Sporting relics lost in fire

By Yoni Bashan

February 01, 2009 12:00am

TREASURED Australian sporting memorabilia, including priceless NRL artefacts, have been reduced to ashes after a fire gutted one of Sydney’s oldest photographic studios.

Investigators spent yesterday at Melba Studios, on Victoria Rd, Gladesville, after a blaze started about 8.30pm on Friday. “There’s nothing to be saved, from what we can see,” Inspector Greg Reid said. “It’s a mess, basically ash.”

Regarded as the photographer of choice for major sporting events, Melba Studios housed historic prints, lithographs and glass plates. Among them was a glass plate of the All Golds, the Kiwi team that toured Australia in 1907, and included legendary rugby league foundation player Dally Messenger.

Other items included a rare print of Australia’s squad for the second Test of 1932, which later became known as the Battle of Brisbane because of the ferocity of the play against the touring England team.

Also housed there were one-of-a-kind sets of NRL teams, dating back to the game’s first days, and priceless photos, including a portrait of Sandy Pearce, Australia’s first great hooker.

Pictures of the sport’s immortals, including one of North Sydney legend Albert Broomham, one of the standout three-quarters in the game’s first decade, are also believed to have gone up in smoke.

NRL chief executive David Gallop said he was holding out hope that some of the more precious items would be salvaged.

“Obviously, we’re hoping that damage to our photo library and, indeed, that of other sports, is at a minimum,” he said. “The photos are literally irreplaceable and we’re hoping that not too much has been damaged.”

The family business, reputed to be one of the best studios in the country, was also known for its extensive collection of historic school photos, wedding photos and landscape photography.

The blaze started on the second floor of the Heritage-listed site and razed the premises. One witness said the intensity of the flames emitted an oven-like heat and “turned the sky orange”.

Thick plumes of chemically tainted smoke billowed from windows as more than 12 fire trucks and appliances doused the flames.

Melba Studios general manager Kerry Beever said she was hopeful that hallowed items could be recovered: “The next few days will be spent determining just what has been damaged.”,27574,24990055-5006009,00.html

January 31st, 2009

Posted In: Mailing list reports


SINKING FEELING: The boat builder statue

30 January 2009
By Richard Bean
A second statue has been stolen from Wigan Pier.
Leisure chiefs have been left devastated by the disappearance of the boat builder, days after the pit brow lassie statue vanished from the same site.

The evocative figure of a boat builder, positioned on the towpath opposite the former canal dry dock, was torn from its plinth on Thursday evening.

At the weekend, a similar moulding of a pit brow lass, one of four striking figures, was stolen.

Because the glassfibre and concrete works of art have little scrap value, police are baffled by the motive for the attacks, particularly as the figures were so securely fixed into the canalside.

All were due to be unveiled by councillors in the presence of the artist on Thursday.

The four statues and information “interpretation” boards telling the story of Wigan Pier and its historical significance have cost a total of more than £36,000.

However, most of the cost has come from external grants such as the Heritage Lottery Fund and the European Development Fund.

Only two figures, a bargee and a cotton worker, now remain, and security is being beefed up to protect them.

Police have started door to door inquiries to find anybody who may have
seen or heard anything.

It is believed that because of the weight of the sculpture, a vehicle would have been needed to carry it away.

This time the figure had been brutally smashed off the plinth and its foot left behind.

It looks like the thieves originally tried to dig him out, but then, finding the depth of the footings – they go a metre into the canalbank – gave up.

Tourism manager for Wigan Leisure and Culture Trust Keith Bergman said: “We are devastated and disappointed.
“This scheme was developed for the people of Wigan to celebrate our rich industrial heritage.

“This is an orchestrated and a deliberate attack. This goes beyond petty vandalism.
“These sculptures had the potential to be viewed and enjoyed by many people – more than half a million people and visitors walk this section of towpath every year – and we had already received positive feedback from those who had seen the sculptures.

“These sculptures have no scrap value but sadly a few people seem determined to wreck it for everyone.”
Tyldesley Lib Dem Metro councillor Robert Bleakley said although he was “sorry” about the theft, he had already warned the Trust that the statues “wouldn’t last five minutes.”

He added ruefully: “I feel story for the hard work put in by council officers and I’m all for promoting the borough’s heritage but I personally think that erecting statues was asking for trouble.”

Anyone with information can contact Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.

January 31st, 2009

Posted In: theft reports

Norwich Bulletin
Posted Jan 31, 2009 @ 12:07 AM
Last update Jan 31, 2009 @ 01:08 AM


Norwich, Conn. — In 1994, someone carefully cut a large portrait of Abraham Lincoln from its Victorian frame, which hung in the entrance of Norwich’s City Hall across from the city manager’s office, and disappeared with it into the night.

Fifteen years later, the thief remains at large and the portrait missing — a mystery that perturbs and perplexes city leaders and historians. But with Lincoln’s 200th birthday celebration Feb. 12, there is a renewed effort to recover the posthumous portrait.

Alderman Robert Zarnetske is proposing a reward of up to $1,500 for what his resolution says is a painting worth more than $10,000. Its “immense civic value,” as described in the resolution expected to go before City Council Monday, stems from Norwich’s cherished connections to Lincoln and to the likely artist, John Denison Crocker, who lived in Norwich most of his life.

“It’s important to get it back,” Norwich Historian Dale Plummer said. “It’s an important work of art by an important local artist. At the same time it celebrates and commemorates the city’s association with Lincoln. The theft of the painting was really a crime against the present and future citizens of Norwich. That’s what’s so reprehensible about it.”

Norwich Police Sgt. Patrick Daley was a patrolman at the time of the Lincoln portrait theft. The case was assigned to the detective division, leads were followed, and police came up empty.

But about six months ago, Daley approached Norwich police officer Steven Lamantini.

“He came to me and said, ‘Let’s start working again on the Lincoln caper,’” Lamantini said.

Lamantini and Daley called Plummer, historian Bill Stanley, Slater Memorial Museum curator Vivian Zoe and others to see if anyone had any information or photos of the portrait.

The investigation included poring over a box of 2,500 photos at City Hall to see if any included the portrait, even if in the background. None did. Lamantini called the FBI and checked with other police departments that have seized stolen paintings. Still nothing.

Finally, Zoe found someone who had a photo.

William Hosley, director of the New Haven Museum, has been methodically digitizing part of his personal photo collection from various trips to historical sites across Connecticut and recently came across the Lincoln photo. He e-mailed it to Plummer and Zoe, keeping in mind Lincoln’s birthday.

“The picture was so striking that I figured I better take a picture of the picture,” Hosley said of his trip to City Hall. “It was an extraordinary picture frame. It was the most impressive object of that type. It just leapt out at me.”

Hosley said the thief was “dumb” to take the picture but not the frame, because the frame would be worth even more money than the portrait. Hosley said City Hall simply didn’t assign anyone to care for and secure its artifacts.

Zoe said the portrait was likely painted by Crocker, a local artist whose works are featured in an exhibit at the museum and at City Hall.

“This is a really nice portrait,” she said. “It’s very finished. There’s a writing desk and inkwell and writing pen. He’s holding a paper symbolizing the Emancipation Proclamation. And he’s looking directly at the painter. He looks very approachable and like someone who is the image and icon that we all have come to believe Lincoln was.”

Zoe said the face is “very Crockeresque” because of the details in the folds of the face and Lincoln’s direct look into the eyes of the viewer. The anatomy of the hands also is well done.

Norwich history

Though the painting likely was done about 20 years after Lincoln died, Zoe said it probably was not just a painting of a painting. She said the hands and face likely were based on other images and Crocker simply added the desk and other objects, such as a gold chain that held Lincoln’s pocket watch.

Zoe is unsure whether Crocker signed the portrait.

Plummer said the portrait is especially significant to Norwich because of the city’s ties to Lincoln. On March 9, 1860, Lincoln spoke at the old City Hall and then spent the night at the Wauregan.
Lincoln, not yet a presidential candidate at the time, visited the state to campaign for Republican Gov. William A. Buckingham’s re-election. He was introduced to Norwich as a possible good vice president. Also, a Lincoln campaign banner is on display at City Hall.

Lamantini said it would have been difficult for the thief to sell such a unique item without drawing attention. He suspects the portrait is rolled up in the thief’s home or hanging in a private collection somewhere.

In either case, Plummer and Hosley said they wouldn’t mind if the thief simply left the portrait on City Hall’s doorsteps and walked away.

What’s next
Anyone who has information about the Abraham Lincoln portrait stolen from City Hall in 1994 is asked to call Sgt. Patrick Daley or officer Steven Lamantini at (860) 886-5561.

On Monday, the City Council is expected to review a resolution proposing a reward of up to $1,500 for information leading to the recovery of the item.

The resolution also would authorize City Manager Alan Bergren to publish copies of a newly acquired photograph of the portrait and enlist the assistance of law enforcement officials in the investigation.

January 31st, 2009

Posted In: Mailing list reports


Martin Weigelt was at the centre of a controversy over a photo taken by Vancouver police following his arrest on Nov. 5, 2007. (CBC)

The RCMP paid $20,000 to a career criminal for key information that led to the safe recovery of art treasures stolen from a B.C. museum last year, CBC News has learned.

Martin Weigelt was given the reward because the information he provided helped police recover all 12 pieces of the Haida artist Bill Reid’s work, police sources told CBC News Friday.

The pieces, including bracelets, brooches and cufflinks, were stolen in May from glass-enclosed, stone showcases from the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. Three golden-coloured Mexican art objects also vanished.

RCMP spokeswoman Const. Annie Linteau confirmed Friday that an unspecified amount of cash was paid to an individual.

This gold brooch showing an eagle in profile was one of the last two Bill Reid art pieces recovered last summer. (UBC Museum of Anthropology)
“I cannot go into more details,” she said.

But Linteau said the person rewarded was not a suspect in the heist, meaning the money was not an incentive to the perpetrator or perpetrators of the crime to ensure the safe return of the Haida artist’s works.

Weigelt, 42, has a long criminal history dating back to 1988, according to court documents. He has at least 55 convictions, which include breaking and entering, theft, weapons possession and drug trafficking.

He made news headlines in November 2006 when some Vancouver police officers snapped a trophy photo of him in the police department’s lockup after his arrest. The photograph showed four officers posed smiling with Weigelt, who was wearing a white prison jumpsuit and looked distressed and had an injury to his face.

No charges laid
No one was ever charged in the art heist, and Linteau said Friday that police are still investigating the case.

In June, police searched two residences in Burnaby and New Westminster and recovered 10 of the 12 Reid pieces, as well as the three Mexican items. Investigators arrested three people, questioned them and released them without disclosing their identities.

Police conducted two more searches in July and August and found the last two pieces. The RCMP never said how they made the finds, except that all manner of techniques were used, including round-the-clock surveillance.

With files from Eric Rankin

January 31st, 2009

Posted In: Museum thefts

Aunohita Mojumdar: 1/30/09

A giant granite bowl standing in the entrance to the newly rebuilt National Museum in Kabul embodies the complexity and richness of Afghanistan’s past. Literally layered with history, the bowl was carved during the Buddhist era and inscribed hundreds of years later, after the advent of Islam. On display, it exemplifies how the country was transformed by centuries of invasion and trade, and how an appreciation of change is essential to rebuilding Afghanistan’s identity. Today the bowl also symbolizes survival in a museum that has lost more than 70 percent of its treasures to the depredations of war. It sits on a gleaming pedestal over polished floors, housed in a museum that is painstakingly restoring itself step by step: renovating the building, restoring the damaged artifacts, re-cataloging a fractured inventory, and introducing modern methods of preservation. What’s more, the museum is also working to reestablish its role as protector of heritage in a society fragmented by years of conflict.

The Director of the National Museum, Omara Khan Masoudi, is well acquainted with the challenges. His association with the museum dates back 30 years, many of them painful. At times he watched as militias looted or destroyed the museum’s treasures. At other points, fighting prevented him from even reaching the site. He finally left the country in 2000, returning two years later when the post-Taliban Minister of Information and Culture invited him to take charge of the museum once again.

Contrary to the popular myth that links the Taliban to the destruction of much of Afghanistan’s art and culture, Masoudi reveals that most of the losses took place during the civil war of the mid-1990s, before the Taliban came to power. It was during the mujahidin’s chaotic rule that many of the museum’s artifacts were destroyed, he says.

“When power changed from communist to mujahidin hands [in 1992], there was a security vacuum. The museum was looted,” Masoudi told EurasiaNet. When the mujahidin factions began fighting among themselves, the South Kabul neighborhood where the museum is located became a battleground. “For two years this area was cut off and we could not reach the museum. Rocket attacks set the museum building on fire, destroying a large part of it.”

Masoudi actually recalls how the Taliban helped the museum in the initial years. Most members of the movement were against the destruction of cultural artifacts and paid attention to safeguarding them, he says. In the late 1990s, even the reclusive Mullah Omar issued edicts calling for the preservation of cultural treasures, including the very Bamiyan Buddhas he would later order destroyed.

“I remember one time a Taliban commander said he would destroy the Buddha statutes,” Masoudi said. “The [Taliban] Minister of Information refuted the idea, saying the Taliban regime would not destroy the pieces in Bamiyan. Up until 2000, they helped keep the artifacts safe. I don’t know what happened after that. I think it was some outside pressure that resulted in the edicts issued in 2001 to destroy the Buddha statues and also all the artifacts in the museum that resembled human figures.”

Many observers have speculated that it was the influence of Osama bin Laden on the Taliban leadership that eventually led to the Buddhas’ destruction. Conservative interpretations of Islam forbid the representation of living creatures.

Much of what is left in the museum was saved through a combination of luck, courage and ingenuity. In 1988, as Soviet forces prepared to withdraw from Afghanistan, and as mujahidin forces advanced on Kabul, the government there decided to store many artifacts in three different places around the capital. These efforts helped save precious collections such as the Bactrian Gold, long thought lost forever, that is currently touring museums in the United States.

Now, thanks to the efforts of Masoudi and others like him, Kabul’s National Museum is restoring damaged pieces and reviewing its inventory. With the help of UNESCO and the International Council of Museums (ICOM), the museum is also identifying stolen treasures and attempting to have known pieces returned. Masoudi describes efforts to develop a “red list” of antiquities, illegal to be owned or traded by individuals. “Last year we got back 5,000 pieces,” he said. But preserving the existing treasures is still a challenge. Officials lack the resources to stop illegal archaeological excavations throughout the country.

The museum, Masoudi adds, urgently needs a security system, climate control, and illumination that will allow light sensitive objects to be stored and displayed according to conservationist requirements.

One of Masoudi’s greatest laments is that the museum’s collection of Afghan heritage is inaccessible to many of the country’s citizens. “It is also important to have museums in the provinces. Not everyone can come to Kabul,” he said. Bamiyan, for example, could have its own museum to display and store artifacts excavated locally, he suggests.

Asked what role the museum will play in shaping Afghanistan’s cultural identity after years of fighting over definitions of identity, Masoudi speaks of the importance of recognizing a multi-layered past. “This country has an ancient civilization. We have to be proud of it, about the pre-Islamic history. We have artifacts which date back 60,000 years or more. When we can display the artifacts belonging to earlier periods in the museum — for example pieces from the Bronze Age — it will be possible for people to understand this very clearly.”

“Educated people try to preserve their culture,” he continued. “Now it is a big challenge.” He believes that it was a lack of education that led to the past looting, and he is keen to ensure exposure to the museum now starts at a young age. “I think every museum has a role in the education of the younger generation. . . . I hope some donors can provide us with one or two buses. Then we could arrange to bring school children here and show them around for free,” he said.

“We could do this everyday. We can host as many as 300 to 400 children at one time,” he continued, as his eyes lit up. “We can show them our country’s rich past.”

Editor’s Note: Aunohita Mojumdar is an Indian freelance journalist based in Kabul. She has reported on the South Asian region for the past 18 years.

January 30th, 2009

Posted In: Mailing list reports


Fate of ‘stolen’ Picassos on trial

By Thomas Zambito

Wednesday, January 28th 2009, 11:36 PM

A Manhattan federal jury will be asked to decide next week if two of the New York art world’s most famous names have priceless Picassos with a Nazi past?

Manhattan Federal Judge Jed Rakoff has rejected efforts by the Museum of Modern Art and the Solomon Guggenheim Foundation to toss a suit filed by the heirs of Paul von Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, a Jewish banker in Berlin in the 1930s.

The family wants the museums to turn over Picasso’s “Boy Leading a Horse” and “Le Moulin de la Galette” which, they say, the Nazis forced the banker to give to an art dealer in the mid-1930s.

“While the record regarding the transfer of these paintings is meager, it is informed by the historical circumstances of Nazi economic pressures brought to bear on Jewish persons and property or so a jury might reasonably infer,” Rakoff wrote.

The heirs “have adduced competent evidence that Paul never intended to transfer any of his paintings and that he was forced to transfer them only because of threats and economic pressures by the Nazi government.”

The museums say German-Jewish art dealer Justin Thannhauser sold “Boy” to William Paley, the former MoMA chairman, in 1936 and gave “Le Moulin” to the Guggenheim as a gift in 1964.

The heirs, historian Julius Schoeps, Edelgard von Lavergne-Peguilhen and Florence Kesselstatt, claim there is no record of a sale to Thannhauser. They’ve agreed to split the proceeds should a jury find they are the rightful owners.

The trial is set to start Monday. The museums declined comment.

January 30th, 2009

Posted In: WWII

7:00am Friday 30th January 2009

A very modern security method has been used to protect a 15th century village church.

The parish church in Dedham, which dates back to 1492, has been given the digital SmartWater treatment to guard it against theft.

An all-weather colourless liquid, SmartWater contains a unique registered code which means that stolen property can be easily identified and returned.

Dedham vicar and lecturer Rev Gerard Moate explained that the step was taken as a mainly preventative measure.

“We are quite fortunate – we have only had one theft in the past year,” he said.

“It helps that we are open every day and that we have so many visitors.

“But this is a small price to pay to keep the church safe and make sure it can stay open all the time.”

He added: “We have put the SmartWater everywhere, including the roof and the gates.

“This won’t prevent a theft, but it gives us a better chance of getting our property back if it is stolen.”

Mr Moate added that other steps have also been taken to heighten security at the church.

He explained: “If people are there wearing high visibility jackets, villagers often assume they’re workmen.

“So now all scheduled work will be listed on the main church noticeboard, so people can check that they’re genuine.

“No vans or trucks will be allowed to park inside the churchyard without a dated parking permit, and some of the internal church lights will also be left on overnight.”

He added: “I hope that the church is at the heart of residents emotionally, and that they will keep an eye on anything suspicious.”

If you have concerns, call Mr Moate on 01206 322136 or church architect Roger Barrell on 01206 322370.

January 30th, 2009

Posted In: Church theft

Goedemiddag collega’s, vrienden. Ik voel me gevleid dat jullie allemaal de moeite hebben genomen om mij te komen uitzwaaien. Dank daarvoor. Het is wel een samenzijn, dat ik zelf met gemengde gevoelens beleef. Want de schaduwzijde van een nieuwe, interessante baan is dat je een andere organisatie verlaat. En in deze organisatie werk ik nu al bijna 7 bepaald niet kalme jaren. In zo’n periode groeit je verbondenheid met de collecties, met de plek en vooral met de mensen die er werken. Mensen die het mij en elkaar lang misschien niet altijd even makkelijk gemaakt hebben, maar waarmee we uiteindelijk een museum gemaakt hebben dat ik met een gerust hart achter durf te laten. Natuurlijk is er nog veel te doen, maar dat zal altijd zo blijven. Voor mij is het nu een natuurlijk moment om verder te gaan.

Had u me 7 jaar geleden gevraagd waar ik mijn afscheidsspeech, dit verhaal dus, over zou houden, ik had niet kunnen voorspellen waar het over zou gaan. Onderwerpen als ethiek en wetenschap had ik waarschijnlijk niet op mijn lijstje gezet. En ik had al helemaal niet durven voorspellen dat dat in een Tempelzaal zou zijn die gevuld is met Irakese en Nederlandse moderne kunst. Dat laat zien dat ikzelf én het RMO sterk veranderd zijn in de afgelopen jaren.
Toen ik met Wim Weijland sprak over hoe dit afscheid eruit zou moeten zien, zei hij meteen dat het a) inhoudelijk moest zijn, b) dat ik er zelf een serieus verhaal moest houden en c) dat dat in ieder geval ook over wetenschappelijke samenwerking en ethiek moest gaan. Mocht u alleen gerekend op de inname van geestversterkende middelen en klachten hebben over de inhoud van het programma en had u kunt u uw beklag doen bij de directeur van deze instelling .

In de afgelopen periode had ik sporadisch even tijd om na te denken over verleden en toekomst. Er waren een paar onderwerpen die ik van belang vind om aan de orde te stellen: bijvoorbeeld de samenwerking met de universiteit Leiden, de verantwoordelijkheid die internationale archeologische projecten met zich meebrengen en de ethiek van de internationale handel in kunst en oudheden. Maar ik zocht een gemeenschappelijke invalshoek voor deze op het oog verschillende onderwerpen.
Toen ik tot mijn teleurstelling hoorde dat de Eerste Kamer in december besloten had om het wetsvoorstel voor de invoering van de Unesco conventie 1970 aan te houden en dat dit wetsontwerp mogelijk van tafel gaat, vond ik mijn gemeenschappelijke noemer voor dit verhaal: FAIR TRADE, eerlijke ruil . Voor alle zekerheid: deze nieuwe wet beoogt om onrechtmatige invoer, uitvoer of eigendomsoverdracht van cultuurgoederen te voorkomen en te bestrijden.

Ik begin dan toch maar even met het perspectief verschuivende beeld dat ik mij in de afgelopen jaren geregeld voor de geest heb gehaald: een archeologische opgraving van de grafheuvels op de Hilversumse hei door een groep archeologen uit –laten we zeggen- China, maar het mag van mij ook Zambia of El Salvador zijn, die, met hulp van lokaal ingehuurde arbeid , kennis over het verleden aan onze bodem proberen te ontfutselen. Die hun bevindingen en misschien wel sommige vondsten vervolgens meenemen naar hun thuisland en daar –al dan niet na zeer lange tijd- in het Chinees of Russisch over publiceren in meer of minder obscure tijdschriften of in kostbare boeken waar een bibliotheek als bijvoorbeeld die van het RMO alleen maar van kan dromen…… Zouden wij dat een eerlijke ruil vinden? Ik denk van niet en toch is dat lang de praktijk van de internationale archeologie geweest en is dat in sommige gevallen nog. En dat we het eigenlijk vaak niet raar vinden, als wij –en dan bedoel ik wij Westerlingen- zo handelen, zegt iets over ons wereldbeeld. Ik vind overigens dat het RMO het als opgravende instantie behoorlijk goed doet: we gaan goed om met de lokale erfgoedinstanties, we pompen geld in de economie, we publiceren relatief veel en snel en we zorgen goed voor onze sites. Met name de site in Sakkara is in de afgelopen jaren uitstekend geconserveerd . Maar dat neemt niet weg dat we het ook raar zouden vinden als buitenlanders netjes bij ons zouden opgraven.

Ik had een tijdje geleden nog zo’n ‘aha-erlebnis’ toen ik een aantal stukken van de Ghanese intellectueel Kwame Opuku op de Museum Security List, de e-mail nieuwsdienst van Ton Cremers , las. Opuku stelt vragen bij de spelregels die vooral Westerse landen hebben opgesteld ten aanzien van legaliteit en illegaliteit van archeologische objecten buiten hun land van herkomst. Het Unescoverdrag uit 1970 dat ik al eerder noemde, wordt steeds vaker gehanteerd als een soort waterscheiding: erfgoed dat voor die datum uit zijn context verdwenen is legaal, daarna is het verboden. Opuku betoogt dat het toch eigenlijk bizar is dat degenen die het meeste erfgoed gestolen hebben, de regels aangaande rechtmatigheid daarvan opstellen. Hij gebruikt vaak het voorbeeld van de zgn. Benin bronzes, bronzen beelden uit Benin , die een eeuw geleden door Engelse koloniale strafexpedities met veel geweld van de bevolking van Benin gestolen zijn, en wel in zo’n omvang dat deze beeldbepalende elementen van hun cultuur in belangrijke mate verdwenen zijn uit hun eigen land. Verliezen de Beninezen, Beniners? het recht op deze voorwerpen omdat degenen die ze gejat hebben regels hebben opgesteld die het bezit legaliseren? Is dat een eerlijke ruil?
Het gaat mij er niet om of ik het wel of niet met Opuku eens ben, maar ik vind zijn vragen wel valide. Is het eigenlijk niet een beetje of een beetje boel arrogant om eenzijdig te verklaren dat je van het “universal heritage” bent, zoals ons eigen Rijksmuseum samen met b.v. het British Museum, het Louvre, The Metropolitan en nog zo’n clubje “haves” gedaan heeft om daar vervolgens de conclusie uit te trekken dat je er “for the benefit of mankind’ bent en je dus eigenlijk nooit iets hoeft terug te geven aan wie dan ook? En hoewel ik eigenlijk ook vindt dat de geschiedenis de geschiedenis is en dat je die niet kunt of moeten willen terugdraaien, vraag ik me af en toe af of ik dat ook zou vinden als ik een “have not” zou zijn. We wachten immers nog altijd op het eerste “Universal museum” in Togo, Tibet of Peru.
Het lijkt me principieel juist dat op zijn minst degenen waar het over gaat aan de tafels zouden moeten zitten waar besloten wordt over hun verleden. Ik kan me in ieder geval niet voorstellen dat wij het in Nederland een goed idee zouden vinden als Duitsers of Chinezen zouden bepalen op welke archeologische schatten wij recht zouden hebben. Ik vind in ieder geval wel dat een zichzelf respecterend land internationale regels over bescherming van erfgoed behoort in te voeren, ook al zijn de regels misschien niet helemaal perfect. Ik vind zelfs dat we ons in Nederland ervoor moeten schamen dat we er sinds 1970 nog niet geslaagd zijn te doen wat inmiddels 116 landen in de wereld wel hebben gedaan: het ratificeren en invoeren van het UNESCO-verdrag. Dat lijkt me wel het meest basale niveau van Fair Trade dat we zouden moeten willen nastreven. Alle prachtige juridische betogen van de Eerste Kamer ten spijt: ik kan me niet voorstellen dat ons Nederlandse rechtssysteem zo wezenlijk anders is als dat van al die 116 andere landen die er wel in geslaagd om dit verdrag in hun nationale wetgeving in te voeren.
Ik probeer me ook wel eens voor te stellen dat de wereld perfect zou zijn en vraag me dan vervolgens af hoe het in die wereld zou zitten met erfgoed? Los van het onderdrukken van een geeuw die voortkomt uit de saaiheid die ik met een perfecte wereld associeer, denk ik dat de beelden van een perfecte erfgoedwereld sterk afhankelijk zijn van je perspectief. Er zijn ongetwijfeld mensen die geloven dat in een ideale wereld alles van belang bewaard blijft en dan liefst ook nog in zijn oorspronkelijke context, zodat je eigenlijk precies kunt weten hoe het verleden, hoe onze voorgangers in elkaar zaten. Ik hoor niet tot die mensen: in de eerste plaats wil ik me niet voorstellen hoeveel spullen we dan als mensheid achter ons aan zouden slepen, maar mijn gut feeling zegt me dat we waarschijnlijk onder de last zouden bezwijken. En hoe aardig is het eigenlijk niet dat ik hier, in het hart van een Hollandse stad aan een 17e eeuwse gracht, voor een echte Egyptische tempel sta te praten? Daarbij vind ik het helemaal niet leuk om alles met zekerheid te weten. Eén van de aspecten die ik altijd spannend heb gevonden aan historische wetenschappen is dat je op basis van onvolledige informatie een beeld mag creëren van het verleden. Een beeld dat overigens vaak minstens zoveel zegt over de beeldvormer als over de werkelijkheid van dat verleden en waarover je met elkaar gepassioneerd van mening mag verschillen. Bovendien zorgt die onzekerheid ervoor dat we wetenschappers nodig hebben die kennis genereren en die als intermediair op kunnen treden tussen heden en verleden. En wetenschap is leuk –zeg ik als niet-wetenschapper- omdat het je dwingt om goed na te denken, om gedisciplineerd onderzoek te doen en tot kritische zelfreflectie: namelijk wat zegt mijn beeld van het verleden over mij en klopt dat beeld dus wel? Een gelijkwaardige ruil dus tussen ideeën en standpunten.

Ik vind het altijd fascinerend om goede wetenschappers te horen vertellen over hun bevindingen, over de manier waarop ze omgaan met de fair trade tussen feit en theorie. Zo zal de ene wetenschapper –wel correct, maar ook wel saai- zeggen dat we bijvoorbeeld niets weten over het al dan niet collectieve plasgedrag van vrouwen in de prehistorie, terwijl andere –ik noem geen namen – er geen enkele moeite mee hebben om daar in nationale media een beeld van te schetsen. Dirk van Delft, directeur van museum Boerhaave , vertelde bij zijn recente inauguratie als prof aan de universiteit alhier het verhaal van een uitvinding waaruit geconcludeerd mocht worden dat niets menselijks wetenschappers vreemd is. IJdelheid, brille, domheid, onbaatzuchtigheid: het komt allemaal voor. Behalve dat het een mooi verhaal was, illustreerde het ook hoe een andere invalshoek, in dit geval die van de verwerving en verwijdering van een voorwerp uit de vaste opstelling van museum Boerhaave, een heel nieuw soort verhaal op kan leveren over de geschiedenis van de wetenschap. En dat is precies één van die dingen die de samenwerking tussen wetenschappelijk wereld en musea zo veelbelovend maken. Wetenschappers maken de verhalen die musea beleefbaar kunnen maken, door er een veel groter en breder publiek voor te vinden dan een wetenschappelijk artikel ooit zal kunnen hebben. Musea –en zeker de Leidse musea- kunnen een etalage zijn voor de wetenschap.
Dan moeten wetenschappers overigens wel willen accepteren dat niet elke voetnoot en nuance zichtbaar kan worden in presentaties voor een niet-wetenschappelijk publiek en moeten tentoonstellingsmakers willen accepteren dat “het publiek” niet zo dom is als ze soms lijken aan te nemen en dat het misschien ook niet zo erg is als niet iedereen alles snapt. Een eerlijk ruil dus tussen inhoud en communicatie.

