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All Posts Tagged With: "CPAC"

Ancient Coins: The Yin and Yang – A Smorgasbord of Views on Cultural Property

This week I was treated to a smorgasbord of views on cultural property from members of the archaeological and collecting communities.

On Tuesday morning, I listened with interest to the presentations of several archaeologists at the U.S. State Department’s Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC) in Washington, DC. This was my fifth appearance at a CPAC hearing in as many years. In every case, the general tenor of oral comments by public presenters has reflected a dichotomy of interests—those of collectors versus those of nationalist governments (defended mainly by the archaeological community). The dividing line has always been clear, and not just in the rhetoric that is entered into the public record at these events. Even the informal assemblage of speakers prior to the event (call them gaggles, if you will) is indicative of the diverse philosophical views. I suppose it’s only natural for like-minded people to congregate, but the atmosphere is and has very much been one of “us and them” . This is not to say that either camp is overtly unfriendly, in fact the opposite is true. I think both camps try very hard to be polite and cordial in a personal sense. But camps there are, and gaggle they do.

The Collector camp is comprised mainly of collector advocacy groups. Occasionally, individual collectors, dealers or concerned citizens have appeared or have been represented by counsel. However, the lion’s share of opposition to Memorandums of Understanding these days has come from the Ancient Coin Collecting community and the Art Museum community. The former is represented by advocacy groups, like the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild (ACCG) and the American Numismatic Association (ANA), along with representatives of the numismatic trade and other non-profit organizations like Ancient Coins for Education. The latter is represented primarily by the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD).

The proponents of Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) are primarily the representatives of governments seeking import restrictions and the archaeological community, including its related museums—most of which are institutional. The advocacy group Saving Antiquities For Everyone (SAFE) has consistently supported import restrictions, but has not appeared before CPAC in the public sessions lately. A rather late attempt by SAFE to compile and introduce a petition in support of the MOU with Greece was apparently aborted when it failed to meet the State Department imposed deadline for public comment. (more…)

Testimony at the Cultural Property Advisory Committee Hearing: To Be or Not To Be

By Wayne Sayles – Ancient Coin Collecting

That is the Question on everyone’s mind this morning as the Cultural Property Advisory Committee reconvened on Friday to consider the extension of a bilateral agreement with Italy that restricts the importation of certain classes of antiquities into the United States. Thursday morning, the committee heard comments in open public session from representatives of five main groups of concerned citizens—Archaeologists, Museum Administrators, Art and Antiquity Collectors, the Numismatic Trade and Ancient Coin Collectors.

From the numismatic community’s perspective, extension of the current Memorandum Of Understanding in some form seems a foregone conclusion, though some opponents argued very persuasively that the whole MOU is badly flawed and should be scrapped. The pressing issue for coin collectors is whether the addition of coins, already exempted in two previous five-year terms of the MOU, is to be or not to be.

In an era when politicians on both sides of the aisle are clamoring for transparent government and “sunshine” laws offer a promise of fair play and access, the U.S. State Department doggedly maintains its “distance” from the looking glass of public scrutiny.

None of the seven speakers from the numismatic community had the foggiest notion whether Italy had even requested that coins should be added—an ironic situation, since the State Department hearing was held in that part of Washington known as “Foggy Bottom.”

Unlike the mysterious Chinese request some years ago, one might presume, from the comments of Mr. Stefano De Caro, General Director of Antiquities within the Italian Ministry of Culture, that Italy did indeed ask for the addition of coins—even though the State Department ignored direct requests for an answer to that question.

Sebastian Heath, whose affiliation was vague and was actually the point of a followup question by one committee member, was listed by the State Department as an American Institute of Archaeology representative. He claimed, upon pressing of the point, that he actually represented himself. The fact that Heath often works for or at the American Numismatic Society, and personally participated in drafting the ANS statement on cultural property, was questioned in light of his recommendation that coins be added to the MOU.

The ANS statement says, in part, “…..within the world of artifacts, coins as a class do, in fact, stand apart.” Heath avoided the apparent conflict of positions by stating repeatedly that to his knowledge the ANS takes no position in the issue. It would have been interesting to see that question explored in some depth, but Mr. Heath mercifully escaped being hoist with his own petard for lack of time in the busy agenda. (more…)

Ancient Coin Collectors Challenge U.S. State Dept. Bureaucrats After Baltimore Seizure

A small packet of inexpensive Chinese and Cypriot coins imported from England by the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild (ACCG) have been seized by Customs in Baltimore, Maryland.

coin_import_banThe coins were imported to test the legitimacy of State Department (DOS) imposed import restrictions via two Memoranda of Understanding (MOU). ACCG maintains that actions of DOS relating to implementation of the Cultural Property Implementation Act (CPIA) have been secretive, arbitrary and capricious and will contest the seizure in the U.S. Federal District Court in Baltimore.

Information from another Freedom of Information Act lawsuit suggests that the DOS failed to follow the recommendations of its own experts on the Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC) in extending restrictions to Cypriot coins, and then misled Congress about this decision. Other information implicates DOS bureaucrats adding coins to the Chinese MOU even though Chinese officials never asked for their inclusion.

The Obama Administration has promised transparency and accountability in government. ACCG hopes its challenge to the ban on ancient Chinese and Cypriot coins will lead the Court also to address these and other concerns about the process for imposing import restrictions on cultural goods.

During a 2008 International Foundation for Art Research (IFAR) discussion, former CPAC Chairperson Jay Kislak (2003-2008) said, “I am not necessarily against any actions that were taken on any of the MOU’s which were recommended by the Committee and put into action. I am, however, opposed to the way it is done because I think it is absolutely, completely, un-American, and I don’t mind saying that. Not anywhere in our government do we do things this way, except with this group.”

Kislak also addressed government transparency by saying, “In every other branch of government, there is disclosure, and information is made public. We have a democracy, and it is government of the people, for the people, by the people, not by the bureaucrats over them.”
(more…)