turkish eBay seller  Is this science?

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

A Crack in the Wall?

Archaeology Magazine, the official organ of the Archaeological Institute of America, has publicized  the finding of a world-renown papyrologist that scraps from an unprovenanced papyrus contained poems of an ancient Greek Poetess, Sappho.  The news, far from being celebrated, is instead being criticized by hard-liners in the archaeological blogospshere worried that the AIA is departing from its principles for publicizing work based on an unprovenanced document.  CPO commends Archaeology Magazine for doing so-- ignoring important documents because they are unprovenanced does nothing but a disservice to anyone interested in the furtherance of knowledge.

Plea Deal Leaves Issues Unresolved

A NJ based coin dealer will forfeit ancient coins and cash as part of a plea deal related to federal tax charges.  Although the archaeological blogosphere will no doubt claim the plea deal supports the need for the recently completed MOU with Bulgaria, serious questions still remain whether the US should have entered into an agreement to restrict Americans from importing the exact same sorts of coins openly traded within Bulgaria itself and the rest of the EU.   In that regard, it's also interesting to note that at least based on this press report, federal authorities have also apparently backed away from any claims the coins to be forfeited were "stolen" under Bulgarian law, presumably for that exact same reason.  For federal courts to consider cultural artifacts to be stolen under Bulgarian law, the government would have had to show that Bulgarian law vested absolute title to such coins in the Bulgarian state and that this law was consistently applied at home.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Time to Save Egyptian Antiquities?

The archaeological blogosphere has largely ignored the wanton destruction of artifacts in the Egyptian Islamic Museum.   And no wonder.  The bombing of the museum along with last year's burning of an important library and looting of several museums offer precious little support for the proposition that "emergency import restrictions" and the like should be implemented to repatriate artifacts to Egypt, including ones long out of that country.

If anything, all this instead supports the proposition that important artifacts-- particularly those from Egypt's pre-Islamic past--should be sent out of the country for safekeeping while duplicates of less important material are sold on the open market to raise funds to help protect the rest.   Collectors and Museums in the United States, Europe and the Gulf States will no doubt be willing to help.   So let's all support the protection of Egyptian antiquities by seeing them safely out of Egypt as quickly as possible.  It's as simple as that.  

Saturday, February 1, 2014

They Are Out to Get You

Or, so it would seem from this report about a confab of cultural bureaucrats, academics and cops that took place back in September in the Hague.  There is nothing wrong with States seeking to protect their own archaeological sites and items of cultural significance.  But that should not be confused with draconian measures aimed at controlling everything old or targeting foreigners for dealing in the exact same cultural goods that are openly available at home.  Unfortunately, that's just what the "activists" commended in the report advocate.  Why not instead adopt a balanced but fair approach like that found in the United Kingdom?  CPO would rather have the UK seen as a model rather than the favorites of these activists, countries like Cyprus, Greece and Italy.

What's Wrong with Legal Exports of Cultural Goods?

Nothing, but you wouldn't know that reading archaeo-blogger Paul Barford's latest post about legal exports from the United Kingdom.  Mr. Barford also intimates that export permits for coins are required, but under UK Export Guidance that is not so for most numismatic items in trade, i.e., published types not "straight from the ground."  (Detector finds from the UK require export papers).

The UK is to be commended for a workable system of export controls and a PAS and Treasure Act that encourage artifacts found by the public to be properly recorded and retained where they of cultural significance.   If only countries like Cyprus, Greece and Italy were as reasonable, they would likely not be facing many of the same problems they have at present.