Eén van de interessantste dingen aan mijn 7 jaar in dit museum is dat er door de omstandigheden een grote diversiteit aan strategieën, visies en ideeën over het optimale functioneren van musea en van het RMO in het bijzonder, de revue zijn gepasseerd. Die hebben mij geholpen om mijn ideeën over musea te ontwikkelen. Toen ik in 2002 bij het RMO kwam, kreeg ik soms het idee dat wetenschap eigenlijk een niet gewenste museale activiteit gevonden werd of sterker nog, dat wetenschap een hinderpaal was bij het bereiken van een groot publiek. Deze strategie was een behoorlijk succes: in aantallen bezoekers en bijvoorbeeld ook de nominatie voor Museum of the Year in 2003 . Maar financieel bleek deze strategie voor het RMO onhaalbaar en geld is helaas een noodzakelijk kwaad.
Daarna volgde een periode waarin we om financiële redenen heel weinig konden veroorloven. Dat had ook positieve kanten omdat er veel tijd en aandacht besteed kon worden aan het werk achter de schermen, maar het had ook weer zo zijn beperkingen: je moet als 21ste eeuws museum nu eenmaal geregeld nieuwe dingen bieden, communicatiemomenten creëren die ervoor zorgen dat je als museum goed in het hoofd van je potentiële bezoekers zit. En bovendien moet je het instrumentarium –de marketing en PR- om in het hoofd van je publiek te komen goed gebruiken, waarin het RMO overigens steeds opnieuw goed in lijkt te slagen.
In de meer recente jaren hebben we creatief gebruik gemaakt van de beperking dat we ons financieel geen grote risico’s konden veroorloven, maar toch wel de ergste crisis te boven waren gekomen. Onder Wim’s leiding is een waar spervuur aan activiteiten ontwikkeld: en ook dat werkt en het levert vergelijkbare bezoekersaantallen op als in de eerste periode. Waarschijnlijk is voor het RMO een fysiek publieksbereik van 100 à 125.000 bezoekers dan ook een reëel bereik. Het is ook het gemiddelde van de afgelopen 20 jaar, ongeacht de strategie die gevolgd werd. En natuurlijk kun je op je hoofd gaan staan en er proberen er 150.000 van te maken. Maar ik vraag me oprecht af wat daarvan de werkelijke betekenis is. Ik vraag me bijvoorbeeld af hoeveel bezoek het Drents Museum gehad heeft sinds de terracotta Chinezen daar vertrokken zijn. Ik weet het oprecht niet en- begrijp me goed: ik gun onze collega’s het succes zeer, fantastisch gedaan- maar ik ben bang dat ze hun bezoek voor de komende twee jaar gekannibaliseerd hebben. Ik weet niet of ik dat een verstandige ruil tussen de korte en de langere termijn vind.

Ik denk daarbij sowieso dat het verstandig is om een optimum te zoeken tussen inspanning, qua geld en qua organisatiebelasting, en publieksbereik. Musea gaan immers over veel meer dan alleen aantallen bezoekers die fysiek over de drempel van het museumgebouw komen. Je kunt je bijvoorbeeld afvragen of je met iets minder activiteiten, die je nog wat beter uit probeert te nutten, niet tijd en energie over kunt houden om nieuwe wegen te bewandelen om publiek aan je te binden.

Volgens mij is het voor musea interessanter om te proberen om alternatieve communicatie met je bezoekers, vooral via je digitale of multimediale kant te ontwikkelen. In dat opzicht hebben we in het RMO wel wat stappen gezet in de afgelopen jaren. Hoogtepuntje was bijvoorbeeld dat onze nieuwe website vorige week bekroond werd door het Historisch Nieuwsblad, als beste historische website! Maar we zijn nog niet veel verder gekomen in de ontwikkeling van digitale toepassingen die op een werkelijk betekenisvol niveau communicatie met publieksgroepen mogelijk maken. Dat komt m.i. ook doordat publieksactiviteiten als tentoonstellingen zoveel energie en aandacht vragen dat er als vanzelf minder overblijft voor het ontwikkelen van nieuwe strategieën die ook op de langere termijn het bestaansrecht van musea bewijzen. Een verstandige uitruil tussen traditionele en nieuwe middelen van publiekbenadering lijkt me van belang.
Ook op andere museale taakgebieden is er steeds een eerlijk en verstandig evenwicht nodig. Toen ik hier in 2002 begon, was het RMO nog betrekkelijk voorzichtig bezig met de professionalisering van de fysieke en administratieve zorg voor de collectie. Nu vorige maand eindelijk ook ons nieuwe depot in de Raamsteeg is opgeleverd , hebben we eindelijk de beschikking over een geheel aan deugdelijke depotvoorzieningen. Ook is het cluster collectiezorg, zoals ik dat ben gaan noemen, sinds 1 januari op een sterkte die beter past bij de omvang en het belang van de collecties en het activiteitenpakket. En we zijn bijna zover dat we de inhoudelijke informatierijkdom van ons collectieregistratiesysteem via internet ook met de wereld gaan delen. Er valt natuurlijk nog veel te doen, nog lang niet alles is af, maar ik ben er trots op wat we met en klein clubje gemotiveerde collectiezorgers bereikt hebben.

Dan de ethiek. Toen ik begon had ik me volstrekt niet gerealiseerd dat we in de dagelijkse praktijk zo vaak tegen issues zouden aanlopen: oorlogskunstcollecties , omstreden tentoonstellingen, metaaldetectie, al dan niet illegaal verhandelde kurassen, gestolen en valse voorwerpen, restauratie-ethiek, zorgvuldige omgang met menselijke resten, enzovoort, enzovoort.
In tegenstelling tot wat sommige denken, zijn deze onderwerpen niet mijn hobby en heb ik weinig natuurlijke neiging tot moraalridderij. Maar het zijn eenvoudigweg onderwerpen waarmee je te maken krijgt en waarmee je moet dealen. Je kunt wel de andere kant op willen kijken, maar dan word je vanzelf ingehaald door anderen die voor jou de agenda gaan bepalen. En als je er dan toch mee aan de slag moet kun je net zo goed het initiatief bij jezelf houden, zoals we in het project Verboden te verzamelen? hebben gedaan en met de recente launch van de website . Deze projecten zijn voor mij het bewijs dat je niet alleen ingewikkelde of controversiële dingen gewoon op moet pakken, maar ook dat je er inhoudelijk en voor je publiek spannende dingen mee kan doen.

Ik ben daarnaast enorm blij dat we in Leiden, met de musea en de universiteit, een mooie vorm gevonden lijken te hebben om het academische onderwijs en debat op dit gebied serieus op te pakken: met de nieuwe masteropleiding Museums Collections and Cultural Politics. Een echte samenwerking en een eerlijke ruil. Ik wil hier mijn Leidse collega’s, in de musea en bij universiteit van harte bedanken voor de warme en stimulerende samenwerking.

Als ik dit allemaal zo loop te vertellen, vraag ik me af waarom ik eigenlijk wegga. Dit zijn tenslotte allemaal zaken die ik bij het RMO heb kunnen en mogen ontwikkelen. En dat is ook wel iets waar ik dankbaar voor ben. Tegelijkertijd heb ik, hebben we er verdomd hard voor gewerkt en is er dus misschien ook hier sprake van een eerlijke ruil tussen inzet en opbrengst.

Zal het in Amsterdam bij de Universiteit leuker voor me zijn dan in Leiden? Ja en nee. Soms wel en soms vast ook niet. Het is een geweldige kans voor mij om op een fantastische plek met een nieuwe erfgoedorganisatie met prachtige collecties en met een enorme potentie aan de slag te gaan. En ook daar zie ik dat er enorm gedreven mensen werken met liefde voor erfgoed en een passie voor hun vak. Ik heb er erg veel zin in om volgende week te beginnen. En af en toe zal het vast ook gewoon op werk lijken. Of het voor mij een eerlijke ruil zal blijken? Ik zal het jullie laten weten!

Tot slot. Wat wij hier samen hebben opgebouwd kan niemand ons meer afnemen. Ik hou mezelf nog een beetje voor de gek door te denken dat ik nog eigenlijk niet echt weg ben. Morgen kom ik nog opruimen en daarna mag ik mijn opvolger nog inwerken en daarna doen we vast nog allerlei projecten samen en ik kom natuurlijk op alle feestjes en en en..
Ja, mijn opvolger. Ik ben blij dat het RMO zo’n goede, ervaren en verstandige museumman als Pieter ter Keurs heeft kunnen vinden voor mijn plek. Dat maakt dat ik met een nog geruster hart in Amsterdam zal beginnen. Ik zie er naar uit om Pieter wegwijs te maken en gun de afdeling Collecties zo’n nieuwe baas.

Ik wil tot slot alle collega’s van de afdeling Collecties en van het RMO enorm bedanken voor de afgelopen jaren . Jullie zijn een deel van mijn leven geworden. Het ga jullie goed en we zien elkaar hopelijk nog vaak terug!

Met vriendelijke groet,

drs. S(teph) C. Scholten
hoofd Collecties/head of Collections dpt.
Rijksmuseum van Oudheden/National Museum of Antiquities

Postbus/P.O. Box 11114
2301 EC Leiden
The Netherlands


Steph Scholten nieuwe directeur Divisie Erfgoed
Gepubliceerd op 18 november 2008

Per 1 februari 2009 wordt drs. Steph Scholten (1961), momenteel nog hoofd Collecties en plaatsvervangend directeur van het Rijksmuseum van Oudheden in Leiden, directeur van de Divisie Erfgoed van de Universiteitsbibliotheek van de Universiteit van Amsterdam. Scholten volgt Judith Belinfante op, die eind 2008 haar functie neerlegde wegens het bereiken van de pensioengerechtigde leeftijd.

De Divisie Erfgoed is eerder dit jaar gevormd door samenvoeging van de afdelingen Bijzondere Collecties UB, Universiteitsmuseum en Allard Pierson Museum. Al deze eenheden maakten al deel uit van de UB, waarin ook de nieuwe divisie blijft ressorteren. De divisie is direct of indirect verantwoordelijk voor alle materialen en collecties die als deel van het universitaire erfgoed kunnen worden beschouwd. Die lopen uiteen van de oude drukken van de UB en de archeologische collecties van het APM tot de archieven van Amsterdamse Studentendisputen, het Computermuseum en de decentrale collecties.

Steph Scholten is al zo’n 20 jaar werkzaam in de culturele sector. Begin jaren ‘90 was hij betrokken bij het befaamde Deltaplan voor Cultuurbehoud, waarbij de Nederlandse Overheid maar liefst 40 miljoen gulden beschikbaar stelde voor conservering van ons nationale erfgoed. Dit resulteerde onder meer in Scholtens lidmaatschap van de projectorganisatie Metamorfoze. Ook stond hij aan de wieg van het rapport Om het Academisch Erfgoed en daarmee van de Stichting Academisch Erfgoed, waarvan de UvA een van de oprichters is.

Later werkte Scholten bij Instituut Collectie Nederland, eerst als beleidsadviseur, later als hoofd van de afdeling Conserveringsonderzoek.

De UvA is bijzonder verheugd dat zij Steph Scholten voor deze uitdagende functie kan benoemen. De nieuwe huisvesting van de Bibliotheek Bijzondere Collecties aan de Oude Turfmarkt en de integratie van alle erfgoedcollecties binnen één organisatie maken een nieuwe oriëntatie mogelijk en noodzakelijk. Scholtens kennis en ervaring sluiten uitstekend aan bij de diverse aspecten van de divisie. Hij zal zeker in staat zijn de vele mogelijkheden die er zijn om het UvA erfgoed ‘aan de man’ te brengen, te benutten.

January 30th, 2009

Posted In: algemeen


Full text:

Dear Dr. Opoku

For quite some time I have read with interest your postings on MSN and elsewhere and closely followed the heated debate on looting, illegal trafficking and restitution since I was a graduate student in the 1990s. Your opinion as to what is right and how the world should deal with cultural heritage appears to be very logical and clear, and in some cases I would certainly agree with your view. In the case of Lord Elgin’s actions,
however, you are utterly wrong – either due to your ignorance of the facts or because your position does not allow you to perceive historic events from a scholarly, i. e. ideologically untainted, or even cosmopolitan point of view.

In fall 2007, I studied large parts of the correspondence between Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin, and his Italian agent in Athens, Giambattista Lusieri, as well as his correspondence with William Hamilton, Lord Aberdeen and all the others involved in the removal of parts of the Parthenon Sculptures at Broom Hall (where the Elgin-family archives are kept). And I am currently working these findings into a book.

I can assure you that the idea of removing the sculptures from the grounds of the Acropolis and from the ruined Parthenon itself was first raised by Lusieri in a letter to Lord Elgin dated 16 May 1801, and ever since Lusieri has repeatedly reported the willful destruction of parts of the ancient monuments on the Acropolis of Athens by members of the Ottoman forces that were stationed there.

I can also assure you that Lord Elgin provided all necessary funds possible (presumably from his wife’s bourse according to Susan Nagel in her well-written and entertaining book on Mary Nisbet, Countess of Elgin) to his agent, to enable him to acquire the necessary equipment and to hire the required work force to remove selected items carefully.

Based on the documentary evidence which I found, I came to the conclusion that Lord Elgin had his agents remove the specimens from the Acropolis in the early 1800s because he believed that doing so would preserve them from further destruction. His intentions appear absolutely honorable, patriotic
and enlightened since he wanted to improve standards of British art and contribute to Britain’s greatness – aristocratic in the original meaning of the world (and not different from what the Marquis de Nointel wished to do for Louis XIV). I cannot see therefore what we gain from being judgamental and from constantly smearing the name of a historic figure whose achievement still felt today was to set-off the reception process of the Parthenon Sculptures. Without his will to have them removed – and to pay for it – the world would probably never have found out that they are, as Mary Beard once wrote, “worth quarrelling about.”

In my opinion – and based on my experience gained from working in a so-called source country – it would have been highly immoral for Lord Elgin, against his better knowledge to have left the Parthenon Sculptures on the Acropolis of Athens to the vagaries of time. It is therefore not a baseless argument to claim, that his actions helped to preserve some of the marbles from the Parthenon under better conditions than those that remained in Athens.

Similarly false is your assumption that “nobody except officials of the British Museum and their friends believe that the Parthenon /Elgin Marbles ‘are owned by us all, in trust for the world.’” As for your rhetorical “Tell this to the Greeks!” you might want to read Yannis Hamilakis’ The Nation and its Ruins. Antiquity, Archaeology and National Imagination in Greece (Oxford University Press 2007), in which the author demonstrates how monuments from classical antiquity get monopolized by all sorts of people – but certainly not by the ones who created them. And then it would be interesting to know which UN- or UNESCO-resolution did actually demand the return of the Elgin Marbles to Greece, as you imply in your next paragraph. Have I missed something?

You obviously do not share the view that the large museums of the world, some of which have their roots in the 17th and 18th century, should keep their historically grown collections intact in order to continue the excellent and important work they have done so far if a modern nation state requests the return of some “unjustifiably taken object”. In doing so you seem to acknowledge that these collections also have holdings of “justifiably” taken objects. I only wonder who in your opinion is entitled to decide which of these items has been justifiably taken from source countries ages ago and which has not, and furthermore, what are the criteria for such decisions? Is your assumption not just as arbitrary as the arguments you claim to hear from those institutions that hold items of material culture in trust?

Claiming that the restitution of some works of art that have left their country of origin several generations ago to a current modern political construct would improve their impact on today’s world or undo old deeds is a fantasy. I must confess that I have always suspected, but could never get concrete proof, that the reasons for requesting the return of the Elgin Marbles by some politicians and scholars are more prosaic than academic, humanitarian or idealistic. I have also seen a lot of vanity-driven hypocrisy in this whole campaign: asking for the pieces in the British Museum but not for the ones in the Louvre, the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, the Martin von Wagner Museum in Würzburg, and so on. Where is the logic? What unification would one achieve? Why destroy one gradually developed ensemble of world culture that for the last 200 years has played and continues to play such an exceptional role in introducing people from every corner of this planet to the cultures of the world? In this respect I find your next claim quite disturbing: “indeed the whole world, including the majority of British citizens hope that the
British Museum and the British Government will finally do what is morally and legally correct: return the Parthenon marbles to Athens!” (I love your exclamation marks). You may speak for yourself, but I seriously doubt that you should speak for the “whole world”, as I am inclined to believe that it is not only I who is convinced that the Elgin Marbles are fine where they are and that they should stay there – because the British Museum in its present form and history is arguably one of the most exciting and inspiring museums in the world and, as such, an exception.

I would also like to remind you that the Elgin Marbles were not looted, but left the Ottoman Empire with the approval of the then ruling authority, even if this appears unthinkable in today’s terms. Looting is something else. It is caused by two of mankind’s worst deficiencies: vanity and greed. It is this greed that leads to organized crime, which then leads to industrial-scale type looting of archaeological sites – and the destruction of archaeological data – for the financial gain of only a few. This greed also fosters corruption and hypocrisy among some of the responsible authorities in so-called source countries, while, when combined with vanity, it can sometimes lead to unwise and arguably unethical acquisitions by
dealers, private collectors and museums alike. We may enter a moral discussion about the events of the past, but we cannot change the principal forces of history. What we can do, however, by accepting history as a manmade sequence of events, is to do our best to prevent further mistakes on the “consumer side” and to minimize the damage done on the “producer’s” side. We should try to decrease the ongoing worldwide looting and loss of cultural heritage by educating the people living in source countries and by raising their awareness of what they lose when engaging in looting. In doing so, we make a clear distinction between current and recent looting and the sanctioned removal of ancient artefacts such as the Elgin Marbles, the Venus of Milo or the Great Altar of Pergamon. We should also acknowledge that the Elgin Marbles could only contribute so much to our understanding of the ancient world and the formation of Philhellenism which ultimately lead to the foundation of modern Greece, because they were brought to England in 1806. The British Museum assumed its responsibility and had a crucial educational role in this. It is therefore foolish, in an impulse of misguided post-imperial revisionism, to undermine one of the world’s oldest and greatest public collections, to request its dismemberment, and to continue wasting time, money and energy on demanding the return of the Elgin Marbles to Greece, when there are many more urgent issues that desperately
need resources and attention.


Marc Fehlmann
Department of Archaeology and Art History
Faculty of Arts and Sciences
Famagusta/ Gazimagusa, Norhern Cyprus
Via Mersin 10, Turkey

From: Prof. A.M. Snodgrass [mailto:ams1…] On Behalf Of
Prof. A.M. Snodgrass
Sent: Wednesday, January 28, 2009 10:32 AM
To: museum-secur…
Cc: tomfl…
Subject: Response to Marc Fehlmann

Dear Marc Fehlmann,

I haven’t met Dr. Kwame Opoku and don’t necessarily agree with every word that he writes, but I found parts of the opening paragraph of your response to him to be tendentious, insulting and finally arrogant, in your apparent assumption that a “scholarly, i.e. ideologically untainted … point of view” is something that you have and he doesn’t.

More vaguely directed, but just as offensive, are your accusations of “vanity-driven hypocrisy”. Oddly, you choose to exemplify this by pointing to the failure to ask for the return of the Parthenon fragments in Paris, Copenhagen, Vienna or Würzburg, at the same time as those in London. What makes you so sure that no such requests have been made ? How do you think that the fragments previously in Heidelberg, Palermo and the Vatican have already come to be returned to Greece ?

“Have I missed something ?”, you ask at one point in your tirade. The answer is “Too many things to be listed here”. Perhaps one example will suffice: Elgin’s letter to Lusieri of 10th July 1801, making clear that initially his motive was not yet “to improve standards of British art”, but to beautify his newly-built house in Fife. One should not conflate results, or high-sounding afterthoughts, with true intentions.

What we as readers miss from your letter is any reference whatever to the aesthetic argument: that the pieces removed by Elgin make up somewhat less than half of what survives of the Parthenon sculptures, that roughly the same proportion is in Athens, now housed in the New Acropolis Museum and that numerous joins, within the same relief or the same figure, can be made between the two. These are matters of fact, not of opinion; their bearing on the case for reuniting the Parthenon sculptures is all the more important because they apply to so few other works of ancient sculpture.

You end with a fanfare about the indirect role of the Elgin Marbles, through Philhellenism, in “the foundation of modern Greece”. Apart from the ‘fast-forward’ pace of history that it implies, I would give anything to hear the view of Lord Byron* on this interpretation.

Yours sincerely,

Anthony Snodgrass
Chair, British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles

* In Byron’s epic poem Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, (Ton Cremers)

Dear Professor Snodgrass

Thank you very much for sharing your thoughts regarding my reaction to Dr Opoku’s posting. It was to be expected that those supporting the reunification of the Elgin Marbles with the remaining Parthenon sculptures in Athens would not appreciate my views. I regret, however, that my initial response to Dr. Opuku has apparently been lost in the trenches of the pro- and contra-restitutionalists; allow me therefore
to summarise as follows:

1. The honourable intentions of Lord Elgin’s agents and himself to preserve ancient masterpieces on the Acropolis by having them removed from their original context do, I believe, have to be acknowledged. It is a shame that since the publication of William St. Claire’s book, Lord Elgin’s investments and his workmen’s achievements are often described by restitutionalists as being driven by greed and dishonest intentions. Dr Opoku’s statements were unfortunately just another example of this stance. You must surely agree that the
material damage suffered by the remains in Athens from 1802 onwards (loss of surface, including the loss of whole faces through weathering, war and pollution) was avoided on the pieces that were brought to London. To describe in today’s world one action as vandalism – when, in fact, it contributed to the very preservation of the sculptures – while the undeniable neglect of the cultural heritage over generations is conveniently omitted – is at best a partial view (we need not agree on this last point).

2. To imply that large museums are only made up of stolen or looted artefacts and that an institution like the British Museum is deliberately holding back Old Master drawings that were looted during the Nazi era when, in fact, the British government is currently altering existing legislation to allow national museums to return such artefacts, is a gross overgeneralization. Not to accept that the British Museum’s mission to preserve the historical continuity and unity of its collection has any legitimacy is, in my opinion, erroneous.

3. To link the case of the Elgin Marbles again and again with the looting and illicit trade of the last forty years is simply wrong, both academically and legally. It smacks of propaganda. To spend so much time, energy and money on the restitution claim of the Elgin Marbles when there are more pressing archaeological matters such as the looting of sites, from the Nok civilization to the looting in Thessaly, is, in my opinion, rather misguided.

Let me now turn to the observations you have made concerning my response:

It may well be that requests of some sort (through diplomatic channels, informal dinners among archaeologists, and so on) for the return of the remains of the Parthenon sculptures in Austria, Denmark, Germany and France have been made, but no such official request has, to my knowledge, been published despite the Greek Ministry of Culture’s usual alacrity in announcing such moves. My assumption,
therefore, was based on information that may not be congruent with the information that you, as Chairman of the British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles, may well have.

My question as to whether I have missed something was clearly linked to Dr Opoku’s implication that the UN or UNESCO did pass resolutions to return the Elgin Marbles (I recognize that this is not what Dr Opoku literally penned). His sentence is, in my opinion, propagandist rather than scholarly. If you feel, however, the need to insult me because my personal opinions do not dovetail with yours on the abovementioned points, then you are either, at best, merely fulfilling your role as Chair of the British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles, or at worst, confirming the hostile stance that scholars experience when not in agreement with a mainstream, pro-Greek opinion about cultural heritage (you may wish to have a look at my postings on looting in Cyprus).

Your claim that Lord Elgin’s original motive was not “to improve standards of British art, but to beautify his newly-built house in Fife” appears to refer to the letter published by A H. Smith in 1916,pp. 191-2. If you read it carefully, however, you will see that Lord Elgin gave the following instructions to Lusieri:

“that the Formatori should be able to take away exact models of the little ornaments or detached pieces if any are found, which would be interesting for the Arts. The very great variety in our manufacturers, in objects either of elegance or luxury, offers a thousand applications for such details. A chair, a footstool, designs or shapes for porcelain, ornament for cornices, nothing is indifferent, and whether it be in painting or a model [i. e. a plaster cast], exact representations of such things would be much to be desired.”

I do not know how you interpret this text, but I find it fairly straightforward.

With reference to the second part of your claim, permit me to cite the relevant text:

“The plans for my house in Scotland should be known to you. […] The Hall is intended to be adorned with columns – the cellars underneath are vaulted expressly for this. Would it then be better to get some white columns worked in the country, in order to send them by sea to my house? Or to look out for some different kinds of marble that could be collected together in course of time, and decorate the hall in the manner of the great Church at Palermo with columns all different one from another, and all of the fine marble – supplementing them with agates an other rare marbles which are found in Sicily, and which are worked in small pieces? […] In either case […] I have other places in my house which need it, and besides, one can easily multiply ornaments of beautiful marble without overdoing it; and nothing, truly, is so beautiful and also independent of changes of fashion.”

I do not see any reference to the sculptures from the Parthenon, and can certainly not detect any intention for having them moved to Broom Hall, but I am aware that this is a claim often made by the “restitutionalists”.

Regarding your next attack concerning the absence on my part of an aesthetic explanation, I do not believe that you require such an argument since the advantage of bringing together different fragments from the same monument is not contested, even at times when perfect facsimiles would be able to replace the missing originals in one place or another. I did not enter this aspect of the debate because it did
not form part of Dr Opoku’s text. I have no reason to question aesthetic arguments in this matter. What I do question, however, is the rhetoric in Dr Opoku’s mantra about the “evil” British Museum (which, as you must surely be aware, is not his first), and the reasoning behind his request for dismantling the British Museum’s collection.

Your concluding remark about Lord Byron’s hypothetical view of my opinion on the existing cynicism and hypocrisy in the (academic and political) establishment would indeed be interesting. I am glad that we agree on that point at least.

Thank you very much for your interest, consideration and time.

Yours sincerely,

Marc Fehlmann

January 29th, 2009

Posted In: Dr. Kwame Opoku writings about looted cultural objects

Swedes hand stolen drawings back to Russia

Published: 28 Jan 09 13:49 CET

Five rare watercolour drawings stolen from a St. Petersburg museum in the early 1990s are finally heading back to Russia after turning up at a Stockholm auction house.

* Karin Bergöö Larsson: Mother, muse and artist (9 Dec 08)
* Stockholm art installation wins international award (12 Nov 08)
* Bildt calls for new EU talks with Russia (10 Nov 08)

The drawings, depicting three 19th Century Russian warships – the Russia, the Empress Alexandra and the Fershampenuaz – surfaced unexpectedly among several works up for auction at Stockholms Auktionsverk in March 2008.

“Today is a very important day for Russia,” said Russia’s ambassador to Sweden, Alexander M. Kadakin, at a signing ceremony at the Russian Embassy where the works were formally handed over by the auction house.

“Many things have been stolen from Russian museums and galleries, only to surface abroad. And in this case we have these great artistic and historical treasures returning to their homeland.”

In accepting the drawings, Kadakin also thanked Stockholms Auktionsverk managing director Niclas Forsman for his cooperation in ending what the ambassador called “a thrilling detective story”.

In the tumultuous times following the collapse of the Soviet Union, hundreds of Russian art treasures went missing, including the one-of-a-kind warship drawings, which are thought to have been taken in 1992 when St. Petersburg’s Museum of the Military and Naval Engineering Institute was undergoing renovation.

Among the drawings was the only known depiction of the Russia, the Emperor’s flagship naval vessel in the Crimean War battle for Sebastopol.

Kadakin added that the fact that the drawings were accented with watercolour meant that they were meant to be seen by the Emperor himself.

Following their theft, the drawings weren’t seen again until they appeared in the catalogue for Stockholms Auktionsverk’s auction of Russian art in March 2008.

According to the auction house, the seller had purchased the works in good faith and had no idea they were considered stolen when he put them up for auction.

After learning of the drawings’ history, the seller agreed to donate them back to the museum in St. Petersburg.

“These drawings are extremely rare and very valuable, and we are happy to have them back,” said Kadakin, who again thanked the auction house for assisting with many of the legal and administrative details to help make the handover possible.

The head of Stockholms Auktionsverk’s was also happy to see the paintings start their journey back to Russia.

“I’m just pleased that this story has a happy ending,” he said.

External link: Photos of the ceremony at the Russian Embassy »

David Landes (david.lan… 8 656 6518)

January 29th, 2009

Posted In: Museum thefts

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January 28th, 2009

Posted In: Mailing list reports


Lauren Gelfond Feldinger | 28.1.09 |

JERUSALEM. After a 3,500-year history of invasions, the latest war on the beleaguered coastal strip of Gaza has once again put historic sites at risk.

The fragile ceasefire in force at the time of writing has allowed some information to emerge about the fate of Gaza’s cultural heritage. Gaza’s only museum, a private antiquities museum run by Gazan contractor and collector Jawdat Khoudary, was badly damaged during Israel’s 22 days of air and land strikes. The glass doors and windows have been shattered and the roof and walls have been damaged. Roman and Byzantine pottery, Islamic bronze objects and many amphorae have been destroyed, initially during shooting 20m to 200m away, and later because of nearby shelling, with one direct hit to the museum’s conference hall, Mr Khoudary said. Amphorae, clay and ceramic vessels with two looped handles, were created in Gaza and the region during the fourth to seventh centuries for holding wine, olive oil and food and trading perishable commodities.

Meanwhile, anxieties are growing about the fate of the city’s antiquities. “I am very concerned: the entire Gaza Strip is an archaeological site,” Palestinian archaeologist Professor Moain Sadeq said.

Professor Sadeq founded the Palestinian Antiquities Department of Gaza in 1994, and is currently a visiting lecturer at the University of Toronto while in contact daily with Gaza. “Historical sites and buildings in Gaza are adjacent to urban areas, so any location that was hit as a target also put the nearby historical sites and buildings in danger,” he said. Major sites where damage is expected because of heavy fighting in adjacent areas include: Tell es-Sakan, an early Bronze Age settlement that is the largest and oldest walled Canaanite city in the local region, and the oldest Egyptian fortified site outside of Egypt; Tel el-Ajull, an important middle and late Bronze period city that was an important trade hub between ancient Egypt and the Levant; and the remains of Anthedon, a Hellenist port. The Byzantine church of Jabalya was also near heavy fighting, and was the site of partial damage by Israeli tanks during an incursion in 2005. Al-Zeitoun residential quarter in
Gaza’s Old City, a medieval historic district, has also been largely destroyed, Professor Sadeq added.

Archaeologists are expecting assessment of all of Gaza’s historical sites to be slow. As humanitarian assistance is the urgent priority, serious archaeological surveys of historic sites will be delayed. “I hope that Israel and the Palestinians will work to restore the sites. I am worried about Gaza sites that were excavated and are above the ground because I am sure during the military activity that some sites have been damaged,” Dr Yigal Yisrael, of the Israel Antiquities Authority Ashkelon region and Western Negev said.

The first mention of an invasion in Gaza dates back approximately 3,500 years to the annals of Pharaoh Tuthmosis III. At least a dozen empires have controlled Gaza in its 6,000-year known history, including the ancient Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Macedonians, Romans, Byzantines, Muslims, Crusaders, Mamluks, Ottomans and British, and the modern states of Egypt and Israel. Artefacts from ancient Muslim, Jewish and Christian communities are routinely discovered.

Even so, Gaza has not been widely excavated. In recent history, the Palestinian authorities have faced shortages of funding, staff, equipment and conservation facilities. Local artefacts could previously only be viewed in foreign museums, such as in Istanbul, London and Jerusalem, until Mr Khoudary opened his museum in August with his private collection of artefacts salvaged from land and sea, during two decades in the construction business. The museum was originally planned as a national museum, with backing from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, until Hamas took authority in Gaza in 2007.

Since 1994, seven major sites in Gaza have been excavated by the Palestinian Antiquities Authority, but in late 2000 activity stalled with the rise of the intifada. According to American archaeologist Professor Lynn Swartz Dodd of the University of Southern California, the latest war in Gaza has also stalled plans for joint Israeli-Palestinian excavation projects in the West Bank, including a heritage preservation field school.

Professor Dodd and Professor Ran Boytner of the University of California, Los Angeles, oversaw a five-year secret committee of Israeli and Palestinian archaeologists that culminated last year in the publication of a 39-point archaeological joint heritage plan, dubbed “the archaeological peace plan”. This group also published the first public archaeological database of archaeological work in the West Bank and Gaza since 1967.

“A significant educational and training endeavour and the intended investment in a heritage resource that would have been made through that partnership have become invisible causalities of [the] conflict,” Professor Dodd told The Art Newspaper.

Professor Sadeq says that the need now is to invite colleagues from abroad to come and help in Gaza. New sites may also emerge from such an effort, as scores of buildings were erected without salvage excavations first, before he founded the Gaza Antiquities Department in 1994, he adds.

“We need expertise, technical support and various types of help with conservation,” Professor Sadeq said. Swiss experts from Geneva’s Museum of Art and History, which hosted the first satellite show of Gaza antiquities in 2007 from Mr Khoudary’s collection, have already voiced plans to assist with assessment and conservation. “I hope other international organisations will also help. If there is peace, antiquities should be a priority, after humanitarian aid,” Mr Khoudary said.

January 28th, 2009

Posted In: Mailing list reports


Each of the 12in x 10in paintings is valued at more than £2000 and all concern the subject The Hardman’s Face. Police said one of the unframed paintings was oil-based while the other three were pastels.

Police appealed for information from anyone who may have innocently bought them or who has been asked to frame them.

The paintings were taken from a house in the village of Croftamie, near Drymen in Stirlingshire, between 11am and 4pm on January 19.

Central Scotland Police said the owner of the house, who did not want to be identified, was home at the time of the theft but was not aware of it. A quantity of jewellery, thought to be valued at about £8000, was also taken.

Howson, 50, was born in London but moved to Prestwick, Ayrshire, at the age of four. He spent a short time in the Royal Highland Fusiliers before leaving to study at Glasgow School of Art.

He is known as a member of the New Glasgow Boys movement that rose to prominence in the 1980s.

He was appointed as the official British war artist during the Balkans conflict in the early 1990s.

In 1998, his work appeared on a controversial postage stamp commissioned to celebrate engineering achievements. It was said to infuriate the Queen, whose head seemed to be appearing out of a chimney.

Howson has painted two nude portraits of singer Madonna, and his work has been collected by David Bowie and Bob Geldof.

12:58am Tuesday 27th January 2009


January 28th, 2009

Posted In: theft reports

By Rene Bruemmer, The GazetteJanuary 27, 2009 1:01 PM

SQ chief inspector for economic crimes Michel Forget looks over one of several statues stolen from parks and building under construction. The accused, Richard McClintock, is also charged with being in the possession of 80 paintings he forged with a total value of $1.5 million.

Photograph by: Marcos Townsend, THE GAZETTEMONTREAL- In a sun-drenched room of the Musée des beaux arts sit three dozen paintings bearing the signatures of the masters of the Quebec and international art scene: abstract oil paintings by Quebecers Jean-Paul Riopelle and Paul-Émile Borduas, impressionist landscapes by Montrealer Fernand Toupin, multicoloured fabrications by Belgium’s Pierre Alechinsky.

Unfortunately, according to police they’re all the art work of local talent Richard McClintock, 50, of Quebec City, who last week was arrested and charged with 75 charges of fraud, forgery and the possession of goods obtained under a criminal nature.

He sold two of the pieces to Montreal art dealers for $25,000 each.

In an effort to combat what police officers call the third-largest international criminal enterprise after the drug trade and arms smuggling, the Sûreté du Québec and RCMP have announced a new squad of four officers dedicated to combatting art-related crime, specifically theft, forgery, smuggling and reselling.

Since 2004, the SQ has dealt with more than 450 cases involving art theft, leading to 20 arrests, and seized nearly 150 stolen artworks worth more than $2 million.

The unit, which will work closely with national and international agencies, is the only one of it’s kind in Canada. Quebec police decided to form one because its years of expertise in the field have given it a 15 per cent recovery rate for stolen items, far better than the international average of 8 or 9 per cent, officers said. Art theft is not more common in Quebec, they said.

They have already established an email used to alert or collect information from 50,000 art dealers, museums, auction houses, collectors and police services in 70 countries about lost or stolen pieces. The email address is

January 27th, 2009

Posted In: forgery

Greece to help Iraq cultural reconstruction

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, left, and his Greek counterpart Dora Bakoyannis answer questions during a press conference after their meeting in Athens, Greece, on Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2009. Bakoyannis said Greece has agreed to provide technical and financial aid to repair and reorganize Iraqi museums and cultural sites damaged and looted during the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece pledged Tuesday to provide financial and technical aid to help Iraq restore and conserve its damaged archaeological sites and museums.

Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis said Greece and Iraq have also agreed to build a monument honoring the Greek warrior-king Alexander the Great at an ancient battlefield in southern Iraq.

She was speaking after talks in Athens with Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari.

Iraqi museums and sites suffered extensive damage and looting in the wake of the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. The National Museum of Baghdad, a treasure trove of artifacts from the Stone Age through the Babylonian, Assyrians and Islamic periods, fell victim to bands of armed thieves. Up to 7,000 pieces are still missing.

Zebari welcomed the Greek offer of cultural assistance, which he said followed an Iraqi request.

“We have great need of such assistance,” he said, adding that technical committees from both countries would meet to discuss the details.

Zebari said the battlefield monument would underline the interaction of civilizations in the region.

It will be built near the city of Mosul, where Alexander won a crushing victory over a Persian army in 331 B.C. At the time, Iraq was part of the Persian Empire, which stretched throughout most of the Middle East.

January 27th, 2009

Posted In: Mailing list reports


16th-19th Century Stolen National Library Books Purchased Back in Peru

LIMA — Historical books stolen from the Peruvian National Library, or BNP, among them one dated 1576, have been privately sold, the El Comercio newspaper and library officials said Monday.

The four books from the 16th and 19th centuries, three of them published in Spain and one in Mexico, which number among the most significant holdings of the BNP, were acquired by a collector to prevent their irreplaceable loss, and he reported the case to the daily.

The collector received a visit from a man who offered the valuable books to him but he rejected the deal and threatened to report him to the police. To his surprise, a few days later another person came to visit him and offer to sell him the same books, and it was then that he decided to acquire them to prevent their potential loss.

The collector has not wanted to reveal his name or the amount he paid for the books, but according to an expert quoted by El Comercio, in the case of the older “Papirii Massoni Annalium,” the purchase price could be up to $5,000 on the black market.

“We were familiar with the matter and the case is in the hands of the police,” BNP spokesman Ignacio Arana told Efe, adding that a “mafia … (of) three or four” people are operating in Peru and trafficikng in ancient documents stolen from libraries and historical archives.

Arana said that the theft of the books could be the work of people who pose as researchers to gain access to the classified documents, or even BNP employees who offer their services to the criminal outfits.

The BNP spokesman said that a press conference would be called later or a communique would be issued by the library to shed more light on what happened, but he added that he did not know the total number of documents that have been stolen or have disappeared from the BNP in recent years. EFE

January 27th, 2009

Posted In: library theft

Artifacts Stolen From KCK Museum.
Police Arrest One Suspect, Seek Another.

January 26, 2009.

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Police are looking for crooks who broke into a Kansas City, Kan., museum.

Officers said the thieves stole several thousand dollars’ worth of items.

Police arrested one suspect in the case and recovered some of the museum’s missing items, including a set of slave chains, antique lamps and a Singer sewing machine.

Museum workers said some of the items were returned to the porch at the museum, but a uniform worn by the first black firefighter in the area is still missing.

Police said they are looking for another person in connection with the break-in.

January 27th, 2009

Posted In: Museum thefts

P.K. Abdul Ghafour | Arab News.

JEDDAH: Prince Sultan bin Salman, chairman of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA), said Saudi Arabia was working hard to retrieve national antiquities within the framework of a comprehensive program.

“We have been assigned by higher authorities to retrieve these antiquities after locating them. In fact, we have been successful in bringing back some of them from Britain and other countries. Most of the antiquities were safe in world museums,” he said.

Speaking to reporters after opening an exhibition of GCC antiquities at King Abdul Aziz Historical Center in Riyadh, Sultan said the SCTA would hold an exhibition of national antiquities retrieved from foreign countries in the same place within four months. He said the new antiquities law would be very strict in dealing with the issue of smuggling antiquities.

He spoke about valuable historical sites that abound in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries, which were at the crossroads of civilizations.

“The commission deals with places of historic importance within the perspective of Shariah and with the intent of protecting them. However, we’ll never allow such sites to be turned into shrines,” he said. “We have to project this heritage in order to prove that the Gulf region is not only rich in oil but also in culture and civilization.”

The SCTA chief said Saudi Arabia had intensified ex-ploration with the support of 10 international teams. “We are now passing through a new era of exploration,” he said, adding that the commission would soon hold a media campaign on the importance of antiquities in order to preserve them.

The exhibition titled “Unity of Civilization and Cultural Diversity,” features 700 pieces of antiquities possessed by GCC countries.

Prince Sultan toured the exhibition’s different pavilions to see its various contents. Apart from rare antiquities, the monthlong exhibition features paintings, illustrating important historical and antiquity sites as well as presentations about the history of the Gulf states. Documentaries on several important historical and heritage sites in the GCC are also shown to visitors.

The first GCC exhibition of antiquities was held in Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates.

The exhibition has four sections. First: Prehistory, which extends from one million to 6,000 years to date, displaying relics found in GCC countries. Second: The dawn of civilization, a period that extends from the sixth millennium BC to approximately the third millennium BC. Third: Pre-Islamic period, approximately second millennium BC to a hundred years after Christ. The third part is considered a long period which witnessed the emergence of many civilizations in the Gulf countries under different names. Fourth: Represents the Islamic period from the sixth century AD to the Ottoman era.

The most significant pieces on display at the Saudi pavilion is the Mikab Temah (Temah Cube), an inscriptive cube indicating pre-Islamic times dating back to 18th century before Christ, in addition to potteries representing the Abbasid period and the stone tools and arrows dating back to Paleolithic age. The exhibition will travel to all GCC countries one after another.

January 26th, 2009

Posted In: looting and illegal art traffickers

Shipwrecks! Treasure! Gold, gold, gold! The hallmarks of treasure-hunting are the stuff of adventure stories, more than fun enough to make archaeologists, who are mounting increasing complaints against the pillaging of sunken ships, seem like wet blankets.
But more is at stake than just a few loose doubloons, they say. “The big picture is that a fair amount of humanity’s past we don’t know, and it’s important we don’t let it become lost forever,” says maritime archaeologist James Delgado, head of the Institute of Nautical Archaeology.

The latest flashpoint comes with the recent premiere of the show Treasure Quest on cable’s Discovery Channel (Thurs. 10 pm ET/PT), which follows deepwater exploration company Odyssey Marine Exploration as its teams explore two historic shipwrecks. Odyssey is in hot water with Spain over one of them, fighting it out in U.S. federal court over rights to the wreck code-named the “Black Swan.” Odyssey announced the discovery of the wooden sailing ship in 2007.

An editorial in Archaeology magazine, published by the American Institute of Archaeology, charges that “the Discovery Channel is cashing in on the business of systematically looting shipwrecks” in teaming up with Odyssey. “The artifacts that Odyssey sells might inspire people to wonder about what life was like on board a ship a few hundred years ago when they played an integral role in the rise and fall of nations, but getting real answers about that history requires wrecks to be scientifically excavated and analyzed. The results have to be shared and debated so that they can become part of the historical and archaeological records. Otherwise the artifacts are just trinkets, conversation pieces, or decorative touches on the coffee tables of those who can afford them,” writes the magazine’s Zach Zorich.

“Our series chronicles OME’s exploration efforts, which yield valuable archaeological information,” says Elizabeth Hillman, Discovery Channel’s senior vice president of communications. Odyssey didn’t reply to a request for comments on the editorial. “Odyssey believes good business and sound archaeological practice can co-exist and thrive together, and that the treasures and the knowledge recovered from the deep ocean should be shared with the world,” says the company on its website. Odyssey says it recovered more than 500,000 silver and several hundred gold coins from the Black Swan wreck, some of which it intends to sell to finance its work.

Marine archaeologists, such as Delgado, complain that salvage firms like Odyssey rarely get around to publishing scholarly information on sites. Once sold, artifacts are effectively lost for study by future researchers. For example, archaeologists have analyzed in recent years decades-old discoveries of shipwreck amphora to determine what sort of wine Greece exported in the Classical era, around 500 B.C., impossible if the artifacts had been sold to collectors, he argues.

All this comes as the AIA this month called for increased protection of sunken wrecks through a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) pact called the Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage. The AIA “urges ratification of the same by the United States Government at the earliest practicable moment.” Signed by only 20 small countries, notably Spain and Mexico, the act went into effect on Jan. 2 and bars commercial salvage of shipwrecks and submerged ruins.

From legal disputes between Peru and Yale University over its collection of Incan antiquities, to Italy’s high-profile pursuit of looted artifacts, to the headline-garnering sacking of the Iraq Museum in Baghdad, the public has gained some awareness of the damage that treasure hunters do to archaeology, says Delgado, who starred in National Geographic Channel series on underwater archaeology from 2000 to 2006. “But a double-standard seems to exist for underwater sites,” he says. “Archaeologists just argue that a historical site is a historical site, no matter if it is wet or dry.”

Find this article at:

January 25th, 2009

Posted In: Mailing list reports


Trial Resumes for Former Curator

Now into its fourth year, the trial of Marion True, a former curator at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, and an American antiquities dealer resumed on Friday in Rome. Focus shifted to the dealer, Robert Hecht, who has been accused along with Ms. True of conspiracy to traffic in antiquities looted from Italian soil. Both defendants deny the charges. Daniela Rizzo, an archaeologist, presented documents and photographs of artifacts that prosecutors contend passed through Mr. Hecht’s hands. Mr. Hecht’s lawyer said his client disputed the case made by prosecutors for the provenance of each object. Several objects sold by Mr. Hecht to institutions like the Getty and the Metropolitan Museum of Art have been returned to Italy.

January 25th, 2009

Posted In: looting and illegal art traffickers

By Travis J. Tritten. Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Sunday, January 25, 2009

Photo gallery:

ABU GHRAIB, Iraq — Shepherd boys scale the ancient tower at Aqar Quf with ease.

The ziggurat’s clay-brick walls have eroded into steep cliffs over the past 3,500 years, and the shepherds go hand over hand on a well-known path to the peak. There are no guards blocking the climb, no visitors to watch the spectacle.

On the desert below, the shepherds’ flock grazes among the gutted remains of a museum and restaurant.

The Aqar Quf ziggurat is among the 10 oldest structures in Iraq and once drew hundreds of visitors each week from nearby Baghdad. But the ancient site was abandoned and stripped by looters during the war.

As violence subsides, the government in this rural corner of the Abu Ghraib district is struggling to get national funding to reopen the Aqar Quf historic site and bolster the local economy.

“All these people in the villages get an advantage from [the site] because people come and spend money,” said Alaa Mard Asker, the manager of a local government council who is heading the effort.

The Aqar Quf site is built around the craggy ziggurat and includes a 500-year-old temple complex and a looted visitor center. The surrounding area also has an ancient factory used to make the ziggurat’s clay bricks and could contain more buried artifacts, according to Iraqi officials.

The United States agreed to fund removal of debris from the area on the condition the local council would work with the national government to create a renovation plan, according to Company C, 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division, which oversees the area.

Over the past six months, local officials have drafted plans to rebuild the historic site, but support from the Iraq Ministry of History and Ruins has not materialized.

Many of the country’s rural areas are in desperate need of funding for local infrastructure and reconstruction. The national government, which holds the purse strings in Iraq, has been slow to meet needs outside of Baghdad, leading areas such as Abu Ghraib to feel neglected.

Alaa walked around the abandoned visitor center Monday, pointing to trash-strewn patches of sand that he said could be transformed with ministry funding.

One patch is planned for a fountain and garden, another will be a game field, he said. A new administration building would be built, along with brick walkways to match the style of the ruins.

The ziggurat has been undamaged by the war and stands as it has for millennia. Along with an adjacent 500-year-old temple complex, it must be preserved and will not be touched by new construction, Alaa said.

Legend says a king built the ziggurat around the 15th century B.C. to reach heaven and kill God. The clay bricks and layers of reed mats, culled from a once fertile river valley, have survived the changing environment and the Middle East’s turbulent history.

But little is left of the modern administration building, museum, event stage and restaurant that once served the picnickers and students who visited the site before the Iraq war.

Inside the museum, the rooms are dark and the floors are covered with shards of glass. Artifacts such as etched stones and pottery are mixed with piles of debris. Some museum pieces were moved to safety in Baghdad and the rest were lost to looting, Alaa said.

“When Saddam fell, they stole most of the artifacts,” he said.

Ministry of History and Ruins officials recently visited the damage and requested a site map.

It was unclear if the request signaled progress toward funding. But Aqar Quf might have new hope in the coming weeks.

Elections this month could pick politicians who are more concerned with issues outside the capital and help turn on the funding spigot for Aqar Quf and the Abu Ghraib area, Alaa said.

“We hope they will pay attention to us and give us some money,” he said.

The United States has already provided more than $8 million for public reconstruction work in the Abu Ghraib district, a stretch of land between Baghdad and Fallujah. Similar coalition funding has been pumped into work across the country.

As the war winds down, the U.S. is attempting to shift responsibility for reconstruction projects such as Aqar Quf, which was rated as a key project in the area by Company C when it deployed there in May.

“We think it should be an Iraqi process,” said Capt. David Uthlaut, the company commander.

The coalition could provide an initial boost of construction funding for the site but all planning and funding should be coordinated between the local and national government, Uthlaut said.

“The intent is not only to install a tourist site but to provide jobs for this area,” he said. “They’ve been grinding through the process since August.”

January 25th, 2009

Posted In: looting and illegal art traffickers, Mailing list reports


By Le-Min Lim | 2009-1-25

A PLANNED Paris sale of two Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) bronzes from the late French designer Yves Saint Laurent’s art collection is raising the ire of many Chinese who say they may sue auction house Christie’s International.

Liu Yang, who heads 67 volunteer lawyers, said the group is preparing a lawsuit to block the February sale of two animal-head sculptures – a rabbit and a rat.

They are among 700 works in the Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Berge Collection expected to raise as much as 300 million euros (US$389 million), according to Christie’s.

The proceeds will help set up a foundation for AIDS research.

“For each and every item in this collection there is a clear legal title,” Christie’s said in a statement.

“We strictly adhere to any and all local and international laws.”

Any lawsuit would be filed in the French courts, Liu said. The lawyers seek to block the sale first and ultimately to repatriate the items.

The 1995 United Nations Unidroit Convention limits claims on stolen cultural artifacts to within 50 years of their theft.

All the bronze heads are among 12 zodiac animals from a water-clock fountain in Yuanmingyuan, or the Imperial Summer Palace.

The palace was set ablaze and its treasures plundered and scattered by British and French troops in October 1860.

Sale of a tiger head from the same fountain in 2000 by Christie’s rival Sotheby’s sparked protests in Hong Kong initiated by the city’s law makers.

The horse head was offered by Sotheby’s in September 2007, privately bought by Macau billionaire Stanley Ho for US$8.9 million and donated to the Chinese government. In 2003, Ho bought the fountain’s boar head at a private sale and donated it to Beijing’s Poly Museum which also has the monkey and ox. Whereabouts of the others are unknown.

“These items belong to China and should return to us,” said Liu.

“Prices of these items have soared beyond the reach of civilians and governments.”

The Cultural Heritage Administration’s head of museums, Song Xinchao, said in November last year the sale of the two bronze heads violated international laws and China firmly opposed the auction.

China will try to repatriate lost treasures “through legal channels,” Song had said, without giving details.

More than one million pieces of top-grade Chinese relics are believed to be scattered in more than 200 museums in 47 nations.

Looting was at its worst in the century after the first Opium War (1839-1842), when British, Russian and other foreign troops annexed parts of China.

The chances of repatriating items lost during foreign invasion of China are “a long, complicated legal process,” said He Shuzhong, founder of Beijing Cultural Heritage Protection Center, a non-government organization.

He is also an official at the Cultural Heritage Administration.

“We could spend our time and energy pursuing these lost relics, with little promise of return,” he said. “Or we could move forward and focus on protecting the treasures we still have.”

January 25th, 2009

Posted In: looting and illegal art traffickers

The Tucson Police Department Fraud Unit and the Arizona Attorney General’s Office are investigating a case of possible embezzlement at the Tucson Museum of Art.

Investigators say they believe between $200,000 – $300,000 is missing. Museum officials reported the money missing in mid-December.

Tucson Police say the only suspect in the case worked as an accountant for the Tucson Museum of Art. They say the employee had access to the financial books and may have been embezzling money for nine years.

Yesterday, police served a search warrant at the home of the former employee. They say they seized documents, bank statements and computers from the home. Investigators believe the theft began between 2000 and 2001. No arrests have been made in this case as the investigation is ongoing.

“The museum is confident that it’s suporters will understand the organization and by extension the community it serves were the victims of a crime. The museum immediately turned this matter over to the proper authorities, and is working with them during this ongoing investigation ”

The embezzlement could have dramatic impacts on the museum, which is partly funded by donations.

“It’s not just them that are the victims its for all those people that have doanted monies for their cause, to the museum, that shares victimization in the crime.” says TPD Asst. Chief Robert Villasenor.

The embezzlement was discovered in December.

January 24th, 2009

Posted In: insider theft

We will be seeking legal advice about this posting on Monday.

(Original text at )

The Portable Antiquities Scheme threatens, “We will be seeking legal advice about this posting on Monday.” The Portable Antiquities Scheme standing at the awkward interface between archaeology and portable antiquity collecting is no stranger to controversy. There are a few archaeologists who publicly question some of the things it is doing, the way it reports them and their long term effects on public perceptions of the discipline. There are many more however in the artefact hunting mileu who strongly criticise the Scheme and individual members of its staff, and make various allegations on the “metal detecting” forums. Sometimes justly, most of the time not, but always spitefully, often in the most abusive of terms; on these forums Roger Bland and the Scheme he runs really are libelled outrageously on a regular basis. I do not recall however ever seeing in all of its eleven years activity any public message from the Head of the Scheme addressed to any “metal detectorist” on a metal detecting forum that the PAS intends to “seek legal advice” about any of those comments made by artefact hunters and portable antiquity collectors (I am sure Dr Bland will correct me if I missed one).

If the disturbing Malmesbury coin affair was misreported by the British media, it surely is not my fault. I can only draw the same conclusions as everybody who read this piece of reporting. If Mr Bland is unhappy about what I wrote here on the basis of what I read in the British media, then he only has to fill in the missing facts to set the record straight.
What is it about the entire pro-collecting lobby that they cannot face critical comments and awkward questions on the difficult issues fom those whose prime concern is the preservation of the archaeological record with anything other than threats, aggression and name-calling?

Do visit the original blog!

January 24th, 2009

Posted In: Mailing list reports


We will be seeking legal advice about this posting on Monday.

(Original text at )

The Portable Antiquities Scheme threatens, “We will be seeking legal advice about this posting on Monday.” The Portable Antiquities Scheme standing at the awkward interface between archaeology and portable antiquity collecting is no stranger to controversy. There are a few archaeologists who publicly question some of the things it is doing, the way it reports them and their long term effects on public perceptions of the discipline. There are many more however in the artefact hunting mileu who strongly criticise the Scheme and individual members of its staff, and make various allegations on the “metal detecting” forums. Sometimes justly, most of the time not, but always spitefully, often in the most abusive of terms; on these forums Roger Bland and the Scheme he runs really are libelled outrageously on a regular basis. I do not recall however ever seeing in all of its eleven years activity any public message from the Head of the Scheme addressed to any “metal detectorist” on a metal detecting forum that the PAS intends to “seek legal advice” about any of those comments made by artefact hunters and portable antiquity collectors (I am sure Dr Bland will correct me if I missed one).

If the disturbing Malmesbury coin affair was misreported by the British media, it surely is not my fault. I can only draw the same conclusions as everybody who read this piece of reporting. If Mr Bland is unhappy about what I wrote here on the basis of what I read in the British media, then he only has to fill in the missing facts to set the record straight.
What is it about the entire pro-collecting lobby that they cannot face critical comments and awkward questions on the difficult issues fom those whose prime concern is the preservation of the archaeological record with anything other than threats, aggression and name-calling?

Do visit the original blog!

January 24th, 2009

Posted In: Mailing list reports


volledige tekst:

January 24th, 2009

Posted In: algemeen

Dear friends and colleagues,
I just returned from visiting David at the hospital, and have attached a picture of JJ McLaughlin (Director of the Smithsonian Institution’s Office of Protection Services) presenting him with the 2009 Robert Burke Award. As stated in an earlier email, this was something that David had always hoped for and now he has. JJ told him that this was a unanimous decision by the Conference Board, and that he was very happy to present this to him.


Dave’s manner is still one of peace and calm. He had major surgery last Friday, 16 January, to remove the very large and insidious tumor in his abdomen. Unfortunately the doctors were not able to remove the entire tumor for fear of putting his life in danger. He is not a candidate for chemo or radiation therapy and a second operation is not planned at this time. The doctors have told him he has perhaps 3 months to live and he plans to spend much of the time he has left with his family. His immediate goal (written on his hospital white board this week) is to “go home.”

Between the surgery and the fluids they have drained off, David has lost 100 lbs (45.4 kilos) and said he now weighs 170 lbs (77 kilos). Since entering the hospital on Christmas day, he has not been permitted anything to eat or drink, being only tube fed. His dream for the past three weeks is to have a banana flavored ice cream cone, and he is hoping to be returned to a normal diet and go home within the next week or so.

He said he is really happy to receive the emails & cards from friends & hopes they will continue when he goes home. In case you misplaced it, his email address is and his website is

Best regards,

Andy Wilson
Associate Director for Fire Protection and Safety
Smithsonian Institution
PO Box 37012, Washington DC 20013
Phone 202.633.2678
Mobile 202.345.6554

January 24th, 2009

Posted In: Mailing list reports


22. Januar 2009, 02:52 Uhr

Drei Wochen nach dem spektakulären Einbruch in die Fasanengalerie in Charlottenburg sind jetzt 5000 Euro Belohnung für Hinweise zur Wiederbeschaffung der wertvollen Kunstwerke ausgesetzt worden. Staatsanwaltschaft und Polizei erhoffen sich davon endlich Fortschritte bei den Ermittlungen.

Bislang sind bei den Behörden nach Auskunft von Justizsprecher Michael Grunwald erst sechs Hinweise eingegangen, denen derzeit verstärkt nachgegangen wird. Eine heiße Spur zu den Tätern und der Beute gebe es allerdings noch nicht, sagte Grunwald.

Bei dem Einbruch in der Silvesternacht sind etwa zwei Dutzend wertvolle Lithografien und Radierungen von weltberühmten Künstlern wie Picasso, Matisse und Braque gestohlen worden. Ein Fachkommissariat des Landeskriminalamtes (LKA) fahndet seither mit Hochdruck nach dem Verbleib der Bilder. Hinweise nimmt das Landeskriminalamt unter Tel. 030 4664 945 400 entgegen.

Das Fachkommissariat für Kunstdelikte wurde erst im vergangenen Jahr eingerichtet. Seit dem Fall der Mauer verzeichnete die Berliner Polizei insgesamt eine Verdreifachung der Taten, in den vergangenen fünf Jahren gar eine Verfünffachung. Im vergangenen Jahr registrierte die Behörde knapp 700 Kunstdelikte. hhn/ali

January 23rd, 2009

Posted In: Mailing list reports


From: Justin Perras []
Sent: Friday, January 23, 2009 5:34 PM
Subject: On behalf of Phoenix Ancient Art

Mr. Cremers,

Below is a statement on behalf on Phoenix Ancient Art in response to the allegations made on Museum Security about Ali Aboutaam.

I would kindly request that you post the statement in its entirety to your blog, as it sets the record straight with regard to the real situation with Ali in Bulgaria, which was not as stated by Mr. Brand.

In fact, Reuters, which initially wrote the story, has since written a corrected version that is completely accurate. The story can be read at

Thank you for reading, and I trust that in fairness you will post the below statement.

Warm regards,

Justin Perras


Last week, Reuters wrote a highly misleading story that alleged wrongdoing by Ali Aboutaam in an old legal case brought against him and others in Egypt. The story was misleading in two very serious ways:

First, it did not report what ultimately happened to Ali in Bulgaria — Ali was allowed to return home to Switzerland after Bulgarian courts determined, after a full hearing, that Egypt’s legal procedures were seriously deficient and that Ali never had a chance to challenge the charges against him.

Second, the article did not mention that Egyptian courts threw out the charge in which Ali was named.

The plain, indisputable facts are as follows.

When Ali traveled to Bulgaria recently, he was detained until Bulgaria could evaluate Egypt’s request to extradite Ali on a very old charge of smuggling. Ali was not in jail; he was restricted to Bulgaria and lived at his family’s home. After a thorough evaluation of the Egyptian request, Bulgarian courts rejected it as totally unacceptable. Bulgaria reached this decision based on its explicit finding that the Egyptian procedures by which Ali’s conviction had been obtained fell below the most basic protections of any civilized nation. Ali was convicted without being told of the charge against him, without being present and without even having legal representation. In addition, Bulgaria found that it could not even fully understand what Ali was charged with.

Not only was Egypt’s request firmly rejected — an extremely unusual action in extradition law — but on top of that, it became clear that Egypt had not told Bulgaria that Egypt’s own courts exonerated the people who were charged with Ali and had been told of the charges. In other words, the people who supposedly agreed with Ali to improperly trade in antiquities but who were told of the charges and, being in Egypt, went to trial, were all ultimately found not guilty. In addition, the Egyptian courts criticized the Egyptian prosecution as biased. A translation of the Egyptian court’s decision reads, in part: “The judgment [against Ali Aboutaam] became an excuse by the prosecutor to gain the advantage he wanted, in a matter which would be more suitable to refuse, according to the evidence…[T]he appealed judgment was made because the district attorney’s office had presented all its supporting evidence for the accusations and analyzed this accusatory evidence in detail one after the other, and ignored all the evidence that indicated innocence.”

So, although you would never have known this from the Reuters story:
• Ali is free and is at home in Switzerland after Bulgaria rejected Egypt’s request.
• Ali ‘s detention in Bulgaria (a detention where he could travel within Bulgaria) was not based on any finding of guilt but, instead, on Bulgaria having to hold him until it could evaluate and ultimately reject Egypt’s request.
• Ali’s co-defendants who stood trial in Egypt were ultimately ACQUITTED for lack of evidence to support Egypt’s claims .

At Phoenix Ancient Art, we continue to pride ourselves on our transparency and dedication to complying with and working with law enforcement to ensure the integrity of this trade in all nations.

January 23rd, 2009

Posted In: looting and illegal art traffickers

Aboutaam and Google search

Also read:

More about the Aboutaams:

Ancient alabaster stele goes home to Yemen after criminal investigation

An ICE investigation of Phoenix Ancient Art and owners, Hicham and Ali Aboutaam, found that they were allegedly trafficking in illegally obtained art and antiquities, both violations of the UNESCO Convention on Cultural Property and the Cultural Property Implementation Act. The Aboutaam brothers, Lebanese nationals with Canadian citizenship, are major suppliers of museum- quality antiquities from their galleries in New York, Switzerland and Lebanon. In May 2003, Aboutaam’s attempted to sell, via Sotheby’s auction house a piece known as the South Arabian Alabaster Stele for approximately $20,000 to $30,000. Sotheby’s authenticated the stele but declined to auction this artifact. ICE’s attaché in Rome assisted and obtained proof from Yemen authorities that the stele was stolen. It was forfeited to the U.S. government in December 2003 and eventually returned to Yemen.

Egyptian up-date
Around 200 ancient objects were handed over by Swiss officials to Egyptian representatives in Geneva in November 2003. The items were seized at Geneva Freeport at the end of August 2003 following a request from Egyptian authorities and included statues and fragments of ancient Egyptian gods Ptah and Sekhmet, and of the ancient Greek goddess Aphrodite. In October the Egyptians announced that they had broken a smuggling ring and arrested 15 Egyptians (including high-ranking police and government officials) and one Lebanese citizen (12 others, including two Swiss, two Germans, a Canadian and a Kenyan were still sought). Among the names read to the Cairo court were: Tariq al-Suwaysi, politician and businessman, and the alleged mastermind of the ring, dealer Ali Aboutaam of Phoenix Ancient Art, and the Farags (see also below, ‘the Aboutaams’).
In March 2004, Egypt retrieved two inscribed limestone reliefs from Phoenix Ancient Art, which had been discovered in 1994 at Akhmim (see: ‘The Aboutaams’ below and ‘In The News’, CWC, Issue 10).

The Cleveland Museum of Art’s “Apollo Sauroktonos” has captured attention around the world, not only for its beauty, but for the questions it raises about when it’s proper for a museum to buy an ancient work of art without a complete provenance, or ownership history.

Dr. Hawass Calls for Return of Stolen Artifact

In a press conference held today in Supreme Council of Antiquities ‘s premises (SCA), Dr. Zahi Hawass secretary general of the SCA asserted that May 15 was the final dead line given to St. Louis Art Museum (SLAM) to return Ka-nefer-nefer mask stolen and smuggled out of Egypt sometimes in late 1950’s.

More about the Aboutaams ‘illustrious’ ways of dealing:

January 23rd, 2009

Posted In: looting and illegal art traffickers

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January 23rd, 2009

Posted In: looting and illegal art traffickers

Turist sai Tallinnast võileivahinnaga 6 miljonit krooni maksva ikooni
Pekka Erelt

150 000 KROONI: 1700. aastast pärinev ikoon kujutas prohvet Taanieli lõvikoopas ja stseeni loomisloost. Pärast pealmise värvikihi eemaldamist paljastus saladus. Vaata kõrvalküljele! (Renate Gerstenlaueri raamatust “Die Rach-Ikone”)

Tallinna antiigipoest umbes 150 000 krooniga ostetud ikoon varjas ülemaalitud 400 aasta vanust pühapilti. Saksamaal müüakse seda hetkel rohkem kui 6 miljoni krooni eest.
Ligi kolm aastat tagasi, aprillis 2006 saabus Saksamaalt Tallinna jahi pardal väike seltskond. Nende seas oli ka jõukas Baden-Württembergis asuva ikoonigalerii omanik Renate Gerstenlauer. Ta avastas vanalinnas oma rõõmuks palju antiigipoode, mis kauplesid ka ikoonidega.

“Esialgu ei leidnud ma midagi, mis oleks pannud minu südame kiiremini tuksuma, sest tõeliselt vana ikoon erutab meeli ja vaimu, ja seda mitte ainult pangaarvele pilku heites,” meenutas sakslanna mullu ilmunud raamatus.

Tüüpilist Eesti kõrtsi otsides jõudis sakslaste seltskond Voorimehe tänavale. Sealgi oli üks antiigipood, kus müüdi peaaegu kõike. Väikest kasvu vanem mees sulges poe ukse ja üritas oma kehvas inglise keeles kõikvõimalikke asju müügiks pakkuda.

“Õnneks tegeles ta minu sõpradega. Kuna olin sisenenud poodi esimesena, siis sain liikuda edasi ja avastasin kohe ikoonid, mille poekese omanik oli peitnud nurga taha. Ta oli seadnud seal sisse väikese restaureerimistöökoja ja esimest korda oma reisi jooksul nägin ma müügil kõrge kvaliteediga ikoone. Minu tähelepanu pälvis inimesekõrgune, väga tume ikoon.”

Müüja ei viitsi ikooni näidata
Poepidaja oli märganud sakslanna huvi ja pühendus nüüd talle, pakkudes erinevaid ikoone kõrge hinna eest. Need Gerstenlauerit ei huvitanud ja ta palus endale näidata suurt ikooni. Poodnik ei olnud soovist vaimustuses, kuna selle välja tirimine nurgast oli tülikas. Naise pealekäimisel ja abil ta seda siiski tegi.

Nüüd nägi Gerstenlauer, et ikoon kujutas haruldast motiivi Aadama ja Eeva loomisest, pattulangemisest ja väljaajamisest paradiisist. Ikoon pidi olema osa ikonostaasist. Juba esimese nõrgas valguses heidetud pilguga hindas sakslanna ikooni 18. sajandi algusest pärinevaks. “Siiski ütles sisetunne mulle, et tegemist peab olema erilise ikooniga.”

Poodnik hakkas agaralt asja korraldama. Ta lubas ikooni lennukiga Saksamaale saata ja võtta transpordikulud enda kanda. “Loomulikult oli hind väga kõrge ja ma ei saanud ega tahtnud nii kiiresti otsustada.”

Öösel ei saanud Renate Gerstenlauer sõba silmale. “Minu sisetunne tugevnes, et tegemist peab olema väga erilise ikooniga.” Ta sai oma kõhklustest võitu ja ostis ikooni järgmisel päeval ära.

Kunstiaare konutas Voorimehe tänaval
Pealinna antiigikauplusi tundes pole raske ära arvata, kes Gerstenlauerile ikooni müüs. Kui jalutada Raekoja platsilt Voorimehe tänava algusse, märkab kohe vasakul majaseinal kirja “Antiik”.

Paar sammu trepist üles, uksest sisse ja paremale – siis oletegi väikeses tagasihoidlikus vanakraamipoes, mille leti taga istub kuuekümnendates eluaastates sõbralik mees. Tema nimi on Jaan Riisalo. Vahel nokitseb mees poeruumi teises otsas ritta laotud ikoonide kallal.

Eesti pole aegade kestel Venemaale olnud pelgalt nafta-transiidimaa. Juba 1920. aastate algul liikusid siitkaudu Läände Vene kuld, väärtesemed ja hinnaline antiik. Perestroika ajal kujunes Eestist taas ühe suure äri vahepeatus.

Läbi Eesti voolasid Läände kuni tuhandetest ikoonidest koosnenud saadetised. Lõviosa neist müüdi siinsete vahendajate poolt kohe edasi, osa jäeti paremateks päevadeks endale. Sakslanna ostetud ikoon jõudis Riisalo erakogusse juba 1980. aastatel.

Röntgenifoto näitab pükstega meest
Mai algul 2006 jõudis hoolikalt pakitud ikoon Stuttgardi lennujaama. Renate Gerstenlauer viis selle kõigepealt koju ja hakkas seda ühes perega erinevate valgustega katsetades uurima.

Eestist toodud ikoonile andis esimese hinnangu Baieris Autenriedi lossis asuv ikoonimuuseum. Nende arvates oli tegemist “hilise 17. sajandi ­Põhja-Venemaa ikooniga”.

Nagu hiljem täpsemalt selgus, Vologda kandist pärit umbes 1700. aastal loodud ikonostaasi uksega, millel oli kujutatud prohvet Taanieli lõvikoopas ja stseeni loomisloost.

Ekspertiis rõhutas ikooni ebatavalist suurust ja haruldast teemat. Seega oli juba sel esialgsel kujul tegemist hinnalise vanavene kunstiteosega, mis ehtinuks iga ikoonikoguja kollektsiooni. Ometi varjas prohvet Taaniel oma kehaga veel palju suuremat aaret.

Ultraviolettlambiga teost lähemalt uurides märkas Gerstenlauer, et musta värvi all peitub mingi kiri. Käega katsudes olid tähed tunda ja ta otsustas asja edasi uurida.

Naine viis ikooni Wiesbadenisse tuttava restauraatori juurde. Ta soovis lasta värvi eemaldada, et vana kiri uuesti nähtavaks muuta. Mida rohkem värvi maha võeti, seda uudishimulikumaks omanik muutus. Peale tähtede ilmusid välja ka punased jooned.

Imeilus nägu nelja värvikihi all
Alguses kergelt maha tulnud värvi eemal­damine osutus vaevanõudvaks käsitööks. Kirikuslaavi tekstide spetsialist teatas, et ei saa tähtedest aru. Restauraator avastas ikoonil neli erinevat kihti värvi. Nüüd sai selgeks, et pealmise maalikihi all peab peituma veel midagi. Järgnesid röntgenuuringud ja kompuutertomograafia.

“Röntgenipildid näitasid seisvat, elusuuruses, pükse kandvat meest, kes täitis terve tahvli. Mulle avaldas eriti muljet tema imeilus nägu,” meenutas Gerstenlauer.

Ikooni omanikku ootasid taas magamata ööd. Mida teha? Kas eemaldada juba niigi vana maal, et äratada selle all asuv kunstiteos uuele elule? Hoolimata röntgenipiltidest polnud teada, kui hästi on esialgne maal säilinud – seega oli suur oht teos rikkuda.

Gerstenlaueri esimene soov oli säilitada ka pealmine maalikiht. Peagi selgus, et see pole võimalik. Esialgse pildini jõudmiseks tuli pealmine maal paratamatult hävitada. Pühaku pilt rippus päevade kaupa naise töötoas, kuni ta andis restauraatorile loa tööle asuda.

Renate Gerstenlauer ootas suure põnevusega, kes talle pildilt vastu vaatab. Tegemist ei saanud olla Jeesusega. Kas Ristija Johannes? Aga alles vana kirja väljapuhastamise järel selgus, et ikoonil seisis õigeusu pühak õilis röövel Rah.
Rah oli üks kahest kurjategijast, kes koos Jeesusega risti löödi. Läänekatoliiklikus kultuuris tuntakse teda püha Dysmasena.

300 aasta vanuste maalikihtide ­eemaldamine oli väga keerukas. See töö nõudis restauraatorilt palju kannatust, kindlat kätt, teravat silma ja julgust. Vahepeal pidi Gerstenlauer restauraatorile “pähe istuma”, et too nõustuks eemaldama ka pealmisel maalikihil kujutatud prohvet Taanieli pea.

Ikooni vanuse võimalikult täpseks määramiseks tellis naine Kieli laborilt puuproovi analüüsi. Ikoonilaud oli tehtud männist, mis oli langetatud hiljemalt 1634. aastal.

Vene kunstiprofessor sõimab ja kiidab
Kui Saksamaad külastas Moskva Andrei Rubljovi nimelise muuseumi direktor professor Gennadi Popov, viis naine oma ikooni talle näha. Ikooni pealmise kihi eemaldamisest kuuldes sõimas venelane naist kõigepealt kurjategijaks. Siis puhkes Popov naerma ja ütles, et oleks ise sedasama teinud.

Professori kirjutatud ekspertiisi järgi on tegemist tõenäoliselt Pihkvas loodud ikonostaasi osaga. Ikoon pärineb 16. sajandi kolmandast veerandist ning on teostatud silmatorkava professionaalsusega. “Pärast restaureerimist väärib see mälestis eraldi publikatsiooni oma erakordse tähenduse ja kõrge kultuurilis-kunstilise väärtuse tõttu,” kirjutas professor.

2007. aastal külastas Gerstenlauer Venemaa muuseume. Selgus, et tegemist on õilsa röövli esimese teadaoleva kujutisega, kus tal on püksid jalas. Moskva riikliku restaureerimisinstituudi eksperdid pidasid ülemaalingu all nii hästi säilinud ikooni suureks harulduseks.

Alles detsembris 2007 sai Gerstenlauer ikooni koju tuua: “Pärast nii pikka proovilepanekut oli see imeilus jõulukink.”
Unikaalne ikoon on praegu välja pandud Müncheni nooblis hotellis Vier Jahreszeiten avatud ikooninäitusel. Gerstenlauer on öelnud huvilistele, et on nõus ikooni müüma.

Hind on 400 000 eurot, seega üle kuue miljoni krooni. Sama raha eest saaks osta kaks Johann Köleri maali või koguni viis Konrad Mägi teost.

Proua Gerstenlauer ise maksis Riisalole ikooni eest umbes 150 000 krooni. Eeltöö ikooni edasimüügiks on juba tehtud. Mullu andis naine ikooni kohta välja mahuka värvitrükis raamatu.

Nii kallist ikooni ei ole võimalik müüa ilma usaldusväärse ekspertiisita ja Gerstenlauer teab seda väga hästi. Raamatus on trükitud ikooni kohta kõikvõimalikud analüüsid ja ekspertiisid, niisamuti fotod restaureerimise eri järkudest. Samuti andmed selle kohta, kus ja millal on ikoon ostetud. Me leiame raamatust isegi väikese mustvalge foto Tallinna antiigikauplusest, kuigi mitte selle nime.

Antiigikaupmees Jaan Riisalo kuulis talle kuulunud teose saladusest ja lakke hüpanud hinnast sel teisipäeval Ekspressi käest. Mees näost ära ei langenud.

“Risk vanema pildi väljapuhastamisel on suur,” arutleb Riisalo. “Sajast ikoonist umbes kümnel on see hästi säilinud.” Ta lubab sakslannale helistada ja paluda saata endale teose kohta ilmunud raamat. “Ikkagi minu käest saadud ikoon!”

Ikooni väljavedu Eestist oli seaduslik
2006. aastal võis kuni 2,4 miljonit krooni maksvaid ikoone viia Euroopa Liitu ilma Eesti riigilt luba küsimata.
Monika Lestberg, muinsuskaitse­ameti nõunik

same in Russian:

Немка нашла в Таллинне редкую икону
22.01.2009 10:54

Владелица галереи из Германии обнаружила под слоем краски на старинной иконе, приобретенной в антикварном магазине в Таллинне за 150 000 крон, еще более редкую и старую икону. Теперь икону продают в Германии за 6 миллионов крон.

Около трех лет назад галерист Ренате Герстенлауэр из Баден-Вюртенберга приобрела в Таллинне икону с редким мотивом – создание Адама и Евы и изгнание из рая, пишет газета Eesti Ekspress.
Изучив русскую икону XVII века подробнее при помощи рентгена и компьютерной томографии, Герстенлауэр обнаружила, что под первым слоем краски кроется изображение благоразумного разбойника Раха, которого якобы распяли вместе с Иисусом.

Герстенлауэр приказала удалить первый слой, чтобы открыть редкое изображение, а также написала книгу об этой истории.

Уникальная икона почти 400-летней давности, выставленная на обозрение в мюнхенском отеле Vier Jahreszeiten, продается за 6 миллионов крон.

Mail from Estonian journalist about above report:

From: Tarmo Vahter [mailto:TaxrmoV@xxxx]
Sent: donderdag 22 januari 2009 22:55
Cc: xxxxx

Hello XXXl,
yes, I have news. We discussed this story with the Estonian ministry of culture.
From 2004 until 2008 Estonia had a law, that every citizen of European Union was allowed to export art objects from Estonia to the European Union without any licence, if the painting cost less as 150 000 euros.
Me colleague Pekka Erelt found the owner of the small antique shop in Tallinn. This man told, that Renate Gerstenlauer paid for him about 10 000 EUR.
The opinion of the Estonian ministry of culture is, that in this case it was legal for Ms Gerstenlauer to bring this icon to the Germany. It is not possible to go to the court and prove, that she knew about the secret painting.
This icon has also no historical connection with Estonia, and this is also important argument in the eyes of officials. As the owner told, he bought it either in 1980s or in the beginning on 1990s. In this time from Russia were smuggled to the Western Europe thousands of icons and Estonia was a stop on the illegal journey. There are rumours, that the same owner of antique shop has still in his home hundreds of icons.
So, we decided to do our story very quickly. It was published today in Eesti Ekspress. you can look it:
I thank you very much for this exclusive information. You did a great job, it´s not your fault, that our laws considered that kind of export of the cultural values legal.
If you will maybe some day find a new tip about another Estonian connected story, I would like to work again with you.
With best wishes from Tallinn
Tarmo Vahter

January 23rd, 2009

Posted In: looting and illegal art traffickers

By Zaynab Khudair.
Azzaman, January 22, 2009.

The Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities has drawn up a new plan to retrieve “all the antiquities that have been stolen,” according to the minister, Qahatan al-Jibouri.

Jibouri, whose ministry is in charge of the Antiquities Department, said the return of smuggled and stolen Iraqi relics as well as the protection of Iraqi ancient sites was a top priority.

The relative quiet in the country has encouraged the government to draw the plan which among other things calls for the deployment of guards to protect endangered Mesopotamian sites.

Jibouri said all Iraqi ministries would be involved in the program under which no government authority will be allowed to encroach on mounds and areas containing debris of ancient civilizations.

Government bodies will also help in safeguarding these areas, Jibouri added.

The details of the plan have yet to be worked out, but archaeologists say it is the first serious effort in post-U.S. invasion to preserve the country’s ancient heritage.

As for the return of stolen antiquities, the ministry will give financial benefits to persons handing the finds in their possession to the Antiquities Department.

Thousands of antiquities, among them some priceless relics, are still missing following the looting of the Iraq Museum shortly after the U.S. invasion.

It is believed that thousands more have been recovered from ancient sites through illegal digging at some of the most fabulous and renowned ancient cities like Babylon, Ur, Nimrud and Ashur.

Iraq has more than 10,000 archaeologically significant sites and it needs an army of guards for their protection.

January 23rd, 2009

Posted In: looting and illegal art traffickers

Avignon, France – January 22, 2009 – Régine Elkan, a French national residing near Avignon, France, filed a large Holocaust-related art claim with the Austrian Commission for Provenance Research (Kommission für Provenienzforschung), an Austrian government body in charge of Nazi-looted art claims. The claim involves a prestigious XVIIIth Century French Furniture collection looted during the Vichy Regime in France, traced to the bequest of a large decorative art collection, donated by Henriette BOUVIER to the Carnavalet Museum in 1966.

In 2002, Elkan filed a claim against the Carnavalet Museum for the restitution of the “Bouvier” Collection with a French State Commission in charge of Holocaust-related asset claims, the « Commission d’Indemnisation des Victimes de Spoliations » (« CIVS »). Following the CIVS refusal to consider the claim, Elkan filed a lawsuit against the Office of the French Prime Minister, claiming that the CIVS, the Carnavalet Museum, and the City of Paris refused to disclose the provenance information of the Bouvier Collection.

Elkan then filed the claim with Austria because of Bouvier’s role as a prominent decorative arts dealer during the Vichy Regime, and because of the large trade in French Fine Furniture between France and Austria involving Nazi leaders such as Baldur Benedikt von Schirach, institutions like the Dorotheum and prominent art dealers like Friedrich Welz.

For a copy of the claim letter, please contact Régine Elkan by E-Mail at

Press Contact:
Requests for information can be addressed to:
By E-Mail to: Régine Elkan at

January 23rd, 2009

Posted In: WWII

Carnegie Museum guard admits defacing painting.
Thursday, January 22, 2009.
By Jerome L. Sherman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

A former security guard at the Carnegie Museum of Art has pleaded guilty to slashing a $1.2 million painting with a key.

Timur Serebrykov, 28, of Greenfield, will be sentenced April 7 on one count of institutional vandalism.

On May 16 of last year, a surveillance camera at the museum caught Mr. Serebrykov in the act of defacing “Night Sky #2,” an oil on canvas painted by Vija Celmins, a Latvian artist whose work is well-known among art collectors. The painting was on loan from the Art Institute of Chicago as part of the 2008 Carnegie International.

James Sheets, Mr. Serebrykov’s attorney, said he would ask Allegheny County Judge John A. Zottola for a sentence of probation because his client has no prior criminal record, although he could also face jail time and hefty restitution payments. Mr. Serebrykov, who is engaged and now has an infant child, has been seeking mental health treatment since his arrest. He is free on bail.

“He fully acknowledges what he did and he accepts responsibility for it,” Mr. Sheets said.

Mr. Sheets said the Art Institute of Chicago repaired the painting at a cost of $5,000. But the museum estimates that the painting has lost about $240,000 in value because of the slashing and is seeking compensation. Mr. Sheets said he questions the museum’s figure and would fight for a much lower figure.

“It’s going to take him a lifetime to pay that back,” Mr. Sheets said.

January 22nd, 2009

Posted In: Mailing list reports


Egypt demands artefacts’ return

Egypt’s chief archaeologist Zahi Hawass said they were taken in an “illegal manner” by Swedish collector Otto Smith from locations like Saqqara and Luxor.

He said lawyers for the country’s Council of Antiquities have contacted Sweden’s Ostergotlands County Museum.

The museum confirmed Egypt was seeking to recover about 200 items, but was awaiting a formal request.

Museum director Maria Jansen said she had been contacted by the Egyptian Embassy in Stockholm about the matter, but could not comment further.

She said the items were one of the museum’s most “important” collections.


Mr Smith took the objects home to Sweden with him, and after his death his family gave the pieces to the Ostergotlands Museum, asking the museum to look after them, according to Mr Hawass.

Mr Hawass claimed the museum displayed some of the artefacts in its restaurant, which caused damage and neglect.

He added that the Smith family has now accused the museum of breach of contract and also wanted the pieces returned to Egypt.

The family could not immediately be reached for comment.

Mr Hawass said the objects include items from the pharaonic era and ancient Egyptian Coptic pieces.

Story from BBC NEWS:

January 22nd, 2009

Posted In: Mailing list reports


By MICHAEL PETERSON Argus-Press Staff Writer

Wednesday, January 21, 2009 9:58 AM EST
DURAND – A water pipe that froze and burst flooded the more than 100-year-old Durand Union Station Monday.

Officials say, though, because of the Durand Fire Department’s quick response and the help of others, a major disaster was averted.

The burst pipe was located in the attic/storage area of the depot. When it burst, water began flooding into the room. The water soaked through the ceiling and began spreading through the depot’s library and archives. The room containing a model railroad also received some damage.

An alarm went off at approximately 6:30 p.m. Monday and the Durand Fire Department responded immediately.

“The fire department got here quickly and cut off the water supply,” said Don Westcott, president of the Durand Union Station, Inc., Board of Directors. “I don’t think we are going to lose a lot of the documents.”

Vice President Dan Brooks agreed.

“A lot of the damage looks superficial at this point,” he said.

Durand Union State Director Connie Cobley said when she heard the news she was in shock.

“You’re just sick because you know there is so much history in this building,” she said.

But she also was thankful for the help from the fire department.

“I was stunned how fast the Durand Fire Department came in,” Cobley said. “They immediately moved everything they physically could and then they set up all the tables so we could get things up and drying…They could’ve left.”

Brooks added he was very thankful for the alarm system, especially since the depot, built in 1903, is normally closed Mondays.

“If the alarm hadn’t been triggered by the pressure release in the valve, the water would’ve kept on running for who knows how long,” Brooks said. “Until Tuesday morning perhaps? It would have been a total disaster.”

Firefighters, volunteers and staff worked until about 11 p.m. Monday and then continued Tuesday morning.

There appears to be a minimal amount of damage to the library, but the depot’s archives will be closed until further notice. The extent of the damage to the archives has yet to be determined.

Maps and other historic documents, some dating back to the 1920s, were set out on tables in the depot’s ballroom to dry.

“These were in a map case with water pouring on top of them,” Cobley said. “Some of these were sopping wet.”

She added they have contacted the Alfred P. Sloan Museum in Flint and the Michigan State Historic Preservation Office on how to proceed.

Stanley Builders, a Flushing-based business that does insurance work and remodeling services, was hired to help with damage control and restoration.

“I didn’t realize there was so much expertise in reclamation for water, but they were really good,” Cobley said.

The monetary amount of damage caused by the water is unknown at this point.

“The reclamation crew estimated last night – based on the tank – they had over 200 gallons of water,” Brooks said. “Of course, that doesn’t count the amount of water collected overnight with the dehumidifiers and other equipment they have running.”

The depot will remain closed until Saturday.

Cobley said the depot was nearing the 30-year anniversary of the start of its restoration and were planning a celebration at the end of February.

“So, now we are back to restoration again,” she said with a sigh.

– Contact Michael Peterson at 725-5136 extension 223 or

January 22nd, 2009

Posted In: Mailing list reports


Последна промяна в 23:24 на 20 яну 2009, 1221 прочитания, 23 коментара

Български съд е отхвърлил искането на Египет за екстрадация на ливанския гражданин Али Абу Таам, осъден на 15 години затвор по обвинение в подпомагане на кражба и контрабанда на египетски антики и издирван от Интерпол, предаде Ройтерс в понеделник вечерта. Пред агенцията адвокатите на Абу Таам са съобщили, че издирваният от египетските власти в момента е освободен и е в Швейцария, след като български съд е взел решение, че искането на Египет е незаконно.
Българските власти и правораздавателни институции, които са имали отношение към случая, заявиха пред “Дневник”, че са си свършили работата съобразно националното законодателство и международните правила и не може да се говори за някаква външна намеса в работата им.

Пред “Дневник” пожелали анонимност служители на МВР, запознати с престъпленията около трафика на антики, обаче казаха, че в този случай може да се говори за сериозна намеса от страна на един от най-големите колекционери на антики в България, без да уточняват имена. Според тях казусът дори не стигнал до антимафиотите, занимаващи се с престъпленията с културни ценностти, а останал в компетенцията на Гранична полиция. Експертите само били информирани, че в България се намира един от най-известните в света трафиканти на антични предмети.

В публикация в интернет холандският журналист Артър Бранд твърди, че Абу Таам е бил поканен в България от “един от най-големите си клиенти и милионер” Васил Божков, който е помогнал и за освобождаването му чрез прокурора Камен Михов. До редакционното приключване на броя Васил Божков не беше открит за коментар. “Изобщо не познавам Васил Божков”, беше единственият коментар на ръководителя на международния отдел за правна помощ към Върховната касационна прокуратура (ВКП) прокурор Камен Михов.

От ВКП обясниха пред “Дневник”, че Абу Таам е задържан през декември в отдел “Международно правно сътрудничество” с цел екстрадиция за Египет. Образувана е преписка, като са предприети всички законови мерки лицето да бъде осигурено и предадено на съд с искане да му бъде постановена мярка за неотклонение “задържане под стража”, докато от Египет се получат документите за екстрадицията му, казват от прокуратурата. Софийският градски съд (СГС) обаче е отменил задържането под стража и е определил мярка “домашен арест”, посочват оттам. “Прокуратурата не може да коментира решението на съда относно отказа лицето Али Абу Таам да бъде екстрадиран”, заявиха от ВКП.

От СГС пък обясниха, че разполагат с малко информация по делото, тъй като то вече е архивирано. От съда единствено уточниха, че срещу Абу Таам е имало иск, но между България и Египет няма спогодба за екстрадиция, което е и основанието за отказа на съда. От съда отбелязаха, че отказът за екстрадиране е бил обжалван пред Софийския апелативен съд и мярката от първата инстанция е била потвърдена.

“Чрез българското бюро на Интерпол сме информирали бюрото на Интерпол – Египет, за движението на лицето А.Т.”, пък отговориха във вторник от МВР на запитване какво е направило допълнително ведомството по случая с Али Абу Таам. Съобщението на МВР за задържане на ливански гражданин А.Т., издирван от Интерпол, е от 18 септември миналата година. “Предприети са необходимите мерки за екстрадирането”, се казва в него. Във вторник от министерството казаха, че на 6 януари 2009 г. “А.Т. се явява на ГКПП аерогара София с решението на апелативния съд и прави опит да напусне страната, но е задържан от граничните полицаи, тъй като МВР не е получило копие от решението на апелативния съд и в регистрите А.Т. е фигурирал като издирвано лице”. При направеното от МВР запитване до ВКП за статуса на А.Т. са получени официални указания за снемането му от информационните масиви за лицата, обявени за издирване, което е направено, и на следващия ден – 7 януари, А.Т. отпътува за Швейцария.
Холандски журналист: Васил Божков е помогнал Абу Таам да не бъде екстрадиран

При търсене в Google в комбинация от името Али Абу Таам и търговец на антики (Ali Abu’Taam art dealer) се появява писмо от 5 януари на Артър Бранд до сайта Museum security network (посветен на сигурността и опазването на културни ценности). Авторът се представя за холандски разследващ журналист и разказва подробности около случая с отказаната екстрадация, но не посочва откъде е научил толкова подробности. По негови данни Абу Таам е бил поканен в България от “един от най-големите си клиенти и милионер” Васил Божков. Той кацнал с редовен полет от Париж. Бранд обяснява, че властите във Франция не са направили нищо Таам да бъде задържан, въпреки че е обявен за издирване от Интерпол – Египет, през 2007 г. Напротив, той е влязъл и излязъл от страната необезпокояван. “Очевидно не всички представители на българската полиция са били информирани за “неприкосновеността” на тази важна персона, така че Абу Таам е бил арестуван още при пристигането му”, пише журналистът. Той твърди, че това е станало на 18 септември 2008 г., и слага препратка към български информационен сайт, на който под тази дата е публикувано официалното съобщение на МВР за задържането на канадски гражданин с ливански произход А.Т.
Според Артър Бранд Васил Божков се обадил на Камен Михов – прокурор от Върховната касационна прокуратура, и Михов уредил само в рамките на един ден Абу Таам да бъде пуснат тайно от затвора, закаран до летището, минал през ВИП-а без документи и с частния самолет на Васил Божков е отлетял от България за Швейцария. В описанието на холандеца и българските власти има разлика за това кога е напуснал страната.

Цялото писмо на Артър Бранд

January 21st, 2009

Posted In: Mailing list reports


Bulgarian prosecutor, art collector conspired to free controversial art dealer – journalist alleges
13:16 Wed 21 Jan 2009 – Petar Kostadinov

Bulgarian prosecutor Kamen Mihov and Bulgarian millionaire and art collector Vassil Bozhkov were alleged to have been involved in an elaborate scheme to let international art dealer Ali Abou’Taam escape extradition to Egypt.

The allegations came from Dutch national Arthur Brand, who presented himself as an investigative journalist and on January 5 2009 posted an email with the allegations to the Museum Security Network mailinglist.

According to Brand, in September 2008 Abou’Taam was allowed to enter Bulgaria and later leave the country even though he was “on Interpol’s red wanted list because of a request from the Egyptian authorities, since the art dealer had been sentenced to 15 years imprisonment for trading in stolen art (Interpol File number: 25913/2007 Issued:25/5/07).”

According to Brand, Abou’Taam came to Bulgaria at the invitation of Bozhkov. Bulgarian-language daily Dnevnik said it had been unable to contact Bozhkov for comment.

Abou’Taam, who holds a Canadian passport, was arrested upon his arrival from France at Sofia airport because he was on Interpol’s wanted list.

“Though the Interpol Headquarters are located in Lyon, France, French authorities didn’t do anything to arrest Abou’Taam. Au contraire, the authorities made special arrangements for the fugitive to enter and leave French territory unhindered,” Brand said in his email.

Brand acccused Bozhkov of helping Abou’Taam by calling Mihov for his assistance, something which Mihov has denied before Dnevnik by saying that he had never met Bozhkov in any capacity.

“To cover his tracks, head prosecutor Kamen Mihov arranged a fake and secret trial – long after Abou’Taam illegally had left the country – in which it was decided that Bulgaria will not extradite Abou’Taam.” Brand said.

When Dnevnik asked for more details on the story, authorities said that Abou’Taam was indeed arrested in Sofia. The Sofia City Court (SCC), however, said that because Bulgaria and Egypt did not have an extradition agreement, Abou’Taam could not be sent to Egypt. The court’s ruling has been appealed but was denied and Abou’Taam was released.

The Interior Ministry told Dnevnik that Abou’Taam left Bulgaria for Switzerland on January 7 2009 after his name was taken off the wanted list based on the SCC ruling.

Meanwhile, in another case involving a foreign national residing in Bulgaria, the Varna Regional Court ruled that 48-year-old British citizen Barry Spearing could be extradited to the UK. Spearing was arrested on January 6 2009 in the Black Sea city of Varna based on a European arrest warrant issued against him and signed by a judge from London’s City of Westminster Magistrates Court.

Spearing had been issued with a sentence by a regional court in Ipswich in 2006 for frauds involving antiques committed in the period between August and November 2002. For his crime, Spearing was ordered to pay almost 1.9 million pounds sterling or face a seven year imprisonment.

He was arrested by Varna police officers in the village of Botevo in the Varna area, where he has lived with his girlfriend for the past two years. Varna Regional Court decided that there was no reason why Spearing should not be extradited. The court said that its ruling did not deal with Spearing’s guilt but with the European arrest warrant only.

January 21st, 2009

Posted In: Mailing list reports


Ali Aboutaam. Bulgaria rejects Egyptian extradition bid: lawyers
Tue Jan 20, 2009

ZURICH (Reuters) – A Bulgarian court has rejected an Egyptian request for the extradition of a Lebanese man sentenced to 15 years imprisonment on charges of helping an antiquities thief smuggle artefacts, the man’s lawyers said on Monday.

The Egyptian government said last week that the Lebanese man, Ali Aboutaam, had been arrested in Bulgaria in connection with the charges, which led to his conviction in absentia by an Egyptian court in 2004.

But Aboutaam’s Swiss-based lawyers, in a statement sent to Reuters on Monday, said that Aboutaam was free in Switzerland.

“Mr Ali Aboutaam is now in Switzerland and is completely free in his movements,” said the statement from Geneva law firm Woodtli Levy Pardo and Brutsch.

“Bulgaria purely and simply refused to take up the extradition request, considering in substance that the Egyptian conviction targeting my client was illegitimate,” it added.

The law firm also sent translations into English of Bulgarian court papers which appeared to show that a court in Sofia lifted a travel ban on Aboutaam on January 5.

One of the papers said the Sofia City Court’s decision to deny Egypt’s extradition request was “final and conclusive”.

Egyptian authorities were not immediately available to comment.

January 21st, 2009

Posted In: Mailing list reports


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January 21st, 2009

Posted In: Illicit Cultural Property, looting and illegal art traffickers

Dear Sir, Mdme,My name is Arthur Brand, Dutch investigative journalist and writer.In this email I am going to reveal quite a serious scandal, involving Bulgarian head prosecutor Kamen Mihov, worlds leading art dealer Ali Abou’Taam, Bulgarian billionaire Vasil Bojkov, the French, Canadian and American ambassadors to Bulgaria, and Homeland Security.
A story about class-justice, bribery and fraud on the highest levels!

Here we go:

On 18.09.2008 worlds leading art dealer Ali Abou’Taam, resident of Switzerland, was arrested on Sofia airport, arriving on a plane from Paris.

Mr. Abou’Taam, of Lebanese origin and with a Canadian passport, was invited to Bulgaria by one of his biggest clients, Bulgarian billionaire Vasil Bojkov.

Mr. Abou’Taam was arrested because his name appeared on the Interpol’s red wanted-list due to a request of the Egyptian authorities, since the art dealer had been sentenced to fifteen years imprisonment because of trading in stolen art (Interpol File number: 25913/2007 Issued:25/5/07).

Mr. Abou’Taam arrived in Sofia on a regular flight from Paris. Though the Interpol Headquarters are located in Lyon, France, the French authorities didn’t do anything to arrest Mr. Abou’Taam. Au contraire, the authorities made special arrangements for the fugitive to enter and leave the French territory unhindered. But then again, it were the same French who gave the art dealer one of the most prestigious awards, just two years earlier. Strange, because already in 2006 the reputation of Mr. Abou’Taam was quite dubious…

Obviously, not every representative of the Bulgarian police had been informed of the ‘inviolability’ of this V.I.P. so Mr. Abou’Taam was arrested upon arrival, just as Interpol had requested. This came as a surprise and immediately everything was done by the authorities to restore the failure, breaking all the laws…

This is where the story about class-justice, bribery and fraud on the highest levels begins.

The French, Canadian and American ambassadors got involved. The Canadian because of Mr. Abou’Taam’s Canadian passport, the American because of the protection that Mr. Abou’Taam receives of Homeland Security. In 2006 Mr. Abou’Taam ‘helped’ Homeland Security to confiscate some looted Iraqi objects, according to some insiders fenced by Mr. Abou’Taam himself:

Bulgarian billionaire Vasil Bojkov, who invited Mr. Abou’Taam to Bulgaria, felt responsible for the arrest of his friend. So he called another friend, Bulgarian head prosecutor Kamen Mihov, one of the most powerful man of the country. Billionaire Vasil Bojkov and prosecutor Kamen Mihov are above the law so to speak so they decided to break both national and international laws to help Mr. Abou’Taam out of this situation. Kamen Mihov arranged within only one day (!!!) that Mr. Abou’Taam was secretly released out of prison, brought to the airport, passing the airport V.I.P-gate without (!!!) departure ID registration and boarding a private jet of Vasil Bojkov to leave for Switzerland. According to the flight departure database of the Border Police and the Interpol database Mr. Abou’Taam is still in Bulgaria till this very day…

Because some questions could arise about where Mr. Abou’Taam was hold in custody, Bulgarian head prosecutor Kamen Mihov created the story that Mr. Abou’Taam was placed under house arrest at the address of the family of his Bulgarian wife. So officially Mr. Abou’Taam is under house arrest in Bulgaria, waiting for extradition to Egypt, but in reality he is safe in Switzerland, thanks to corrupted officials. Class-justice, bribery and fraud on the highest levels. A complete insult to Interpol and the Egyptian Government!

To cover his tracks, head prosecutor Kamen Mihov arranged a fake and secret trial – long after Mr. Abou’Taam illegally had left the country – in which was decided that Bulgaria will not extradite Mr. Abou’Taam.

So justice can be bought in Bulgaria. As long as you have the money and the right friends, you are untouchable.

Sincerely yours,

Arthur Brand

January 20th, 2009

Posted In: comment, International conventions, looting and illegal art traffickers, Mailing list reports


I listened with great interest to the lecture by Thomas Gaehtgens on Challenging the Encyclopedic Museum – Berlin’s Museum Island at the Art Institute of Chicago.

His performance was quite remarkable. Even though he mentioned that the Russians had taken away artworks from Germany and that this constituted a problem between the two countries, he was silent about the artworks that the Germans had taken from other countries, such as Poland and the Benin Bronzes stolen from Nigeria by the British and sold to the Germans. Did these not constitute a problem for the Germans and for the “universal museum” or the “encyclopaedic museum” about which he spoke so eloquently? Obviously, he wasted no time on Nazi-looted art. Are the museums in Berlin not confronted with this problem?

See full text at Museum Security Network Google group

January 19th, 2009

Posted In: Dr. Kwame Opoku writings about looted cultural objects

Leesvoer in voorbereiding op NIFV Symposium Bescherming Cultureel Erfgoed bij Calamiteiten zie ook:

January 19th, 2009

Posted In: congressen

January 19th, 2009

Posted In: algemeen

Written by The Media Line Staff.
Published Sunday, January 18, 2009.

The Iraqi Interior Ministry accused security companies working with the American military forces of attempting to smuggle out unique archeological artifacts, stating its concern that Babylonian-era Torah manuscripts were smuggled to Israel, the London-based daily Al-Hayyat reported.

Iraq is searching for over 9,400 artifacts that were lost or stolen since the start of the American-led invasion in May 2003.

Among these precious artifacts are Babylonian-era Torah manuscripts, which were taken by the U.S. forces in 2003. The U.S. promised it would return them in two years after their renovation, but there is “information pointing to the possibility that they had been smuggled to Israel,” Gen. (ret.) Widah Na’srat of the Interior Ministry’s Criminal Investigations Department told Al-Hayyat.

Nas’rat indicated he would travel to Washington soon in order to investigate the matter further. According to him, the U.S. has expressed its willingness to continue cooperating with the Iraqis in a serious manner in order to return the missing artifacts.

At the end of last year, Iraq’s ambassador in Washington received 1,046 artifacts, which were stolen from the National Museum in Baghdad, the paper wrote.

January 18th, 2009

Posted In: Mailing list reports


Troopers say Berks artist’s copper snake chopped up, sold like Pio site statue
By Erin Negley
Reading Eagle

One of the men accused of stealing a 1,200-pound brass angel statue from a Catholic shrine had practice cutting up pricey artwork and selling it for scrap, state police said.

On Saturday, troopers charged Jamie L. Custer with stealing a 60-foot-long copper snake sculpture three years ago from a Hereford Township artist.

Custer, 31, Norristown, was arraigned before District Judge Michael J. Leonardziak in Reading Central Court and released on bail in the sculpture theft.

He and John E. Hammond Jr., 31, of Spring City, Chester County, have been charged with stealing the Angel of the Roses statue from the National Center for Padre Pio Inc. near Barto in September.

The snake sculpture was stolen in November 2005 from the property of Val O. Bertoia, a well-known sculptor who lives along Captain Wolfe Road in Hereford Township.

Bertoia, who owns Bertoia Studio in Bally, created the sculpture from material collected by his late father, world-famous sculptor and chair designer Harry Bertoia.

The sculpture’s value was estimated at $90,000.

Within a week of stealing it, Custer sectioned the snake and sold it to Berks Container Recovery in Spring Township for about $1,400, Trooper Michael J. Kowalick said.

Bertoia could not be reached for comment.

Employees at the recycling center realized the snake was a work of art after they saw media reports of its theft, but by that time the sculpture had been recycled.

They told troopers that two men had sold the copper tube and bronze joints, but the men were never identified.

Employees recognized Custer after his arrest in the angel statue theft was publicized.

Troopers said Custer and Hammond stole the statue from the Padre Pio center in Washington Township on Sept. 24.

The men sold pieces of the statue, which was valued at $60,000, to an unidentified junkyard in Conshohocken, Montgomery County. They received $952 for the metal.

The 1,200 pound statue was cast in the 1930s by an unknown artist and stood in the Hall of Justice in Sao Paulo, Brazil, before the center bought it in 1999.

The men waived preliminary hearings Tuesday before District Judge Michael G. Hartman, Boyertown. Custer was released to await further court action, while Hammond was returned to Berks County Prison in lieu of $50,000 bail.

Custer surrendered to county sheriff’s deputies after troopers filed charges.

An investigation continues.

January 18th, 2009

Posted In: Mailing list reports


The lawyers are hoping that French courts will stop the auction house from selling two bronze animal heads at a February sale in Paris and order the return of the relics to China, the Beijing Times reported.

“The lawsuit will be placed before a French court in accordance with international law,” Liu Yang, one of 67 Chinese lawyers working on the case, told the paper.

“We are demanding that the auction house stop the sale and order the owner of the stolen items to return them.”

The relics currently belong to the Yves Saint Laurent Foundation and were being put up for auction by the late fashion magnate’s partner Pierre Berge, the paper said.

The two bronze animal heads once adorned the Old Summer Palace, or Yuanmingyuan, and were stolen when Western armies burnt the palace down during the second Opium War in 1860.

When announcing the auction last year, Christie’s reportedly estimated the two bronzes were worth up to 28.6 million dollars.

The bronzes were once part of a fountain that displayed the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac. Five of the bronze animal heads have already been returned to China, while the whereabouts of five others is unknown, the paper said.

January 16th, 2009

Posted In: Mailing list reports


A wealthy businessman who stole and defaced pages from priceless books in the British and Bodleian libraries has been jailed for two years.

Farhad Hakimzadeh, 60, of Knightsbridge in London, pleaded guilty in May to 14 counts of theft from the libraries in London and Oxford.

Judge Peter Ader said the offences were “very serious” whether or not they were motivated by financial profit.

He sentenced him at Wood Green Crown Court in North London.

Hakimzadeh cut leaves out of rare works and inserted the pages into his own copies of the same books, the court heard.

‘Lost forever’

Police found the altered editions along with several loose pages in the library at his home.

The 10 British Library books he admitted damaging were valued at £71,000 alone. Experts say he had defaced a total of around 150 books.

A map worth £30,000 was cut out of one of the books.

British Library staff believe he smuggled a scalpel into the building and positioned himself away from security cameras to commit his crimes.

The books dated from as far back as the 16th Century and all concerned European engagement with the Middle East.

Passing sentence, Judge Peter Ader said: “As an author, you cannot have been unaware of the damage you were causing.

“You have a deep love of books, perhaps so deep that it goes to excess. I have no doubt that you were stealing in order to enhance your library and your collection.

“Whether it was for money or for a rather vain wish to improve your collection is perhaps no consolation to the losers.”

Head of collections at the British Library Dr Kristian Jensen said: “Obviously I’m angry because this is somebody extremely rich who has damaged something which belongs to everybody… which this nation has invested in over generations.”

Clive Hurst, head of rare books at the Bodleian Library, said: “We feel it’s a terrible mutilation of our material, and it’s damaging a source of information so it is less now then when it was complete.”

Hakimzadeh is a wealthy businessman of Iranian origin – now a British national – who has published several books and is a director of the Iranian Heritage Foundation.

Detective Chief Inspector Dave Cobb, of the Metropolitan Police, said: “He chose unique and rare editions and was therefore able to go undetected for some time.

“Some of the stolen pages were recovered at his home address but many more have been lost forever.”

The British Library has launched separate civil proceedings against Hakimzadeh.

An Oxford University spokesman said: “We are pleased the criminal case, on which we co-operated closely with the police, has been brought to a close.”

Story from BBC NEWS:

January 16th, 2009

Posted In: library theft

( An archaeologist’s blog commenting on various aspects of the private collecting and trade in archaeological artefacts today and their effect on the archaeological record. Paul Barford, British archaeologist living and working in Warsaw Poland. Since the early 1990s a primary interest has been research on artefact hunting and collecting and the market in portable antiquities in the international context.)

How stupid can we be? I mean, here we dumb people are thinking that black markets exist because there are people who want to buy illegal goods (pirate CDs and computer programs, kiddie porn, drugs, plastic explosives etc etc), when we’ve got it wrong. No, educated coin collecting people tell us, it’s actually the laws that are at fault. The irrational laws that are made by our governments which tell us what we can and cannot buy. The coin collectors have a simple way to get rid of the black markets, get rid of the laws and you get rid of the market they define as illegal, simple!

For example, they argue, if we get rid of “irrational” (sic) archaeological resource protection laws, with one stroke of the pen, you would stop all “looting” of archaeological sites. Because by definition it’d be legal, right? (One can only assume they’d apply the same logic to pirate programs, drugs and kiddie porn; all “free enterprise” like selling archaeological artefacts as collectable geegaws).

Thus Reid Goldsborough in a long text called “Looting, Smuggling, and Coins”:
With ancient coins, the harsh and unfortunate reality is that with most new finds laws are broken and information is lost during the distribution process as coins wend their way from the ground to private collections. Almost all new finds are smuggled out of source countries, and this has been the case for many years. But the culprit isn’t those breaking the laws or those they work with but the laws themselves. […] Because these laws are irrational, they’re routinely broken. But to avoid detection, finders, middlemen, and dealers rely on secrecy. The unspoken byword is “Don’t ask, don’t tell.” Provenance information about the coins we buy in most cases is deliberately suppressed at every stage, and important hoard and findspot information is lost. Consequently, we know a great deal less about ancient coins, individually and as a whole, and we know less about history as well.
So after cheerfully proclaiming that almost all the new finds coming onto the US market are looted and smuggled coins, instead of discussing what the responsible ethical collector should do to avoid encouraging this process even further, he comes out with the usual tired old mantras explaining why (from the view of as US ancient coin fondler and accumulator) this is perfectly justified. We’ve heard them all before:

“the laws are broken because they are irrational”. No, like the breaking of the laws anywhere and everywhere, they are broken because somebody has an interest (usually financial) in not obeying them. That they are to be considered as “irrational” or not is the law-breaker’s self justification (try telling that to a traffic cop next time he pulls you over for speeding or going through a red light – “irrational place to have a speed limit/ crossing”). There is a perfectly good rationale behind the archaeological resource protection legislation of the countries in question. There is a perfectly good rationale behind the laws that regulate the export of cultural property from them. It is not the laws which are “irrational” but the arguments offered by those who refuse to respect the wishes of those that have them.

The orientalism of the US collector continues, countries
“regard anything ancient found in the soil of the country as part of its cultural heritage even when it was made and used by a totally different people…” yeah yeah, so the archaeological record in the territory of a country is not at all part of the heritage of those that live there (but IS part of the heritage of somebody who does not, like a US collector)? It is not theirs to say what happens to it? What about other cultural heritage, architecture, cultural landscapes? Just because in the USA the indigenous population was displaced by a dominant alien culture which for long totally disregarded its cultural heritage does not mean that everyone everywhere else is obliged to have the same exclusive attitudes to continuity of tradition (Power of Place). There may be cultural apartheid in the US, I think we in the Old World would resent them trying to impose it on everyone else, just because it suits a few greedy collectors.

“typically wind up in storage in dank basements of museums or government offices” Yeah yeah, instead of a US coin dealer’s “special offers” tub in a coin show. The coins from the 1864 excavations at Bradwell on Sea, Essex will still be in the museum identifiable as such long after Mr Goldsborough’s coins have lost any provenance, including that they were in his ephemeral collection. Its not “dank” there either.

“Private collecting benefits society just as much as public display”, really? Scrap museums then, shall we (if they benefit society “just as much” but at no cost to the public purse, then why not)? Mostly though these days private collecting in its current form benefits dealers and smugglers, and who knows what the money the latter make goes to finance? I wonder whether in fact the “social benefits” of coin collecting (within the US) can really be juxtaposed with the harm that many of us conclude is done down the line elsewhere. We will never know though, will we, while the trade is so secretive about what really lies behind the material they acquire. Let’s have some openness about this to put those postulated (local) “social benefits” into the wider (global) context.

“encouraging the study of the past”. Some (many in fact) people do not need the encouragement of buying looted objects. Do they not have a voice?

“Ancient coins and artifacts are our collective heritage, not the heritage of individual countries”, so US collectors feel fully empowered to not bother about putting money into the pockets of those that steal what they want from those other countries? But wait a second, are not the archaeological sites from which those collectables come ALSO our collective heritage? How does it look, that getting the coins out of the ground to go into Mr Goldsborough’s own private personal piece of the collective heritage over there in the USA trashes that other more extensive piece of the collective heritage? The destroyed archaeological information may not be the heritage of individual countries, but neither is it exclusively Mr Goldsborough’s to say he does not care where those coins come from.

“or the archeological establishment”. So let’s get this right, Goldsbourough is saying that the archaeological heritage belongs to all of us, especially if we are US coin collectors, but NOT if we are archaeologists (including those in the country whose archaeological record is being looted)? Some collectors simply seem to have it in for the archaeologists.

What actually is more important though is that the “history” of emperors, kings, Greek towns, the mythological scenes and so on, that these collectors are “encouraged” to learn about by “holding a piece of real history in their hand” and stashing it away in a cubby hole in a back bedroom, is largely book history. But to produce these collectable and “holdable” geegaws involves trashing unread a record of another history. One that, though the evidence survived millennia, does not survive the looter’s spade. One that can be recovered by the methods of the archaeologist. One that will never be read because bits of it are in Mr Goldsborough’s collection. And he knows that, and is trying hard to justify it to us. Do we accept these arguments? I do not.

“There should be a government-regulated free market of antiquities and coins in source countries around the Mediterranean, as there is in the United Kingdom.” Well, that is just misinformed rubbish. There is no government regulated market of antiquities in the United Kingdom! Complete rubbish.

”Under a rational system, […] Governments would confiscate material shown to have been uncovered illegally at off-limits, bona fide archeological sites.” Umm, but that is what happens now. Then coin collectors moan about it. We saw Jim McGarigle complaining that the Verona seizure was a waste of public resources because the COINS recovered were not, as he put it, “national treasures. An important point is who determines what a “bona fide archaeological site” is? The governments concerned, with their archaeological advisors, or US coin collectors? This is important as it affects what the codes of ethics say, at the moment the ACCG one in effect restricts the right to say what is bone fide archaeological evidence to the US coin collectors.

“Saving Antiquities for Everyone is an advocacy organization that, despite its name, promotes the mainstream archeological position, which includes banning the private collecting of ancient coins and artifacts.” Eh? More misinformed complete rubbish. The mainstream archaeological position is that there is a trade in legitimate artefacts which have been on the market licitly for decades and generations, and there is a trade in freshly dug illicit artefacts. The mainstream archaeological position is that the latter should be stopped. It seems Goldsborough has not read the material SAFE produces, if he had he would know that SAFE does not promote “banning the private collecting of ancient coins and artifacts”. He is misinforming his readers.

He writes: “Ancient Coin Collectors Guild is an advocacy organization that, despite its name, promotes the mainstream position of coin dealers […]” Ah. A word of truth; he said it, not me
An archaeologist’s blog commenting on various aspects of the private collecting and trade in archaeological artefacts today and their effect on the archaeological record. Paul Barford, British archaeologist living and working in Warsaw Poland. Since the early 1990s a primary interest has been research on artefact hunting and collecting and the market in portable antiquities in the international context.

January 14th, 2009

Posted In: Mailing list reports


Italy police recover stolen masterpieces

ROME (AP) — Italian police have recovered 10 masterpieces, including a painting attributed to an artist who worked on the Sistine Chapel, that were stolen in 2004 from an ancient religious complex in Rome, officials said Tuesday.

Officers located the paintings in December. The works were wrapped in newspapers and hidden in the trailer of a suspected art smuggler, police said.

Investigators believe the man was about to take the works abroad to sell them, Carabinieri paramilitary police art squad chief Gen. Giovanni Nistri said. The suspect is under investigation for receiving stolen goods, but is not believed to be behind the theft.

Nistri said the paintings are worth around euro4 million ($5.3 million) and range from the 16th to the 19th century.

The most important among the recovered works is the “Sacred Family,” depicting Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus.

The work has been attributed to 16th-century artist Parmigianino. However, Rome museum official Claudio Strinati later told reporters that it was more likely the work of Flemish master Hendrick van den Broeck, a friend of Parmigianino who also decorated the entrance of the Sistine Chapel, best known for the frescoes painted there by Michelangelo.

Strinati is an expert in 16th-century art.

The recovered paintings are in good condition, considering they were already awaiting restoration when they were stolen from the halls of Santo Spirito in Sassia, a religious complex near the Vatican used as medieval hostel and hospital.

Also on Tuesday, the Culture Ministry said it had handed over to Bulgarian authorities more than 2,000 archaeological artifacts illegally exported from the eastern European country.

The artifacts, mostly ancient coins, were seized by police in 2005 when two Bulgarians tried to sell them at a collectors fair in Verona, the ministry said in a statement.

January 13th, 2009

Posted In: Mailing list reports


“The public interest must surely be in upholding the rule of law, rather than promoting an international free-for-all through the unrestricted circulation of tainted works of art. Do we really wish to educate our children to have no respect for history, legality and ethical values by providing museums with the opportunity freely to exhibit stolen property? ”

Extract from a letter by several members of the British House of Lords

There seems to be a concerted strategy or convergence of tactics by a group of writers who appear determined to subvert the basic principles of law, morality and decency by regularly bombarding the public with ideas which are, in intention and implications, subversive of the present social structure in most societies and against human rights generally. They present us with arguments that are so deficient in logic and substance that one does not know how to respond. Perhaps they are counting on shock effect and numbness on the part of the public so that by the time we realize what they are really trying to achieve it would be too late to respond.

See full at:

January 13th, 2009

Posted In: Dr. Kwame Opoku writings about looted cultural objects

lees de hele tekst van Percy Flage op:

January 13th, 2009

Posted In: algemeen

Archbishop unveils hidden Cyprus treasures

A new exhibition featuring a number of stolen Cypriot treasures and antiques is to open at the Makarios Foundation museum in Nicosia.

Church relics that have been repatriated after being stolen by Turkish antiquities dealer Aydin Dikmen, are among the items on display at the exhibition, which opens next Monday.

“The relics are already on display and on January 19 we will have an event at the Makarios Foundation and will hold the opening of this exhibition of our stolen treasures,” said Archbishop of the Church of Cyprus Chrysostomos II at a press conference yesterday.

Asked if there were any developments on the issue of the relics in the custody of the German police, the Archbishop said “a proposal has been presented to us and we are discussing it.:

The relics were recovered when Dikmen, a Turkish art dealer, was arrested in 1998 for trying to sell Eastern Orthodox art that had been looted from Cyprus during the 1974 invasion.

They were taken to Bavarian National Museum for safekeeping before being returned to Cyprus

Archbishop Chrysostomos pointed out that the Republic of Cyprus has won the court case, but Dikmen had appealed the court decision.

For more information on the stolen treasures exhibition, visit:, or call: 22430008

January 13th, 2009

Posted In: Cyprus

Woman ‘illegally possessed’ art stolen from SA’s Mervyn Smith

January 13, 2009 02:30pm

POLICE have enough evidence to prove a woman illegally possessed canvasses stolen as part of the the largest art theft in SA history, a court has heard.

However, the Adelaide Magistrates Court was today told officers may not be able to prove Lilya Flaks stole the art herself – and will likely drop some of the charges.

Flaks, 55, of Heathpool, has yet to plead to one count of larceny and one count of unlawful possession.

She is accused of stealing 28 abstract landscapes, waterscapes and portraits – valued at more than $500,000 – painted by renowned artist Mervyn Smith.

Today Senior Sergeant Fred Wojtasik, prosecuting, said senior officers were considering his recommendation to go to trial on only the lesser count of unlawful possession.

“A recommendation has gone to my superiors, which they need time to consider before the matter advances further,” he said.

“That proposal is the withdrawal of the larceny charge.”

The paintings – including a highly-prized work of the Whyalla docks – went missing from Mr Smith’s Parkside home in 1991.

Mr Smith died of cancer, aged 89, in 1994.

In 2008, the missing art was discovered at private homes in Heathpool and Trinity Gardens.

Police had reopened the case a year earlier following a tip-off from a member of the public.

At the time, Mr Smith’s daughter, Angela Elliot, said she was “thrilled” to have recovered the work.

“My father died without knowing what happened to the paintings,” Ms Elliot said.

“He’d be looking down now, smiling.”

Today, Sen-Sgt Wojtasik said police were confident they had evidence sufficient to prove the lesser charge.

Magistrate Bill Ackland remanded the matter to next month.

January 13th, 2009

Posted In: Mailing list reports


Frankfurt (ots) – Wie erst jetzt mitgeteilt werden kann, sind bei einem Diebstahl 33 historische Pistolen im Wert von über 100.000 Euro aus einem Museum gestohlen worden. Der Diebstahl wurde am vergangenen Freitag von Mitarbeitern des Museums bei der Überprüfung eines Lagers festgestellt und der Polizei angezeigt.

Die Waffen stammen aus dem 16. bis 19.Jahrhundert und sind voll funktionsfähig.

Zu den durch die Kriminalpolizei aufgenommenen Ermittlungen können derzeit keine Einzelheiten genannt werden.

(André Sturmeit, Telefon 069 – 755 82112)

Rückfragen bitte an:

Polizeipräsidium Frankfurt am Main
P r e s s e s t e l l e
Adickesallee 70
60322 Frankfurt am Main
Telefon: 069/ 755-00
Direkte Erreichbarkeit von Mo. – Fr.: 07:30 Uhr bis 17:00 Uhr
Telefon: 069 / 755-82110 (CvD) oder Verfasser (siehe Artikel)
Rufbereitschaft: 0173-6597905
Fax: 069 / 755-82009
Homepage Polizeipräsidium Ffm.:

January 13th, 2009

Posted In: Museum thefts

“The Washing Place,” left, by the late Park Su-geun sold for 4.5 billion won at the Seoul Auction in May 2007, but is now embroiled in a forgery scandal. Another painting by Park, titled “Mothers Preparing Rice Cakes,” also stirred up a forgery allegation when it was donated to a local hospital. / Yonhap

By Michael Ha
Staff Reporter

A painting by the late Park Su-geun (1914-1965), one of the most beloved Korean painters from the 20th century, is again at the center of an art forgery scandal.

Local media reported last month that the highly valued work that an art dealer donated to Yonsei University’s Medical Center may turn out to be a fake.

The donated painting, titled “Mothers Preparing Rice Cakes,” was thought to be worth 7 billion won. But reports soon followed that the work had failed a previous authentication process and that one appraisal group, the International Art and Science Institute in Korea, had evaluated the artwork a few years ago and even called it a low-quality, unlicensed duplicate.

The controversy has created a quandary for the hospital staff, which had been planning to display it in a main lobby. This month, the Yonsei University Health System told reporters that “the donor strongly believes the painting is genuine. We think this controversy started because of the potentially high value of the donated artwork. We will go ahead with an addition appraisal procedure.”

Park’s Artwork Embroiled In Scandal

All around the world, allegations of forgery are never far away from famous artworks with high commercial value. In Korea, Park’s work in particular has been the subject of intense scrutiny and scandals that have jolted the domestic art world in recent years.

Earlier last year, “The Washing Place,” a well-known painting by Park that sold for 4.5 billion won at the Seoul Auction in May 2007, became fodder for an art forgery scandal. The painting, which depicts a group of women by a stream washing clothes ― a typical scene from rural villages in the past ― remains the most expensive artwork ever sold in Korea.

But critics continue to question the painting’s authenticity. The Seoul Auction and the Korean Art Appraiser’s Association say they stand by the painting, noting that the artwork passed a series of rigorous appraisal processes. But several senior art historians and professors reportedly remain convinced that it is a classic case of forgery, according to reports.

The controversy is now in the process of going through legal proceedings, and a court-appointed group of appraisers is expected to re-evaluate “The Washing Place” sometime early this year.

Target for Forgers

When media reports look at why Park’s paintings are popular targets for forgers, one obvious answer is that he enjoys broad recognition and affection among the Korean public. As a matter of fact, no serious history of modern and contemporary Korean art can be written without mentioning his work. Many of his paintings routinely fetch upwards of hundreds of millions of won at art auctions.

Park’s appeal is partly derived from the popular taste depicted in his works. Park, who had no formal training in art, used an unsophisticated and candid style and lyrically captured scenes from the daily life of average Korean people, who lived through exceptional hardships during the mid-20th century.

Adding to the allure is the fact that there are only a limited number of Park’s oil paintings that are still available in the market.

Another reason forgers may be drawn to Park’s paintings is his primary stylistic tendencies. Some art experts note that authenticating Park’s work can be especially painstaking because of his style, which favors unsophisticated gray-and-white line depiction, earthy colors and crude textures.

`Korean Art Laundering’

Art forgeries involving Park’s paintings are also reportedly taking place in the overseas art world. A local television documentary by SBS reported last month that Christie’s, a leading U.S. auctioneering firm, was duped by forged artworks that were supposedly painted by the late Park.

The documentary quoted a manager in charge of appraisal and sales of Korean art as saying that “the situation has been getting more difficult for the past two years, when forged Park Su-geun paintings started to come in. We even had to return two forged paintings.”

According to the report, there are now cases of “Korean art laundering,” where a fake artwork makes its way from Korea onto overseas markets and is bought by major auctioneering firms. It then makes its way back to the Korean art market with a seal of approval from leading art auctioneers and is resold to unsuspecting domestic art collectors at high prices.

Artwork as Investments

Reports say that until recently, speculations about art forgery have generally been confined to private conversations among collectors during art auctions ― it was not a topic of discussion for the public.

But this shady practice of art forgery has been attracting a great deal of media attention in Korea recently. This may be because Korean investors are putting more of their money in artwork as a way to divest from risky stocks and volatile real estate holdings. Observers say prices of artwork by Korea’s “blue-chip artists,” including Park, have been going through the roof at recent auctions. Investors are increasingly purchasing these paintings with no actual expertise in art, according to reports.

Forgers Aided by Digital Cameras

But while Park’s paintings have been the subject of forgery scandals, they are far from being alone.

Recent reports say forging techniques have been steadily advancing with the aid of computers and digital cameras, turning out fake paintings that are so close to the genuine article that even the artist who painted the original picture can’t tell them apart. And a study by the Korean Galleries Association says that a substantial share of artwork at commercial galleries may in fact be duplicates.

The group says there are dozens of expert forgers working to imitate high-value paintings. It says many of these fakes are high quality since of some of the forgers themselves had served apprenticeships under the painters whose artwork they are duplicating.

Debate Over‘The Washing Place

As for Park’s 4.5 billion won painting, the court proceeding will consider several aspects of the work to determine whether it is genuine or a worthless piece of paper, according to Korean media reports.

The court will employ a team of analysts and a scientific appraisal process to examine whether the pigments used in the painting matches those from mid- 20th century Korea. The court will also review past authentication processes to trace back the painting’s provenance.

January 13th, 2009

Posted In: forgery
By Percy Flarge

Noah Charney (see image at, the self-styled pioneering world expert on art crime, has been stolen in broad daylight while delivering a public lecture to a rapt audience of three somewhere in Massachusetts. Specialist art detectives say there is little chance of the silver-tongued criminologist ever being recovered as he was the only person alive with the depth of knowledge required to solve the crime.

“He was da man,” said art detective Vernon Velocorapter, tears welling in his eyes as he stood on the steps of Scotland Yard clutching a copy of Mr Charney’s latest novel The Talented Mr Rapley. “Nobody knew as much about him as him. This is the saddest day in the long and fabled history of art crime. It’s right up there with the Isabella Stewart Gardner heist.”

Mr Charney, a lecturer, writer, novelist, academic, linguist, public speaker, film-producer, TV anchor-man, masseur, mountaineer, underwater show-jumping champion, lingerie model, neurosurgeon, tap-dancer, movie-star, astronaut, rock musician, witch-doctor, faith-healer, and modest confidant of presidents, was also widely regarded by himself as the foremost expert on paintings and the people who steal them.

Mr Charney holds post-graduate degrees in stolen art from Oxford, Cambridge, Yale, Harvard, Nuremberg, Amsterdam, Tbilisi, Tierra del Fuego, Scunthorpe, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, NASA, Ikea, and the MacDonald’s Hamburger Institute.

Last year he unveiled the results of his many years working undercover in the dark underworld of organised crime. In a scholarly thesis published by the world-famous Charney Institute, based in a mountain bunker somewhere in the Virgin Islands, he astounded art crime experts by revealing the following little-known facts about art theft:

• Most famous paintings are stolen by squirrels

• Dr No is alive and well and living in a bungalow in Idaho

• The market for stolen art is second only to the trade in kangaroo burgers

• All art thieves are Belgian

• Stolen paintings by Caravaggio are worth exactly $99 each on the black market, or buy one, get one free

Professor Charney’s best-selling blockbuster novel — The Famous Painting What Got Stolen — is regarded as a masterpiece of the English language and was named by the New York Times as one of the top two books published that year, the other being How to Make Paper Birds Out of Old Cereal Packets by Lavinia Barcode.

“Stunning”, “Head-spinning”, “Long”, “Paperback”, were typical of the gushing plaudits Mr Charney’s book received on publication. Here is a typical extract from the Pulitzer Prize winning text:

“It was night, a dark and inky night, black as night, cropusculant, with no light nowhere to be seen, anywhere. There were stars in the inky black sky as Ermenegildo Faggionato stole quietly into the shadowy darkened Baroque church of Santa Maria Maggiore in the sleepy little hill-top Tuscan village of Cristobal della Santiago a few miles from Pisa, famed for its precariously leaning tower on that dark and inky black starless night in December 1790. There it hanged, up on the wall, the lovely Madonna and her Christ Child by Philippa Lippy staring down in to the inky black cloak of darkness of the smoky deserted church that had no people in it because it was the middle of the night, at least three o’clock in the morning and still very dark with no stars and all the people in the sleepy little town of Cristobal were all sound asleep in their beds, snoringly unaware that their lovely Renaissance masterpiece, the Madonna of the Toothpick, worth countless millions on the open market, at least £100 million or thereabouts, was about to be stolen from under their noses right up there off the great stone walls of their picaresque little church by a man with blue eyes and an aquiline nose whose fearless heart was bleating like raindrops thrumming down on the coagulated wavy tin roof of the little Gothic church as the snow fell all around on that dark sweltering summer night in 1783. The blade glinted… [Mercy! Enough already! – Ed.]”

The FBI has listed the theft of Mr Charney on its Top Ten Stolen Works of Art website alongside a 1989 blue Chrysler sedan stolen last year from a garage in West Baltimore.

Meanwhile, the Art Loss Register has turned down requests from Mr Charney’s family to help recover the illustrious criminologist. “It’s not worth it,” said Darth Vader, Chairman of the ALR. “We’re only in it for the money.”

January 12th, 2009

Posted In: Mailing list reports


The National Conference on Cultural Property Protection offers insight and proven solutions for new and seasoned professionals in the field of cultural property protection.
Learn from the best, discover new trends, and take away effective tools for your organization. Network with national and international peers from small and large museums, libraries, galleries and cultural centers.

Conference schedule and registration:

January 12th, 2009

Posted In: Conferences

Spalding Gentlemen’s Society had a lucky escape when an arson attack at its museum only caused minimal damage to the building and left its priceless artefacts unscathed.

Fire crews from Spalding were called to the Broad Street museum just before 2am on Thursday morning after a window had been smashed and a curtain set alight.

Police believe the offender lit cloths with a cigarette lighter and threw them through the window.

The blaze was put out by caretaker Graham Cupper, leaving damage to the curtain and windowsill and smoke in two rooms but no damage to its artefacts.

President Dr John Cleary said: “Mr Cupper did a very good job. He got to the fire and stopped it at the early stage before it got a grip.

“His prompt action really saved the day and we are very grateful to him.”

Mr Cupper said: “I only did my job but if I hadn’t been here it probably would have been much worse.”

The museum contains a range of rare items collected by members of the society, which was founded in 1710, including an oil painting of founder member Maurice Johnson as well as artefacts, such as pre-historic tools.

The building also contains a medallion, print and some Wedgwood items from Sir Isaac Newton, who was a member of the society in the early 18th century, as well as a bust of the famous scientist, which is on loan from Lincoln Cathedral.

Dr Cleary said: “In that part of the museum all of the objects are behind glass in cases so the smoke hasn’t damaged anything.

“We are very pleased that even though it was a dreadful event there is no great lasting impact.”

He said the society will look to step up security and also praised fire and rescue and police for their help.

A 21-year-old Spalding man was arrested and has been released on bail until January 19 pending further inquiries.

January 12th, 2009

Posted In: Fire in cultural institutions

Drunk worker reportedly starts fire in Moscow museum
Sun Jan 11, 2009 3:25pm GMT

MOSCOW (Reuters) – A drunk electrician started a fire at a world-famous Moscow art museum after he fell asleep while smoking a cigarette, a police source told RIA news agency Sunday.

The blaze at Moscow’s Tretyakov Gallery started in an engineering building next to the main gallery Saturday and damaged technical equipment but not any of the museum’s valuable art works.

A police source told RIA that a 49-year-old workman had caused the fire, but a spokeswoman for the Moscow museum said it was too early to say what started the blaze.

“According to preliminary reports, the man fell asleep with a lit cigarette when he was drunk,” RIA quoted the source as saying.

“He is now in a hospital intensive care unit and it is not yet possible to take a testimony on the accident.”

The gallery houses some of the best-known Russian art, from 9th century Orthodox icons to 19th century impressionism and portraits of famous Russian writers.

One of its most famous paintings, by the 19th century painter Ilya Repin, depicts a tortured Ivan the Terrible after he killed his son in a violent rage.

January 11th, 2009

Posted In: Fire in cultural institutions

Jan 11 2009 by Coreena Ford, Sunday Sun

ANTIQUES dealer Raymond Scott has lost his civil claim to obtain a priceless book at the centre of a police probe.

Scott, 51, is at the centre of a transatlantic investigation into the theft of a £15m edition of a Shakespeare first folio from Durham University Library.

The eccentric bachelor, of Washington, Tyne and Wear, has told how he took a copy of a first folio he got from a friend in Cuba to the Folger Shakespeare library, in Washington DC . . . but police believe it’s the same copy which was stolen from Durham University Library in December 1998.

Last October, Scott lodged a civil claim when he heard the rare folio was back at Durham University and he demanded its vice-chancellor — Professor Christopher Higgins — return it to him so that he can prove ownership.

However, in a High Court hearing held at Newcastle Crown Court on Friday, he was told he can’t have access to the book because it was being kept at the university on the police’s behalf.

Bruce Walker, the barrister representing Professor Higgins, said: “The wrong defendant has been sued.

“It is needed for the police investigation and retained by Durham Police, but it is in Durham University’s custody in their climate-controlled facilities and it cannot be examined without the police being present.”

Dressed in his favourite Cuban holiday outfit in honour of his “Cuban copy” — topped off with a baseball cap signed by Michael Schumacher and Tiffany sunglasses — Scott represented himself in the two-hour hearing, held in the chambers of district judge Peter Pescod.

Scott said: “If I have made a mistake in naming Professor Higgins I apologise.

“Learned counsel say I want the folio’s return but that is not in fact the case. I only wish for an independent expert to be given access to the first folio. I understand police have virtually monopolised the experts capable of examining the first folio.

“I have to agree they are not in a position to release it to me. It does appear as if I have mis-timed this.

“I was a bit impetuous when I went to the county court . . . I suppose my blood was up to a certain extent, by the very fact it had been returned to Durham University.

“The police investigation is into its seventh month now. Rather like the Prince of Denmark, I have borne the whips and scorns of time, and the law’s delay.”

Judge Pescod rejected the claim against Professor Higgins. He ordered Scott to pay the costs, and asked him how he felt about paying the fee, which he reduced from £8111 to £5000.

Quoting from Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, Scott replied: “They are entitled to a pound of my flesh so long as they don’t take any of my blood.”

He has to answer to police bail later this month, when he hopes to find out whether he will be charged in connection with the theft of the book.

January 11th, 2009

Posted In: Mailing list reports


My attention has been drawn to an interesting article entitled “Looted memorial statues returned to Kenyan family” (Text as pdf file) by Monica Udvardy and Linda Giles which appeared in SAFE (Saving Antiquities For Everyone) that demonstrates in an abundant way the above title which in a normal world would be self-evident but in the world of antiquities appears to be contested by some Western European and US American writers; they even argue that Africans are not yet ready or developed enough to recover their cultural objects which were stolen/looted by Europeans and are now adorning Western museums or are in depots.

Monica Udvardy and Linda Giles have shown through their efforts and success in securing the return of the stolen sacred memorial statuettes (“vigango”, singular “kikango”) to Kenya that not all Westerners share the immoral, arrogant, illegal and opportunistic position that stolen/looted African cultural objects are better served by being in European and American museums. These sacred memorial statuettes, carved by Mijikenda villagers living along Kenya’s coast in honour and remembrance of their departed relatives are stolen and sent to Europe and America. It shows how far the Western world will go in its disrespect of the religion and religious beliefs of others. The anthropologists could inform all those concerned that these memorial statuettes are very important for the mental tranquillity of the societies where the vigango are found serving as reminders of the link between the living and the dead; they have social and religious functions. How will the living pour libations and perform other acts of remembrances when the symbols for remembrance are stolen and sent abroad?

The two scholars were able to convince the Illinois State University Museum to agree to repatriate two memorial statuettes. Hampton University Museum, Virginia, which had at first refused to return a memorial statute in its collection changed its position and agreed to repatriate. It appears though that the University still has a considerable number of the stolen items in its museum.

This successful case of repatriation is significant as far as restitution of African cultural objects is concerned. As readers know, apart from Egypt and Ethiopia, hardly any African country can report any significant case of restitution of cultural objects from European and American institutions in recent times. The case of the Benin Bronzes is notorious for the sheer arrogance and contempt many European museums and individuals feel entitled to display, even though the Oba, King of Benin (the ancient Kingdom of Benin, now part of Nigeria, not to be confused with the Republic of Benin, formerly Dahomey) has recently renewed the demand for the return of some of these Bronzes.

The welcome given to the return of the memorial statuettes in Kenya, with speeches, ceremonies and dances, is part of the indication of the attachment of the peoples of Kenya and Africa generally, to their cultural objects. Do we really need to tell Europeans and Americans that these objects were not made for their museums and private residences? There are still western intellectuals and professors who still believe they have a God-given right and duty to determine the location and fate of African cultural objects. They believe they are entitled and bound to take cultural objects they consider significant, no matter their functions in the African society. Hence funeral memorials, carefully placed on the burial grounds of relatives, are stolen and sent to the West to be placed in museums and private homes.

According to reports, there must be hundreds of these objects in Europe and America. How do those who never tire of preaching about human rights reconcile this sacrilege with the religious rights of the Africans concerned?

The success of Monica Udvardy and Linda Giles encourages us to believe that there are many in Europe and America who are not satisfied with the current situation whereby Europeans and Americans are holding thousands of stolen/looted African religious and cultural objects and pour scorn on demands to return some. We are even told we should be happy that these objects are in Europe. Were they returned, it is added, these objects would be stolen. The Europeans and Americans who stole our cultural objects now refuse to return them because we, the Africans, would steal our cultural objects. What a world!

Udvardy and Giles seem to have taken the principled position that stolen cultural items should be returned to their lawful owners. They have not, unlike some, adopted the view that it would be right to return the Parthenon/Elgin Marbles to the Greeks but not to return the Benin Bronzes to the people of Benin (Edo), Nigeria.

Udvardy and Giles underscore the importance of the media in attempts to recover stolen/looted artefacts: “At least fifty special interest blogs and websites have discussed the issue from the perspectives of art history, archaeology, African Studies, and cultural anthropology.

The media attention has raised general public awareness about the devastating impact on local communities due to the widespread global marketing of African cultural heritage.

There are also indications that the media attention has affected other African art dealers”

The struggle to recover stolen/looted African cultural artefacts will not disappear whether some like it or not. We should concentrate on finding solutions such as described in the article, ”Looted memorial statues returned to Kenya Family” in SAFE http://www.savingantiquities. See the article by Mike Pflanz, “Theft of sacred vigango angers Kenyan villagers” See also the excellent video “Closer to Home: Repatriating Kenya’s Vigango,

Westerners must finally accept that the stealing, directly or indirectly, the cultural objects of others, constitutes a violation of their human rights and in the case of funeral objects such as the “vigango”, a violation of their religious rights. The greed of some for exotic art cannot be placed above the human rights of others.

Kwame Opoku. 10 January, 2009.

January 10th, 2009

Posted In: Dr. Kwame Opoku writings about looted cultural objects

Boeiende, emotionele en soms humoristische tekst van Steve Keller over David Liston te lezen op:

Boeiende, semorionele en soms humoristische tekst van Steve Keller over David Liston te lezen op:

Boeiende, semorionele en soms humoristische tekst van Steve Keller over David Liston te lezen op:

January 10th, 2009

Posted In: algemeen

I was sorry to see the announcement about Dave Liston. I wanted to take a few minutes to explain to the many “young” readers who Dave is since he has been absent from the front lines in recent years. I think it’s important that everyone knows of his contribution to the community.

For years, Dave was the Training Officer for Smithsonian. In the late 1970’s the conference now known as the National Conference on Cultural Property Protection was known as the Belmont Conference and was held at a historic house in Belmont Maryland, just for Smithsonian employees. As many of you know, I was hired to be Director of Security at the Art Institute of Chicago the day the theft of three Cezanne paintings, then the largest art theft in U.S. history, was discovered. My boss asked if I could go to Washington even before reporting to work to meet with Bob Burke, the late Director of Security there. They called Bob and he sent me a message to contact Dave Liston. The next day I drove from my home in Pennsylvania to Belmont to attend the second Belmont Conference as an observer and to meet with Burke about the theft after hours.

Dave Liston was the first person in museum security I ever met. Many people have told me that Dave is the first they met also. He introduced me to every attendee and to Burke. It was obvious to me that the conference was Dave’s show and he was the driving force behind it and was one of those people I call “facilitators” who make things happen. Over the next ten years I learned that Dave was more than just the training officer. Burke was a prominent person and was invited to speak publically, testify before Congress and teach, and Liston was the person who put together most, if not all, of his presentations, slide shows, etc. Dave was, for all practical purposes, for years the only person behind putting together the growing National Conference. And he was, for hundreds of people around the world, the “go to guy” if you needed something. Liston could get it for you or he knew the person who could. He was the central point of contact for all of us. Everyone knew Dave. Everyone.

To many people, Dave Liston was a pain in the . . Well, you know. He got a kick out of keeping things stirred up. That’s one thing I liked about him. He would call my office and ask for Steve Layne and call Layne and ask for me. But he kept us on our toes.

Many people complained about the job Dave did in putting together the National Conference but those of us who knew, knew that one person can only do so much. Somehow the conference grew and thrived. His contribution to that conference was incredible when you realize the facts.

More important than the fact that we probably wouldn’t have a Smithsonian Conference today without Dave Liston, literally hundreds of security professionals knew they were free to call Dave any ttime and get training or other materials they could use for their own programs. Everyone called Dave. As the “go to guy” at Smithsonian, if you went to Burke or his successors for something, you would probably be referred to Dave eventually anyway. I’ve known security managers from small institutions who didn’t have the funding to travel to DC to attend the National Conference. Liston would learn of this and work with Bob Burke to invite that person to speak as a panelist. They would then contact the museum director and explain that the security manager had been invited to speak and convince the director to provide funding. This type of extra effort truly helped many young professionals rise through the ranks and thrive in their jobs. You may be one of them.

I don’t know how many times Burke dispatched Dave and others on his staff to travel to museums having difficulties to help get their programs on track. Read that as save the “butt” of the security director who needed intensive personal help getting his program back on track. If Liston didn’t actually travel, you can bet he provided support for those who did.

For the past several years Dave has been in another assignment and few know him today. That’s unfortunate.

Our profession does a terrible job of recognizing the people who are the true leaders in the museum security profession. There are a small number of people who have contributed significantly to make museum security the specialty that it is today. We have resources today because people like Dave gave time and effort generously. But guys like Dave usually don’t get the credit. They work behind the scenes so people like Burke can make things happen. When they pass on, someone decides to give them an award. Why not thank these people when they can hear your appreciation?

I hope that someone on the Burke Award Committee will nominate Dave Liston for the Burke Award as he is long overdue for it and I hope that all of you who did not know Dave but attend the Smithsonian Conference realize that without Dave Liston it would never have taken roots. I hope that the Committee to nominate people for the Burke Award have the leadership to tell the sponsors that they don’t care that Liston is technically inelligible for the award as a Smithsonian employee and demand that the rules be bent. I knew Bob Burke well. He called me his “personal security consultant” and we spoke on the phone many times per month. I can tell you without the slightest doubt that Burke would want Dave recognized for his contributions with the 2009 Burke Award. If you agree, now would be a great time to make your feelings known by asking that the Committee place Dave Liston’s name in nomination, modifying the rules if necessary to make him elligible.

Dave, you were a pioneer in modern museum security. When I came into the profession in 1979 there were no property passes, policy manuals, employee ID cards, card readers, Security Guidelines, affordable gallery CCTV cameras or wireless alarms in use. You helped us learn about and develop these things and you were the one who made them available to the world. You helped move museum security out of the “Dark Ages” and into the modern era. There are not many pioneers left. And while you are still able to hear me say it, I want to say “Thanks for all you did for all of us. Be well. You are in our prayers.”

Steve Keller

January 10th, 2009

Posted In: Mailing list reports


Posted on : 2009-01-09 | Author : MA-ARCHAEOLOGY
News Category : PressRelease

BOSTON – (Business Wire) The Archaeological Institute of America (AIA) (, North America’s oldest and largest organization devoted to the world of archaeology, will be giving out seven awards on January 9, 2009 at a ceremony as part of the organization’s annual meeting. The event will take place from 4:45 – 6:30 pm at the Marriott Philadelphia Downtown Hotel (1201 Market Street).

Henry T. Wright will be the recipient of the “Gold Medal for Distinguished Archaeological Achievements” award, honoring his contributions to archaeology through fieldwork, publications and teaching. Wright’s research has primarily focused on ancient state-based societies through fieldwork in China, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Madagascar, Syria, and Turkey. In addition to his research and writing, he is currently the Albert C. Spaulding Distinguished University Professor of Anthropology at the University of Michigan.
Dolores R. Piperno will be the recipient of the “Pomerance Award for Scientific Contributions to Archaeology,” honoring her interdisciplinary work with archaeologists. A scientist specializing in tropical archaeobotany at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama, she pioneered research on the analysis of phytoliths – the microcopic silica bodies that occur in many plant species – particularly in relation to the origins of agriculture in lowland Central America. She has also carried out groundbreaking research on the application of phytoliths, pollen, starch grains, and charcoal in reconstructing the agricultural and environmental history of tropical areas, elucidating topics such as the beginnings of maize domestication, the transition to agriculture in southwest Asia, human behavioral ecology, palaeoecology, and the effects of human activity on biodiversity.
Michael and Neathery Fuller will receive the “Martha and Artemis Joukowsky Distinguished Service Award” for their sustained and exceptional volunteer efforts as members of the AIA. After receiving a membership to the AIA as a wedding present in 1981, the Fuller’s began volunteering during AIA dinners, later serving as officers of the St. Louis Society and the AIA education committee, creating archaeological education programs for public school students and serving on the AIA National Lecture circuit.
The “James R. Wiseman Book Award” will be awarded to Joan Breton Connelly for Portrait of a Priestess: Women and Ritual in Ancient Greece (Princeton 2007). In this book, Connelly blends evidence from ancient texts and archaeology to discuss Greek priestesses and the public roles they played.
Andrea M. Berlin will receive the “Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award” for her innovative teaching methods and development of interdisciplinary curricula in the teaching of archaeology. Currently the Morse-Alumni Distinguished Teaching Professor of Archaeology in the Department of Classical and Near Eastern Studies at the University of Minnesota, Berlin created the undergraduate major in archaeology. She is also an active field archaeologist, authoring or editing books and articles based on her research.
The “Conservation and Heritage Management Award” for excellence in the conservation of archaeological sites and collections will be awarded to Heritage Watch, a non-profit organization dedicated to safeguarding Cambodia’s cultural heritage. Heritage Watch has identified the major issues affecting both local and worldwide archaeological sites, including looting, the trade in illicit antiquities, tourism overload and rapid development outpacing national policies to protect sites. The organization has also taken steps to ignite public interest and make use of media to protect threatened archaeological resources.
New York Times’ senior science writer and editor John Noble Wilford will be the recipient of the “Outstanding Public Service Award,” honoring his contributions to more than 500 articles to the publication that feature archaeology from around the world. His writings on the subject have spanned human history, followed stories from a sensational start to more realistic conclusion, discussed the impact of modern war on ancient artifacts and show the ancients as recognizable human beings.
“The winners of these prestigious honors, which we look forward to giving each year at our annual meeting, are to be applauded for the positive impact their work has had on the field of archaeology,” said C. Brian Rose, president of the AIA. “We look at this group of archaeologists, educators, authors, writers and volunteers as ambassadors of the AIA, helping us succeed in our mission of teaching, supporting and advocating archaeology around the world.”

About Archaeological Institute of America (AIA)

The Archaeological Institute of America (AIA) is North America’s oldest and largest organization devoted to the world of archaeology. Founded in 1879 as a non-profit group and chartered by the United States Congress in 1906, the AIA has over 250,000 members and subscribers belonging to 104 AIA local societies in the United States, Canada and overseas. The organization promotes public interest in the cultures and civilizations of the past, supports archaeological research, fosters the sound professional practice of archaeology, advocates the preservation of the world’s archaeological heritage and represents the discipline in the wider world. The organization hosts archaeological fairs, lectures and other events throughout North America; publishes ARCHAEOLOGY magazine, American Journal of Archaeology and a variety of books; awards fellowships and honors; and leads global, archaeological travel excursions.

Archaeological Institute of America
Press Contacts:
Shelley Kapitulik
Craig Sender

January 10th, 2009

Posted In: Mailing list reports


Italy to send back stolen antique coins confiscated in Verona
15:46 Fri 09 Jan 2009 – Svetlana Guineva

Bulgaria will receive back from Italy close to 3800 antique coins and other archaeological objects, smuggled into the country in 2005, Bozhidar Dimitrov, director of the National History Museum said, quoted by Bulgarian language Sega daily on January 9 2009.

The significant part of the valuables consists of silver and bronze Roman and Byzantine coins, which experts have valued at around 35000 euro, Sega daily said.

Four Bulgarians have been detained in Verona, Italy, for trying to sell the objects. They have been deported to Bulgaria and will be tried in accordance with local legislature.

Dimitrov has said that the authorities suspect that the coins could have been smuggled out of the country by the same criminal group that committed the robbery at the Veliko Turnovo museum in February 2006.

At that time more than 10 000 golden, silver and bronze coins were stolen from the museum’s numismatic fund. Among them were valuable coins dating back to the time of Alexander the Great. At the time police said that the robbery had been very well planned and that an insider might have helped.

January 10th, 2009

Posted In: looting and illegal art traffickers

Gestohlen. Dieses Bild des Malers Schmidt-Rottluff wird vermisst.

Berlin – Unbekannte brachen gegen 2.30 Uhr in eine Galerie in der Otto-Nagel-Straße in Biesdorf ein und stahlen mehrere Kunstwerke und einen Computer. Der Galerist, der über den Ausstellungsräumen wohnt, hörte Geräusche und rief die Polizei. Kurze Zeit später bemerkte er mehrere Fahrzeuge, darunter auch einen weißen Kleintransporter, die in unterschiedliche Richtungen wegfuhren. Über die Schadenshöhe der entwendeten Kunstwerke (Gemälde, Grafiken und Skulpturen) ist derzeit nichts bekannt. Betroffen sind unter anderem Werke chinesischer Künstler und ein Aquarell des Künstlers Schmidt-Rottluff. Zeugen werden gebeten, sich unter Tel.: 46 64 94 54 00 bei der Polizei zu melden.


January 10th, 2009

Posted In: Mailing list reports


Tales from the Vitrine: Battles Over Stolen Antiquities
By Britt Peterson

On a 1984 visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a Turkish journalist named Ozgen Acar noticed a group of fifty artifacts labeled “East Greek treasure” that resembled a collection that had gone missing some twenty years before. The treasure, Acar suspected, had been snatched by grave robbers from Sardis, an ancient city in western Turkey, which served as the capital of the Lydian empire at its peak in the sixth and seventh centuries BC. (Herodotus tells us that its last king, the affluent Croesus, was the first person to mint coins of pure silver and gold, hence the saying “as rich as Croesus.”) Acar, who had spent the previous decade tracking antiquities looters in the small towns surrounding Sardis, took his suspicions to the Turkish Ministry of Education. It turned out that the Lydian Hoard had passed through a number of smugglers and semireputable dealers before reaching the Met in the 1960s, and there was plenty of evidence that the Met had known something of the provenance of the objects at the time and willfully ignored it. The Turkish government sued the Met for the unconditional return of the cache and, after a six-year legal battle, finally won. In 1995 the Lydian Hoard was returned to the small town of Usak, in Sardis, sparking an outpouring of national pride and a flurry of copycat lawsuits.

The celebrations were to be short-lived. Unlike in other “source countries” such as Greece, Italy and Egypt, the people of Turkey are the product of successive invasions and migrations. Modern Turks, who are primarily descended from thirteenth-century Ottoman conquerors, have little in common, ethnically or culturally, with the Trojans, Lydians and Mycenaeans of the distant past. Perhaps not surprisingly, then, Turks have been most eager to tour attractions that showcase relics of their Muslim heritage, such as the Hagia Sophia, a Byzantine basilica later converted into a mosque, and Topkapi Palace, once home to the Ottoman sultans and the present custodian of their crown jewels. These sites each host about a million visitors every year, making them the two most popular attractions in Istanbul. Compare this with the little museum in Usak, which received exactly 769 visitors between 2001 and 2006, a number that failed to impress the Hoard’s previous stewards: the number of people “who’ve visited those treasures in Turkey,” sniffed a museum spokesman, “is roughly equal to one hour’s worth of visitors at the Met.”

At that time, the Usak museum was so poorly appointed that its lone security guard doubled as the ticket taker. The vitrines holding the objects were barely protected; there was no alarm system, and the lock was the sort one can pick with a hairpin. In 2005 officials were forced to admit that several pieces had corroded since arriving in Turkey; the Usak museum lacked sufficient funds to care for them properly.

So it should have come as no shock when, in April 2006, the highlight of the Hoard, a golden hippocampus (sea horse) much beloved by tourists and locals alike, was revealed to have been stolen. At almost twice the weight of the original, the hippocampus that was–and remains–on display was an obvious fake. Kazim Akbiyikoglu, the museum’s curator and Acar’s old friend and ally, was fingered as the thief. Acar, who had by then devoted twenty years of his life to winning back the Hoard, was devastated.

A verdict has yet to come down in Akbiyikoglu’s trial, but the evidence amassed against him seems damning, and the case has exacerbated Western apprehension that museums in source countries are unequipped to handle precious antiquities. On the heels of such embarrassment, the Turkish government has been shamed into putting a stop to a stream of litigation against Western museums, much of which was likely to succeed. The hippocampus, to date, remains missing, most likely having been melted into bullion and sold on the black market.

In Loot, Sharon Waxman, formerly of the New York Times, investigates the Lydian heist as well as similar curatorial debacles around the world. On separate floors of Cairo’s Egyptian Museum, she reports, two research teams feuding over trivial logistical matters simultaneously catalog the museum’s rich collection of artifacts, each using its own distinct, incompatible notation system. Waxman stops by the then uncompleted museum at the base of the Acropolis–which is meant to house the Elgin Marbles one day, should the British Museum ever return them–where local protests and managerial incompetence delayed construction for years.

But Waxman appears to believe that, despite everything, these countries have some legitimate claim to the antiquities that have been taken through various semilegal and extralegal contrivances throughout the ages. And she is honest–often angrily so–about the ambiguous circumstances under which many of these objects left their homes. One of the best passages in Loot is a tour of the Louvre’s cluttered, poorly labeled antiquities galleries, with Waxman supplementing the stingily worded display cards to create a panoramic exposition of French misadventures in Egypt. Visiting the Chamber of Kings, for example, where a three-wall bas-relief mural tells the story of eleven centuries of Egyptian royal history, Waxman corrects the Louvre’s cursory explanation–“elements” were “lost in transport”–with a story of breathtaking greed and fraud: in the 1840s, a French explorer paid a midnight visit to a temple in Karnak, pried out the mural and bribed a local governor to allow him to ship it, in pieces, to Paris, where well-meaning workers coated the reliefs with a layer of varnish that soaked away the 3,500-year-old paint below, leaving the mural almost colorless. This section of Loot, as well as similar ones on the Met and the British Museum, makes one wish Waxman would turn the book’s contents into a series of museum audio tours on tucked-under-the-rug looting scandals.

Waxman’s extensive, empathetic reporting leads her to make some fairly minimal recommendations, the primary one being transparency. She also advocates closer cooperation between source countries and the West, suggesting that “the only realistic path forward is one of collaboration between poorer source countries so rich in patrimony and the wealthy industrialized nations that have the cash and expertise to preserve that patrimony.” But she is vague about the details. How should courts proceed if the parties in question don’t care to cooperate? It’s true that a few source countries appear to have become more open to lending their artifacts for long periods of time, but what about curators in the West who fear that their cherished collections will be shipped out to museums as badly maintained as Usak’s?

A vocal member of this last group is James Cuno, director of the Art Institute of Chicago, whose book Who Owns Antiquity? represents a shot across the bow and the greatest stumbling block to Waxman’s modest proposal. Who Owns Antiquity? is a passionate apologia for the right of “encyclopedic” museums like the Met and the Louvre to house the world’s cultural patrimony. The main thrust of Cuno’s argument is that looting is inevitable and therefore museums, rather than private collectors, may as well be its beneficiaries. Source countries suing for restitution are motivated primarily by selfish, shortsighted nationalism, abetted by international courts and Unesco, which in 1970 passed a convention barring trade in looted artifacts. The only institutions that truly care about preserving, properly exhibiting and providing access to the world’s great treasures are the encyclopedic museums of the West–not only the Met and the Louvre but also the British Museum, the troubled Getty and, of course, the Art Institute, among others. These museums, having transcended political motivations, allow art to be exhibited in the extranational context of the artistic tradition.

Cuno makes a sophisticated point about the difficulty of separating any thread of aesthetic tradition from the tangled skein of world influence. To claim that ancient Roman artifacts came from cultures that “developed autonomously in the region of present-day Italy,” he reminds us, “is to willfully ignore the hybridity of culture and its multiple identities.” In support of his concept of a global artistic realm that towers over nationalized identities, he marshals Edward Said and Benedict Anderson, putting a postcolonial spin on the Enlightenment ideal of the universal museum.

But the fit between postcolonialism and Enlightenment universalism is an awkward one, and it points out one of the flaws in Cuno’s reasoning: his whitewashed vision of the encyclopedic museum. Here is Cuno’s definition of his ideal: “This is the concept of the museum dedicated to ideas, not ideologies, the museum of international, indeed universal aspirations, and not of nationalist limitations, curious and respectful of the world’s artistic and cultural legacy as common to us all.” It’s undeniable that a visit to the Louvre or the Met illuminates a vast, thrilling network of cultural resonance. Traversing a gallery that contains self-portraiture in the form of paintings by the seventeenth-century Dutch masters, late twentieth-century photographs and West African cult masks, for example, provides an education in comparative cultural self-representation that really can’t be experienced any other way. (The Internet seems like a potential supplement, but neither Waxman nor Cuno addresses the potential for online exhibition and cooperation.)

But Cuno’s nightmare vision that, through a few well-publicized restitution suits, the display cases of the West will be wrenched open to bleed forth valuable antiquities to the far corners of the world, leaving these grand old buildings tumbleweed-bare, is a fantasy. Such a process would be almost impossibly complex, and it is difficult to imagine that any source country would have the motivation or the means to carry it out. Second, many antiquities in the West were obtained legally, not even through the corrupted system of partage, in which source countries gave up their rights to discoveries made by Western-funded excavations. And most restitution suits center around single high-profile pieces rather than the meat-and-potatoes of these mammoth institutions. So the encyclopedic museum is not really under threat from what Cuno disgustedly calls the “nationalist retentionist” agenda. We will always have the British Museum, even if the Elgin Marbles go back to Greece.

Cuno’s assumption that encyclopedic museums inhabit a universal realm that transcends culture and ideology is obviously wrong. This is true on an artistic level–surely displaying ritual objects on pristine white walls indicates something about the way Western culture believes art should be enjoyed–and it’s true on a political level as well. The Louvre, for example, was founded by the French Revolutionary government in 1793 with the purpose of turning what had been a lavish royal palace into a temple of the people. But as France entered the colonial age, the Louvre became less the symbolic home of égalité than the repository of whatever trophies the empire’s emissaries could lay their hands on. Napoleon’s “savants”–a sort of scientific league of extraordinary gentlemen who traveled with his troops–were the first Europeans to alight upon the treasures of ancient Egypt, and the years of rabid excavation and art exportation that followed helped fill the Louvre’s cavernous halls. These prizes, such as mummies displayed by the Empress Josephine in Malmaison, her country estate west of Paris, were meant to redound to the greater glory of France, not merely to celebrate the masses.

Can an institution be said to be beyond ideology when its history is bound up with colonialism and the same “palace of wonders” tradition that brought living, breathing villages nègres to nineteenth-century Parisian world fairs and the preserved genitalia of the “Hottentot Venus” to the Musée de l’Homme? Cuno seems oblivious to the imperialist taint on the tradition of the encyclopedic museum. He mentions, when listing examples from the Art Institute’s collection that require a global context to be properly understood, a bronze plaque from the Benin Empire, taken by the British: “As retribution for the deaths of members of the British mission, a punitive exhibition was organized, which occupied the royal city of Benin in 1897 and led to the removal of hundreds of Benin bronze plaques, brass sculptures, and ivory tusks to Britain.” He doesn’t elaborate much on the “punitive exhibition” (usually referred to as a “punitive expedition” by other scholars), which involved days of looting and destruction and precipitated the collapse of the 400-year-old empire. The region (modern-day Nigeria) was left destabilized, and the British began a period of colonial dominance that lasted sixty years. Elsewhere, Cuno glosses over or completely omits the unfortunate legacies of some of the artworks he discusses. Most surprising, he makes a glaring error when he tells us that the Met received the Lydian materials through partage. Here one misses Waxman’s corrective gaze.

For Cuno, however, to harp on this is to get hung up on ancient history. He reminds his readers that the Benin bronzes are divided among Chicago, London and various European cities, where they are loved and cared for and seen by many thousands of people every year. The idea of returning them to Lagos, one of the world’s most dangerous cities, or anywhere else in Nigeria, with its poverty, civil unrest and ethnic violence, seems absurd, especially given that only ethnic Yoruba (about one-fifth of the population) claim any racial or cultural connection to the Benin Empire. But Waxman’s prescription is not simply to pack up everything in the halls of Western museums and send it all priority mail back to the Third World countries whence it came. She recommends that museums be open about their complex legacy while seeking feasible ways to redress old wrongs whenever possible. Cuno may disapprove, but if recent developments are any indication, the future of museum collecting looks a lot more like Waxman’s vision than it does his: flexible agreements with source countries for loans and joint expeditions, transparency about procedure and provenance and a commitment from museums to obey the spirit as well as the letter of the law, determined by international conventions on art trading.

There is no place on earth where questions of patrimony and preservation are more urgent than Iraq, which, according to archaeologist Gil Stein, is undergoing the wholesale “eradication of the material record of the world’s first urban, literate civilization.” In Catastrophe! The Looting and Destruction of Iraq’s Past, an exhibition catalog from the Oriental Institute Museum of the University of Chicago, Stein and other archaeologists and curators discuss the history of looting in Iraq and what is to be done about the future. Under Saddam Hussein–until the 1990s, at least–Iraq did a good job of protecting more than 1,000 archaeological sites, such as buried cities and tomb complexes from the Sumerian, Babylonian, Assyrian and Akkadian empires. Saddam, who fancied himself the spiritual descendant of ancient Mesopotamian kings like Hammurabi and Nebuchadnezzar, provided ample funds for the State Board of Antiquities and Heritage, and set a high penalty on looting. (This scrupulousness did not extend to his neighbors’ treasures; after invading Kuwait in 1990, the Iraqi army made off with nearly every item housed in the Kuwait National Museum.)

Following the Gulf War, with the country’s economic strength on the wane, the looting of archaeological sites became far more common and the enforcement of antilooting laws declined sharply. Nor did this much seem to bother the West. John Russell, an archaeologist and former cultural adviser to the Coalition Provisional Authority, claims that “newly surfaced Iraqi artifacts were sold in the United States at venues to accommodate every price range: the major New York auction houses, brick-and-mortar galleries, online virtual galleries, and the burgeoning, anonymous, unregulated mega-market of eBay.”

After the invasion, however, even beyond the piñata bash that was the Iraq Museum in the early days of April 2003, unlawfully excavated antiquities became as coveted on the black market as weapons. By May the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani had issued a fatwa against illegal excavations; the United Nations passed a ban against traffic in stolen Iraqi art the same month. Still, an estimated 15,000 objects were stolen from the Iraq Museum, and more than half of these remain missing, including the museum’s unique collection of Babylonian cylinder seals. Damage to the archaeological sites is unquantifiable, but through the use of DigitalGlobe aerial images, the Oriental Institute has assembled an extensive database cataloging the missing artifacts. As Roger Atwood writes in Stealing History (2004), “Antiquities pulled from the ground…have no…records, no catalogue numbers or schematic drawings, and so it is that much more difficult to detect them as they move through the market and, if seized, to prove that they were plundered.” Even if the objects are someday returned, much of their history, not to mention their value, is lost forever. Without archaeological context, as McGuire Gibson writes in Catastrophe!, objects “are really just knickknacks. Beautiful and intriguing, but knickknacks.”

Catastrophe! includes a day-by-day retelling of the looting of the Iraq Museum, an event that also features prominently in Thieves of Baghdad (2005), Marine Col. Matthew Bogdanos’s first-person account of leading the museum’s restoration effort. According to Donny George, a former director of the museum (he fled Iraq in 2006), the first looters were professional thieves who knew exactly what to target, and it’s likely that many of them were linked to former or current museum employees. Later waves appear to have been more local, casual and indiscriminately destructive. Many of the writers of Catastrophe! blame the US Army for not securing the museum and Iraq’s archaeological sites quickly enough or with sufficient manpower. Gibson and Russell describe the days leading up to the invasion and the years since as a frustrating series of memos ignored, phone calls unreturned. Atwood tells the story of a group of Iraqi curators and their two guards trying to defend the 3,500-year-old city of Nimrud from looters in the first days after Saddam’s fall. After weeks spent dodging Kalashnikov bullets and watching as the looters carved slices of Assyrian friezes out of the walls with stonecutting tools, the Iraqis requested additional American protection; an infantry battalion finally showed up in May, too late to save the most important pieces. Bogdanos, on the other hand, details his exasperation with archaeologists who assumed the Army had total mobility throughout Iraq in the early days of the occupation. He points out that Saddam’s army had used the museum as a fortress, and that securing it immediately would have required its bombing.

But everyone from Bogdanos to Russell, except Cuno, agrees that the vast illegal antiquities trade is the major impediment to curtailing looting in Iraq. Russell tells us that “as long as an unfettered worldwide market for Iraqi antiquities is allowed to provide the funding for this ‘Iraqi problem,’ the problem will not go away.” Bogdanos, an assistant district attorney in Manhattan, disdains museums and dealers who buy stolen antiquities as having “no honor, no code, no rules.” There is also a security argument against abetting antiquities smuggling, as smugglers who carry weapons and drugs out of Iraq often deal in antiquities as well, and the sale of antiquities appears to help fund the insurgency. Bogdanos mentions the discovery of a weapons cache in Anbar province in 2005: along with guns and armor, marines found more than thirty pieces from the collection of the Iraq Museum.

All of this puts the lie to Cuno’s permissive stance on buying objects of dubious provenance. Cuno writes, “No museum has ever endorsed the looting of archaeological sites and the loss of the knowledge they contain. But in many respects, when faced with the choice whether or not to acquire an undocumented antiquity, the looting of the archaeological site has already occurred and the knowledge that may have been gained from the careful study of an antiquity’s archaeological context has already been lost.” Given the choice between condemning an item to the black market and “bringing it into the public domain,” he reckons, why, “putting aside the legal risks,” should a reputable museum hesitate to buy? And given that the Iraq Museum is presently under the control of Muqtada al-Sadr, why would we be eager to return the valuable flotsam that has washed up in the United States, Jordan, Switzerland and Japan?

Cuno’s slipshod reasoning–his creation of a false dichotomy between buying antiquities illegally and abandoning them to the purgatory of the black market, his dismissal of the legal and ethical reasons for taking a stand against the purchase of antiquities that are likely to have been stolen–reveals the bankruptcy of his argument. To posit that nationalism is the only reason a source country would cherish its cultural patrimony is to rationalize thievery; the argument also diminishes the great power these objects hold, as evidenced by the numerous Iraqi civilians who risked their lives to protect the ancient artifacts of their land, such as the five staff members who holed up in the Iraq Museum during the first days of the invasion. Even many of the casual looters Bogdanos described seemed enthralled by, and desperate to protect, the objects they were “liberating.” That may not be art for art’s sake, but it isn’t “nationalist retentionism” either. Substitute Iraq for Egypt or Benin, and the selfish oversimplifications of Cuno’s defense become clear. Sometimes the best test for arguments about the past is a more thorough look at the present.

Britt Peterson is assistant managing editor of The New Republic.

January 9th, 2009

Posted In: looting and illegal art traffickers

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January 9th, 2009

Posted In: Mailing list reports


Humidity damages museum artwork
Posted: 1/8/09
About 25 paintings and several pieces of decorative art weathered damages after a faulty HVAC valve spiked humidity levels in a storage room at the Georgia Museum of Art.

“We don’t yet know the extent of the damage,” GMOA Director William Eiland said in a phone interview.

A museum conservator is monitoring the affected artwork during the next several days as the moistened paint dries.

The conservator will be able to provide a more detailed assessment of the sustained damages by early next week, Eiland said.

“Paint loss means the integrity of the painting has been compromised to the point of being damaged,” Eiland said.

One such loss was a mid-19th century American painting by artist William Haseltine.

“Some other works are merely wet,” said Eiland. “When the moisture goes away they may be OK.”

Recovering works include “Dogtown” by Marsden Hartley, a painting attributed to Eastman Johnson and a 19th century hunt board from the Piedmont region of Georgia.

Eiland said a hunt board is a tall table that – “legend has it” – enabled hunters to grab food and drink without dismounting from their horses.

He said the table “appeared to have water damage on its surface.”

The broken valve was discovered by a museum security supervisor during a routine check on Jan. 4.

The broken valve caused moist air to flow into the storage room where a variety of paintings, furniture pieces and sculptures are housed.

Eiland said he cannot estimate the cost of the damages until the conservator finishes appraising each compromised piece.

He said he is working with the museum’s insurance company to cover the losses.

The restoration process must be completed before the end of March, he said, when the museum will be sequestering the collection in preparation for its reopening in 2011.

January 8th, 2009

Posted In: Mailing list reports


Cities dig in to protect precious fossil sites

The municipalities, which have been the sites of recent dinosaur fossil discoveries, want to prevent the smuggling of the prehistoric finds, which has become a major headache in other countries.

They have introduced ordinances to protect dig sites, designated areas as sanctuaries, and have rules in place to punish offenders.

The municipal government of Ono, Fukui Prefecture, adopted a set of restrictions in July aimed at protecting fossils in the city.

In 1996, a fossilized tooth of a dinosaur related to the Tyrannosaurus rex was discovered in 1996, the first finding in Japan involving the giant meat-eating theropod.

The city designated 24 locations around the excavation site as protected areas, and made it mandatory to register any research and excavation activities with the city.

It also appointed 10 residents to patrol the area.

The city sits atop the Tetori strata, which includes sedimentary layers dating back to the early Cretaceous period (120 million to 140 million years ago), and stretches over a wide area of the Hokuriku region.

The sedimentary layer is known as a “treasure box” of dinosaur fossils.

“The thing we fear the most is that there may still be precious fossils to be found, and they could be stolen,” said an Ono municipal government official.

In the city of Tanba, Hyogo Prefecture, fossils of what has become known as the Tanbaryu (Tanba dragon), one of the largest herbivore dinosaurs found in Japan, were unearthed in 2006. The city has moved to protect the ongoing excavation.

In May 2007, an ordinance took effect that designates the area around the excavation site as a sanctuary and bans fossil collecting outside private property. Violators face a fine of up to 50,000 yen.

The city is continuing its search in hopes of finding the complete frame of Tanbaryu.

“This is the first dinosaur fossil that the city has ever dealt with,” said a city official, stressing the need for the fine. “Anything could happen since the excavation site is close to an inhabited part of the city.”

In the neighboring city of Sasayama, the oldest known fossil of a mammal in Japan, believed to have roamed the area around the same time as the Tanba dragon, was excavated in May.

Soon after the find, the city put into force an ordinance to protect fossils of vertebrates unearthed within its borders.

The ordinance stipulates the need for prior registration of excavation and research activities in areas designated as sanctuaries. Monitors appointed by the city guard the site.

While no incidences of looting have been reported in any of the municipalities, the cities hope to avoid the situations that have become common in China, Mongolia and other countries.

Those countries are said to be struggling to find a way to stem the rampant theft and trafficking of the countries’ archaeological treasures.

In the 1990s, a large number of fossils, including dinosaur eggs and those of Eoconfuciusornis zhengi, known as “the dawn of Confucius bird,” were illicitly exported from China.

Beijing introduced punitive measures in its criminal code against fossil theft, with prison terms ranging from three to 10 years for violators.

In addition, the Chinese government enacted a law on the management of fossils under which looters can face a maximum fine of 30,000 yuan (about 400,000 yen).

Mongolia forbids the unauthorized exports of fossils, and has fines and prison terms in place for violators.

Thailand introduced a law in February to punish fossil looters with a maximum prison sentence of seven years and a maximum fine of 700,000 baht (about 2 million yen).

Makoto Manabe, senior curator at the geology and paleontology department of the National Museum of Nature and Science in Tokyo, said that with a large number of fossil collectors in Japan, there is a risk of a black market emerging if high-priced trading gets out of control.

“We cannot rule out the possibility that looting could occur. There is also the possibility that fossils could be trafficked to overseas black markets,” Manabe said. “Rules need to be set.”(IHT/Asahi: January 7,2009)

January 8th, 2009

Posted In: looting and illegal art traffickers

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January 7th, 2009

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* Magdeburg betreibt Schatzsuche via Internet

* FW: Dave Liston Seriouly Ill

* Der Versicherungsstreit um Millionenzahlungen für verbrannte Bücher der
Herzogin Anna Amalia Bibliothek Weimar ist beigelegt. Versicherung zahlt 5
Millionen Euro für verbrannte Bücher.

* Murder, mayhem and museums. While Iraq struggles to return to peaceful
normality, the British have been working to restore some of the country’s
pride in its past – with a museum.

* Colin Renfrew lectures prompt the Met to release collections management

* More about the struggle between AXA and the Anna Amaliabibliothek (German
language report)

* Matisse sketch stolen in Berlin

* FW: security fog for museum application

* Invitation ICMS congres 2009 – Quebec City – Call for papers

* Three portraits of Neil Armstrong were reported missing Friday night, after
an alleged robbery at the Wapakoneta Post Office.

* La police de Québec sollicite l’aide de la population pour retrouver deux
tableaux de grande valeur.

* The Netherlands 400 museums are mounting a major investigation into all
acquisitions made since 1933 to try to establish if any works of art were
taken from Jewish families

* A petition has been raised for the return to Scotland of a original William
Wallace Document

* Police are trying to trace the owners of antiques thought to be worth
thousands of pounds which were found in a house in Downpatrick.

January 7th, 2009

Posted In: Mailing list reports


Dear ICMS members,

You are cordially invited by the International Committee on Museum Security (ICMS) of the International Council of Museums (ICOM), the organization committee, the host of the meeting the Musée de la civilisation du Québec and its partner the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec to join as lecturer the 35th annual Meeting of the International Committee on Museum Security from September 14 – 18 2009 in Quebec, Canada

(Registration form and additional files)

The theme of the Meeting:

«Museum security: problems, trends and solutions».

One of the most essential tasks of the International Committee on Museum Security is to spread organizational and technical efficiency towards solutions protecting museums and their components from various threats (theft, fire, terrorism, loss of artifacts from collections, natural disasters). Present the situation, identify trends, and as specialists, look together towards possible solutions: these are the purposes of the actual approach. But what happens now in these always changing times? We need to discuss and analyze trends in order to draw conclusions relevant to the nature of our specific needs.

Louis Létourneau
Organization Committee
Musée de la civilisation
16, rue de la Barricade
C. P. 155, succ. B
Québec (Québec)
Canada G1K 7A6

Fax: 418 646 9506
Phone : 418 528 2112


Chers membres d’ICMS

Lettre d’invitation

L’International Committee on Museum Security (ICMS) de l’INTERNATIONAL COUNCIL OF MUSEUMS (ICOM), son comité d’organisation, l’hôte de la conférence le Musée de la civilisation du Québec et leur partenaire le Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, vous invitent cordialement à participer à titre de conférencier à la 35e conférence annuelle du Comité international sur la sécurité dans les musées qui aura lieu du

14 au 18 septembre 2009 à Québec, Canada.

Le thème de la conférence:

«La sécurité dans les musées : problèmes, tendances et solutions».

Une des tâches fondamentales du Comité international sur la sécurité dans les musées est de favoriser l’efficacité organisationnelle et technique par des solutions de protection qui répondent aux différents dangers qui menacent les institutions et leurs composantes (vol, incendie, terrorisme, disparition d’objets de collections et catastrophes naturelles). Présenter l’état de la situation, reconnaître les tendances et voir ensemble comme spécialistes les pistes de solutions : voilà les objectifs de la présente démarche. Mais qu’en est-il dans ce monde en continuel changement? Cette conférence nous permettra d’en parler et d’analyser les tendances pour en tirer des conclusions correspondantes à la nature de nos besoins spécifiques.

Louis Létourneau
Comité organisateur
Musée de la civilisation
16, rue de la Barricade
C. P. 155, succ. B
Québec (Québec)
Canada G1K 7A6

Courriel :
Télécopieur : 418 646 9506
Téléphone : 418 528 2112

Site web:

January 7th, 2009

Posted In: ICMS


Zie het artikel op

January 7th, 2009

Posted In: algemeen

From: Alfredo Arias []
Sent: Tuesday, January 06, 2009 9:31 PM
Subject: security fog for museum application

(also see PDF file at the Museum Security Network Google group)

We manufacture a security fog system that very well suited to the museum environment, due to extreme area denial, low operating cost, safe use and proven track record. FlashFog was created for retail burglary, which is carried out by very brazen and experienced burglars.
I am wonder if you can please mention our technology and hopefully point people to our site with a link? If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to call me. attached our press release and actual video footage.

Alfredo Arias
Marketing Director

(905) 502 0249
(888) 282 7740
FAX (416) 946 1334
Full contact info

Reporters who actually saw FlashFog said:

Defense Review
… demo ended up being one of the highlights of the show… …Within seconds, we were totally engulfed, and couldn’t see anything. The immediate sensation was one of claustrophobia. Then the strobe hit us, and that was it. We were done. If you’re a smash-and-grab robber and this system is activated, good luck getting all the stuff. You’re gonna’ need it.

Shooting Sports Retailer Magazine
I wish I could really show you how the FlashFog works… …with a totally blinding heavy, thick fog. Then she suggested we cover our eyes for the demonstration as she pushed another button that set off a huge flashing strobe light. The result was complete and total blindness and disorientation… …Way cool!

Also seen in:,72886-0.html?tw=wn_index_6

January 7th, 2009

Posted In: Product Information


JERSEY CITY, NJ—JANUARY 5, 2009—Today the non-profit organization SAFE/Saving Antiquities for Everyone announced that famed archaeologist and cultural heritage advocate Colin Renfrew, Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn, will deliver a lecture at the Graduate Center, City University of New York, on Thursday, January 15. This follows the Saturday, January 10 2009 SAFE Beacon Award Lecture where Professor Renfrew will receive the Beacon Award at a ceremony at the Marriott Downtown Hotel in Philadelphia, where the110th Joint Annual Meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America and the American Philological Association will be held. Professor Renfrew will receive the Beacon Award in recognition of his outstanding service to archaeology and his efforts to raise public awareness about the looting of the world’s ancient heritage and the trade in illicit antiquities at a reception co-sponsored by SAFE and the Penn Cultural Heritage Center.

Professor Colin Renfrew’s lecture in New York entitled “Combating the Illicit Antiquities Trade: a Time for Clarity”. Professor Renfrew will argue that a point of crisis has been reached in the destruction of the world’s archaeological heritage, and that this can be met only by a general agreement not to acquire unprovenanced antiquities.

His Beacon Award Lecture in Philadelphia, “Combating the Illicit Antiquities Trade: the 1970 Rule as a Turning Point (or How the Metropolitan Museum Lags Behind the Getty),” will outline the ethical, intellectual and strategic response to the traffic in illicit antiquities and contrast the reactions of the J. Paul Getty Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art to Italian and Greek efforts to secure the return of looted antiquities.

As word of Professor Renfrew’s lecture topic has circulated, the Metropolitan Museum of Art elected to release its Collection Management Policy to Professor Renfrew and to SAFE. The policy document, which has not previously been available to the general public, confirms that the Museum has adopted the revised AAMD acquisition guidelines with respect to ancient artifacts. The document can be viewed on the SAFE website at and will reportedly also be available on the Metropolitan Museum website in coming days.

“This is a most welcome development,” said Professor Renfrew. “SAFE and I both applauded the AAMD’s revised acquisition guidelines in June of last year, and SAFE has campaigned both publicly and privately for the release of the Met’s acquisition policy. I will speak about these developments during my Beacon Award Lecture and discuss the matter in more detail in my New York lecture the following week.”

Professor Renfrew received his doctorate in 1965 from Cambridge University, and after professorships at the University of Sheffield and the University of Southampton, he returned to Cambridge in 1981, as Disney Professor of Archaeology and Director of the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, where he formed the Illicit Antiquities Research Centre in 1996. Having directed excavations at Sitagroi, Phylakopi and Keros in Greece and Quanterness in Orkney, Professor Renfrew has made invaluable contributions to our knowledge of language, prehistory, archaeogenetics and the radiocarbon revolution and has authored numerous books, among them, Loot, Legitimacy and Ownership: The Ethical Crisis in Archaeology (2000). He has served on the Ancient Monuments Board for England and the Royal Commission on Historical Monuments. “Professor Renfrew’s many achievements have made him a star in the archaeological profession and a leader in the fight against the illicit antiquities trade and the looting of the world’s cultural heritage,” says SAFE president Cindy Ho.

Events Details:
2009 SAFE Beacon Award Lecture “Combating the Illicit Antiquities Trade: the 1970 Rule as a Turning Point” by Professor Colin Renfrew
Saturday January 10, 2009 – 6:30 to 9:00pm
Grand Ballroom, Marriott Downtown Hotel
1201 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA
Tickets: Before Dec. 15: $40 for non-students; $20 for students
After Dec. 15: $45 for non-students; $25 for students
SAFE members ($50 members and above): $35

“Combating the Illicit Antiquities Trade: a Time for Clarity,” a lecture by Professor Colin Renfrew
Thursday January 15, 2009 – 7:00 to 9:00pm
Baisley Powell Elebash Recital Hall
The Graduate Center, City University of New York
365 Fifth Avenue, New York
Admission: free of charge

About SAFE
SAFE/Saving Antiquities for Everyone is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization that creates educational programs and media campaigns raising public awareness about the need to preserve cultural heritage worldwide. SAFE is a coalition of professionals in communications, media and advertising working with experts in the academic, legal and law enforcement communities. SAFE has no political affiliations. Visit us at

Media Contact: Paul Kunkel
Telephone: (201) 626-3460

Museum Security Network / Museum Security Consultancy

January 6th, 2009

Posted In: Mailing list reports


Murder, mayhem and museums

By Caroline Wyatt
BBC News

While Iraq struggles to return to peaceful normality, the British have been working to restore some of the country’s pride in its past – with a museum.

Today, the Basra Palace compound is eerily quiet. A cold winter’s wind whips off the Shatt al-Arab waterway, and howls around the marbled palace, almost drowning out the cry of the sea-birds soaring over the reeds in the brackish waters.

Not so long ago, the compound reverberated to the sound of incoming rocket fire from Iraqi insurgents, the Mahdi Army Shia militia, as they fought British forces based at the palace.

British soldiers withdrew from the palace compound in September 2007. Now, the building itself is deserted, and I have to wait for an Iraqi police colonel to turn up with the key.

Built by a Basra oil baron in the 1980s, the palace was requisitioned by Saddam Hussein, although it is not clear if the late dictator ever stayed there.

I had not seen it since April 2003, when a British flag flew triumphantly over the entrance, and British troops – rejoicing in the rapid success of the invasion – explored Saddam’s palaces, wide-eyed with wonder at their opulence, and the gold taps in the many bathrooms.

Water, electricity, antiquities

That was in the early days, when the people of Basra offered a warm welcome to their British “liberators”. It was before the long years of violence began, and back then the palace itself had been spared the worst effects of battle.

In his mind’s eye, John Curtis, keeper of the Middle East department at the British Museum, can already see the site transformed into a museum for Basra’s many ancient treasures. Before I left for Basra, I met him in the British Museum’s rooms full of Assyrian wall reliefs, and had just enough time to marvel at the exhibition on ancient Babylon, a place not far from today’s Basra.

“The front of the palace could have a marvellous fountain and ornamental gardens,” he enthuses. He was also the first western expert to see for himself and catalogue the catastrophic effects of looting, battle and ignorance on the archaeological sites of ancient Mesopotamia, now southern Iraq, following the coalition invasion in 2003.

He says he and his Iraqi counterparts at the Baghdad Department for Antiquities, which oversees Iraq’s museums, hope the Basra project will come to fruition despite the difficulties that remain.

“They’re enthusiastic about the project, and glad we’re taking this initiative,” he says. “A great deal has been done in Basra in terms of providing water and electricity. But culture is an area which has been largely neglected.”

Just a few years ago, the very idea of a new museum in Basra would have been laughable. The focus was on security, and reconstructing the essentials of daily life, such as a working sewage system. Those projects are still not complete, but more than five years on, Basra is indeed a place transformed, with British forces looking to withdraw from the region altogether by the end of July.


The city is much calmer now, with Iraqi forces handling security while the British focus on training. Car bombs, kidnappings and even murders are down from their peak, even if they have not disappeared entirely. And British troops are even back in the wider Basra Palace complex again, while they mentor the Iraq Army in the city.

The origin of the idea of a new Museum for Basra based at the palace came from Maj Gen Barney White-Spunner, Britain’s former commanding officer in southern Iraq, and was taken up with enthusiasm by Mr Curtis and the British Museum.

Basra’s collection of antiquities have survived somewhat against the odds. The city’s old museum was ransacked during the first Gulf War of 1991, and its valuable collection of vases, terracotta and stone figures, bronze weapons, jewellery and cuneiform-inscribed clay tablets, were moved to the capital, where they were locked in a vault. That’s how they escaped the 2003 looting.

As I walk inside Basra’s silent palace, I am accompanied by Cpt Laurence Roche, of 20th Armoured Brigade, who is helping continue the liaison work. He remembers being there in 2006, and the imposing main room overlooking the Shatt al-Arab waterway, being used as a British Army cook-house, with the rooms upstairs becoming dormitories.

“It’s eerie to see the palace so empty, but with all the grandeur of the rooms, and the view… it’s not too much of a leap of the imagination to see this as a museum. I know we in the British Army are fascinated by our own history and the ancient history here, because this is one of the cradles of civilisation – with so many treasures. Many of us would like to return in future years and see that in its proper setting,” he says.

Recovered treasures

But how do Iraqis feel about the idea? Col Ahmed Abbas Hudea, who let us into the palace, is enthusiastic.

“I would be happy if all of Saddam’s palaces were turned into museums for Iraqis to enjoy,” he says. “And I hope people would come to visit from across the Arab world, and from Western countries.”

In December, Captain Roche had a small glimpse of the kind of treasures the museum could contain one day. He was allowed to film some 200 priceless ancient artefacts, the fruits of a raid by Iraqi security forces on a gang of smugglers who had buried their horde in a Basra back garden. They were destined for private buyers abroad. Cpt Roche says it was an Aladdin’s cave.

“There were statuettes, just five or six inches high, representing Babylonian kings and Sumerian warriors and princesses. And there was a lamasu – the winged ox that was the symbol of Assyrian strength, and silverware and jewellery. And they had found Babylonian gold, absolutely priceless. It was a spectacular haul.”

It is not clear if those artefacts will go into the museum. They are currently being examined by experts in Baghdad, who say Basra is an extraordinary city, with deep-rooted heritage, which deserves a new site for its treasures.

However, they say that their mutual efforts with their British colleagues have been delayed by the need to seek official Iraqi cabinet approval, although they vow to continue to “aspire” to the idea.

So, if the ambitious plans work out, people in southern Iraq should one day be able to enjoy a splendid new setting for their ancient heritage, in a building that symbolises so much of Basra’s more recent turbulent history.

Until that day comes, it is still easier for visitors to enjoy many of Iraq’s ancient treasures in the British Museum – not least because Basra and Baghdad are not quite back on the tourist trail just yet.

Story from BBC NEWS:

January 6th, 2009

Posted In: looting and illegal art traffickers

Versicherung zahlt 5 Millionen Euro für verbrannte Bücher

06. Januar 2009 Der Versicherungsstreit um Millionenzahlungen für verbrannte Bücher der Herzogin Anna Amalia Bibliothek Weimar ist beigelegt. Danach erhält die Klassik Stiftung fünf Millionen Euro von dem Hauptversicherer Axa Art, wie ein Sprecher des Landgerichts Erfurt am Dienstag mitteilte. Beide Seiten hätten sich nach monatelangen Verhandlungen außergerichtlich geeinigt.

Der Betrag ist ein Viertel der von der Klassik Stiftung ursprünglich geforderten Summe von 20 Millionen Euro. 750.000 Euro hatte Axa zuvor bereits für zerstörte Gemälde und Plastiken gezahlt. Bei dem Feuer in dem Unesco-Weltkulturerbe im September 2004 waren 50.000 Bücher und 34 Gemälde verbrannt, 62.000 Bände wurden beschädigt.

January 6th, 2009

Posted In: Fire in cultural institutions

Dear Museum Security Network subscribers,

Below you find information about the upcoming 2009 European Fine Art Fair (TEFAF) in Maastricht, The Netherlands.

TEFAF offers an opportunity for my annual reminder that The Netherlands still have not ratified the 1970 Unesco Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property .

This far 116 countries ratified Unesco 1970, but not my country notwithstanding the fact that we have the most important art, antiques and antiquities fair of the world within our borders. Could it be that TEFAF is in The Netherlands conveniently protected by the fact that we have not ratified Unesco 1970?

In my view this fair is no cause for pride but a painful remembrance that our respective governments have not been able to ratify a globally accepted and very important convention.

Ton Cremers

TEFAF Antique Fair
As a visitor to TEFAF Maastricht you will be present at an outstanding event, one that offers the best choice of the very best in fine art
Friday, March 13, 2009
TEFAF is the world’s most influential annual art and antiques fair – and the next one is at the MECC (Maastricht Exhibition and Congress Centre) March 13 – 22, 2009.

Read more at:

January 6th, 2009

Posted In: International conventions

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January 6th, 2009

Posted In: Mailing list reports, WWII


Archéologie: le mystère de la statue sans tête
Par Fabrice Arfi

Le monde de l’art parisien est confronté depuis plusieurs semaines à une possible affaire de faux archéologique de première importance, qui vient jeter une lumière crue sur la fiabilité des expertises menées au sein de grandes maisons de vente aux enchères. Au centre de l’histoire se trouve une petite statue d’à peine 80 centimètres représentant un buste, sans bras ni tête, estimée à plusieurs centaines de milliers d’euros.

See complete text at the Museum Security Network Google group

January 5th, 2009

Posted In: forgery

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January 5th, 2009

Posted In: looting and illegal art traffickers

For those of you interested in the phenomenon of insider we have assembled reports at:

At texts accompanying power point presentation about insider theft (2005, ever since updated regularly. Further information:

Also worthwhile reading:
Keeping it safe, keeping it available: theft prevention in special collections
Joel Kovarsky

Ton Cremers

Museum Security Network / Museum Security Consultancy

January 5th, 2009

Posted In: comment

A Victoria and Albert employee furnished his Chiswick council house with over 2,000 items which he stole in one of the largest museum thefts in history.

A chest engraved with bone plaques was among the items stolen from the Victoria and Albert museum

The documents, obtained by a national newspaper, show that Nevin began his crime spree when he was 48, smuggling the items out of the V&A museum and hiding them in his home.

On one occasion he took home a table by hiding the dismantled legs down his trousers.

The missing pieces were finally noticed after a museum inventory was taken.

When police raided Nevin’s home in Nightingale Close, where he lived with his wife, they found thousands of precious objects.

As well as carved jade figures hidden in a vacuum cleaner dust bag and a silver ink pot secreted in a chimney, police recovered 20 Japanese silver sword guards, 229 illustrations torn from books, 18 pieces of Albanian embroidery, 132 original drawings and watercolours and a 300-year-old Flemish tapestry.

The couple’s bathroom curtains were discovered to have been made from a length of rare cloth and Nevin’s wife had been carrying her grocery shopping in a 19th Century Italian leather and tortoiseshell bag.

Nevin and his wife initially swore that the items had all been bought second-hand or given to them as gifts but their lies soon unravelled.

Nevin was arrested and tried to commit suicide by drinking half a glass of cough mixture. His wife pleaded guilty to 10 charges of receiving stolen goods.

He was sentenced to three years in prison at West London Magistrates Court in June 1954.

He said that he could not help himself and that he stole the items because he was attracted by their beauty.

Museum Security Network / Museum Security Consultancy

January 5th, 2009

Posted In: insider theft

Der Hof von Schloss Friedenstein

Der Kunstraub von Gotha ist ein bis in die Gegenwart nicht aufgeklärter Einbruchdiebstahl, bei dem in der Nacht zum 14. Dezember 1979 fünf Gemälde aus Schloss Friedenstein in Gotha gestohlen wurden. Er gilt als schwerwiegendster Kunstraub in der Geschichte der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik (DDR) und als einer der spektakulärsten der deutschen Nachkriegsgeschichte.[1]

Gestohlen wurden von unbekannten Tätern die Gemälde „Brustbild eines jungen Mannes“ von Frans Hals, „Landstraße mit Bauernwagen und Kühen“ von Jan Brueghel dem Älteren, „Selbstbildnis mit Sonnenblume“ vonAnthonis van Dyck, „Alter Mann“ von Jan Lievens sowie „Heilige Katharina“ von Hans Holbein dem Älteren.[1]Von den betroffenen Bildern, die in verschiedenen Räumen des Museums im Schloss Friedenstein ausgestellt waren und mit den zugehörigen Bilderrahmen gestohlen wurden, sind seitdem lediglich Schwarz-Weiß-Fotosvorhanden, nur von dem Werk „Selbstbildnis mit Sonnenblume“ ist nach Recherchen des Fernsehmagazins ttt – titel, thesen, temperamente eine Farbaufnahme aufgefunden worden.[2] Weder zu den Tätern noch zum Verbleib der Gemälde, deren Wert zur damaligen Zeit auf rund fünf Millionen Mark der DDR geschätzt wurde,[1] existieren verwertbare Hinweise. Die im Museum damals bereits installierte Alarmanlage war zum Zeitpunkt des Einbruchs, der mit Hilfe von Steigeisen über die dritte Etage der Westfassade des Schlosses erfolgte, noch nicht in Betrieb. Die Daten eines Klimaschreibers, der einen Temperaturabfall registrierte, deuten auf zwei Uhr morgens als Zeitpunkt des Diebstahls hin.[1]

Aufgrund der Tatumstände, die eine gezielte Auswahl der Werke nahelegen, handelte es sich möglicherweise um einen Auftragsdiebstahl.[1] Sowohl die Fertigungsweise eines aufgefundenen Steigeisens als auch die Legierung des dafür verwendeten Stahls deuteten nach den damaligen Ermittlungen darauf hin, dass die verwendeten Steigeisen nicht in der DDR hergestellt worden waren.[2] Als Täter beziehungsweise Auftragsgeber verdächtigt wurden zum damaligen Zeitpunkt sowohl die in Gotha ansässigen Hochseil-Artisten Geschwister Weisheit als auch Mitarbeiter des Museums[1] und die Fürstenfamilie Sachsen-Coburg und Gotha,[2] und nach der politischen Wende in der DDR auch der SED-WirtschaftsfunktionärAlexander Schalck-Golodkowski.[1] Die Verjährungsfrist für die Tat ist im Dezember 2009 abgelaufen, wodurch sich die Stadt Gotha und das Museum neue Hinweise auf den Verbleib der Gemälde erhoffen.[2] Der gegenwärtige Wert der Kunstwerke wird auf etwa 50 Millionen Eurogeschätzt.[3]


  1. ↑ a b c d e f g Antje Lauschne: Nach 30 Jahren noch immer ungeklärt. Der Coup von Gotha Artikel von vom 10. Dezember 2009
  2. ↑ a b c d Ulli Wendelmann: Rückschau: Der Kunstraub von Gotha Artikel von vom 14. Juni 2009
  3. Der Gotha Coup. Im Dezember 1979 wird das Schloss Friedenstein Tatort eines akrobatischen Einbruchs, der ungelöste Rätsel aufgibt Artikel des Museum Security Network vom 13. November 2009


January 3rd, 2009

Posted In: Mailing list reports, Museum thefts


At mr. Charney repeats platitudes about the scope of art crime. Nothing new to report, just a repetition: “Most people assume that art crime consists of only a handful of museum heists each year; in actuality, it has become the third-highest–grossing world criminal trade over the past 40 years, regularly perpetrated by or on behalf of organized crime syndicates and used to fund other illicit activities, such as drugs or arms trades”. Most people? One wonders how Mr. Charney knows what ‘most people’ think. Too bad Charney restricts himself in his 2008 review to only a handful heists – yes, exactly 5 heists – without any factual information to support his opinion about what most people think.

Referring to map thief Farhad Hakimzadeh who was arrested November 2008 for having stolen circa 150 rare maps and manuscripts from the British and Bodleian Libraries mr. Charney really mixes up fact and fiction and gets trapped in his own excitement:
“Hakimzadeh is a perfect exception to the rule stated zealously by many art police — that in real life, there are no Thomas Crowns or Doctor Nos. Authorities try to extinguish the fictional concept of art crime, because it distracts from the true severity of the act and stands in the way of their investigations, but every now and then, a Thomas Crown creeps out of the celluloid and into real life — reminding us that, like it or not, there is sometimes a certain romance attached to art crime.”

Daring statements by Charney, but Farhad Hakimzadeh by no means is a perfect exception to this non-existing rule. There are many, too many, examples of thieves who steal without intention to sell stolen objects. There is no ‘rule zealously stated by many art police’ that stealing for the mere desire to possess items is exceptional. There is another rule stated zealously and most rightfully by police and scientists: there are no examples of theft to order by collectors who want – like Dr. No – enjoy stolen objects secretly on a deserted island (or in the basement). THAT is a celluloid fantasy and not real life.

Charney’s statements that “art thefts may certainly be sexy to read about” and “there is sometimes a certain romance attached to art crime” tells a lot about himself and nothing about art theft as a criminal activity. One wonders if Charney still regards artcrime sexy and romantic when thieves come and visit his home and steal his books and paintings.

Charney loves hyperbolic descriptions to authorize his fantasies “thousands of objects worth tens of millions of dollars are stolen from archives each year in the United States alone”. He even knows how this is possible “rare book archives and libraries are dismayingly under-protected, and archive theft is perhaps the simplest of art crimes”. Rare book archives? Is this a mixture of archives and rare book collections? Archive theft an ART crime? Wake up Noah, try and be a bit more precise in your texts and stop embarrassing your (London) university professor.

Archive theft the simplest of art crimes? This seems an invitation on behalf of Charney for all potential thieves. Let them be aware. It is not as easy as Charney states. The arrest of several map and document thieves – both outsider and insider thieves – the past years shows that it is not that easy and that theft of maps, documents and books can be quite tricky.

Those who want to become real experts in the field of art crime can attend a course organized by Charney. For just $ 20,000.00 – Charney’s tariff too is quite hyperbolic – Charney will supply you with a certificate.

Ton Cremers

Museum Security Network / Museum Security Consultancy

January 2nd, 2009

Posted In: algemeen

lijst met boeken gestolen uit het Goeldi Museum in Brazilie (zo veel mogelijk door te sturen binnen de biblioteek- en antiquarenwereld)

Dear Mr. Ton Cremers
Museum Security Network

full list of stolen books

According to the contacts we have made about who might help us alert the
international police, book sellers and bibliophiles regarding rare works
belonging to the Emilio Goeldi Museum of Pará, Brazil, that were recently
stolen and may be offered for sale by criminals on the antiquarian book and
art markets, you were indicated as a key person who could reach out to a
broad spectrum of rare book dealers.

I am attaching a list of the stolen items, which includes 65 volumes of 40
titles from the 17th to the early 20th centuries, concentrating on the
natural history of tropical America, with emphasis on South America. The
works include three separate works by Spix on Brazilian reptiles, frogs and
bats, Meriaen on Suriname insects, Cramer on exotic tropical lepidoptera,
and Piso on Brazilian plants, among other very rare and valuable works, both
in-folios and books.

If you could put a call out to your associates with the attached list, it
will be much appreciated. The Goeldi Museum, founded in 1866 in Belem at the
mouth of the Amazon, is an institution of the Brazilian Ministry of Science
and Technology, so investigations in Brazil are being carried out by the
Federal Police, and Interpol has been alerted, as well.

Even though the authorities have been advised, we also feel that the
collaboration of high-profile, reputable organizations such as yours is a
key to recovering these important parts of Brazil’s national archival

Thank you in advance for any help you may provide, including indicating the
names of other organizations you feel might provide us with assistance.

Sincerely yours,

Nelson Sanjad
Director of Communications
Emilio Goeldi Museum of Pará
Brazilian Ministry of Science and Technology Av. Gov. Magalhaes Barata, 376
– Sao Bras Belem – Para – Brazil 66040-170 Phone number: (55) 91-3249-6373
E-mail adress: Internet site:

January 2nd, 2009

Posted In: boeken, diefstal uit museum

Dear Mr. Ton Cremers
Museum Security Network

full list of stolen books

According to the contacts we have made about who might help us alert the
international police, book sellers and bibliophiles regarding rare works
belonging to the Emilio Goeldi Museum of Pará, Brazil, that were recently
stolen and may be offered for sale by criminals on the antiquarian book and
art markets, you were indicated as a key person who could reach out to a
broad spectrum of rare book dealers.

I am attaching a list of the stolen items, which includes 65 volumes of 40
titles from the 17th to the early 20th centuries, concentrating on the
natural history of tropical America, with emphasis on South America. The
works include three separate works by Spix on Brazilian reptiles, frogs and
bats, Meriaen on Suriname insects, Cramer on exotic tropical lepidoptera,
and Piso on Brazilian plants, among other very rare and valuable works, both
in-folios and books.

If you could put a call out to your associates with the attached list, it
will be much appreciated. The Goeldi Museum, founded in 1866 in Belem at the
mouth of the Amazon, is an institution of the Brazilian Ministry of Science
and Technology, so investigations in Brazil are being carried out by the
Federal Police, and Interpol has been alerted, as well.

Even though the authorities have been advised, we also feel that the
collaboration of high-profile, reputable organizations such as yours is a
key to recovering these important parts of Brazil’s national archival

Thank you in advance for any help you may provide, including indicating the
names of other organizations you feel might provide us with assistance.

Sincerely yours,

Nelson Sanjad
Director of Communications
Emilio Goeldi Museum of Pará
Brazilian Ministry of Science and Technology Av. Gov. Magalhaes Barata, 376
– Sao Bras Belem – Para – Brazil 66040-170 Phone number: (55) 91-3249-6373
E-mail adress: Internet site:

January 2nd, 2009

Posted In: library theft

At mr. Charney repeats platitudes about the scope of art crime. Nothing new to report, just a repetition: “Most people assume that art crime consists of only a handful of museum heists each year; in actuality, it has become the third-highest–grossing world criminal trade over the past 40 years, regularly perpetrated by or on behalf of organized crime syndicates and used to fund other illicit activities, such as drugs or arms trades”. Most people? One wonders how Mr. Charney knows what ‘most people’ think. Too bad Charney restricts himself in his 2008 review to only a handful heists – yes, exactly 5 heists – without any factual information to support his opinion about what most people think.

Referring to map thief Farhad Hakimzadeh who was arrested November 2008 for having stolen circa 150 rare maps and manuscripts from the British and Bodleian Libraries mr. Charney really mixes up fact and fiction and gets trapped in his own excitement:
“Hakimzadeh is a perfect exception to the rule stated zealously by many art police — that in real life, there are no Thomas Crowns or Doctor Nos. Authorities try to extinguish the fictional concept of art crime, because it distracts from the true severity of the act and stands in the way of their investigations, but every now and then, a Thomas Crown creeps out of the celluloid and into real life — reminding us that, like it or not, there is sometimes a certain romance attached to art crime.”

Daring statements by Charney, but Farhad Hakimzadeh by no means is a perfect exception to this non-existing rule. There are many, too many, examples of thieves who steal without intention to sell stolen objects. There is no ‘rule zealously stated by many art police’ that stealing for the mere desire to possess items is exceptional. There is another rule stated zealously and most rightfully by police and scientists: there are no examples of theft to order by collectors who want – like Dr. No – enjoy stolen objects secretly on a deserted island (or in the basement). THAT is a celluloid fantasy and not real life.

Charney’s statements that “art thefts may certainly be sexy to read about” and “there is sometimes a certain romance attached to art crime” tells a lot about himself and nothing about art theft as a criminal activity.

Charney loves hyperbolic descriptions to authorize his fantasies “thousands of objects worth tens of millions of dollars are stolen from archives each year in the United States alone”. He even knows how this is possible “rare book archives and libraries are dismayingly under-protected, and archive theft is perhaps the simplest of art crimes”. Rare book archives? Is this a mixture of archives and rare book collections? Archive theft an ART crime? Wake up Noah, try and be a bit more precise in your texts and stop embarrassing your (London) university professor.

Archive theft the simplest of art crimes? This seems an invitation on behalf of Charney for all potential thieves. Let them be aware. It is not as easy as Charney states. The arrest of several map and document thieves – both outsider and insider thieves – the past years shows that it is not that easy and that theft of maps, documents and books can be quite tricky.

Those who want to become real experts in the field of art crime can attend a course organized by Charney. For just $ 20,000.00 – Charney’s tariff too is quite hyperbolic – Charney will supply you with a certificate.

Ton Cremers

Museum Security Network / Museum Security Consultancy

January 2nd, 2009

Posted In: comment