Sunday, October 30, 2011

In Response

This past week, there has been a more than usual number of comments (the usual being zero) on a post in which I gave a brief update on the state of my senior work at Bennington. These comments expressed, shall I say, a strong interest in the direction of my research on the “Shipwrecked” controversy at the Smithsonian. Many of them were critical of points that I hadn’t even written about or expounded upon in my post. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t bother addressing such badly spelled confrontations, but Marcie, the only one in the debate to not hide behind the Anonymous title (thank you, Marcie!), asked me to step away from the debate over the Shipwrecked exhibition at the Smithsonian and continue to write about other cultural heritage issues. Because she signed herself as an avid follower (which made me excited), I feel compelled to address this directly.

Article on coin collecting and Bulgaria

Last week, Dr. Nathan Elkins very kindly shared with me his article on the problems of the coin trade in the U.S. and how it affects Bulgaria. It has been very helpful to me in drafting my letter to CPAC in favor of the MOU with Bulgaria and Belize, and I encourage you all to check it out!

Monday, October 24, 2011

TYCTB (acronym, uh oh) featured in FiWeBelize Daily!

Thanks to FiWeBelize Daily for featuring my post on the Belize/Bulgaria MoU in their Society section!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Student, blogger, RECORDING ARTIST

This term, my roommate/bestie is taking a studio recording course, and her first major assignment was to do an exact cover of a song. She chose to do The B-52's Mesopotamia, and she had me and our friend Sam sing for her. I am so excited about it that I'm uploading a not quite finished version for you all to hear, because it is SO GOOD. This is probably the closest she and I will ever get to collaborating in our very separate fields. Thanks so much to Riley for involving me in something so productive and cool that didn't involve me eating cheese in my pajamas while bitching about looting in Bulgaria.

The original version:

Our cover!:

Mesopotamia Cover by mouthyheritage

I MoU, you MoU, we all MoU for Belize and Bulgaria

On November 15-17, the State Department's Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC) will meet to consider creating Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) with the Republics of Belize and Bulgaria. For those of you who don't know, an MoU is a bilaterial agreement between states to prevent illegally acquired cultural property from one country in entering another country. Essentially, it's an agreement by the United States to restrict the import of undocumented archaeological objects, which is something they should just be doing anyway. Both Belize and Bulgaria have requested this agreement with the United States, and now, amazingly, you have an opportunity to show your support. 

I seriously urge you to submit comments to the Cultural Heritage Center to be considered during the CPAC meeting in November. This .pdf explains how. Rick St. Hilaire has advised that comments should address the "four determinations":
(A) [whether] the cultural patrimony of the State Party is in jeopardy from the pillage of archaeological or ethnological materials of the State Party; 

(B) [whether] the State Party has taken measures consistent with the Convention to protect its cultural patrimony;

(C) [whether] -- 
(i) the application of the import restrictions . . . with respect to archaeological or ethnological material of the State Party, if applied in concert with similar restrictions implemented, or to be implemented within a reasonable period of time, by those nations (whether or not State Parties [to the 1970 UNESCO Convention]) individually having a significant import trade in such material, would be of substantial benefit in deterring a serious situation of pillage, and 
(ii) remedies less drastic than the application of the restrictions set forth in such section are not available; and 

(D) [whether] the application of the import restrictions . . . in the particular circumstances is consistent with the general interest of the international community in the interchange of cultural property among nations for scientific, cultural, and educational purposes. 
Paul Barford has provided a how-to guide in understanding the issues involved and how to craft your support letters. 
You should also check out these articles by David O'Shea (that I found via David Gill) on the looting going on in Bulgaria: 
THIS IS REALLY IMPORTANT. I know it's a lot of information, and I seriously just spent my evening reading all these articles, .pdfs, and holy crap this chapter on organized crime in Bulgaria trying to understand everything I can about this process, but it's not often that we're ALL given the opportunity to lend our voices to the creation of these laws. Please, take some time to write a little something something to help save the world's history from disappearing completely. 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

I'm back. I hope.

I am a little bit horrified that it’s been so long since my last post, and am slightly nauseated by how overwhelming it is to come back. For the past seven weeks, I have basically had my illicit antiquities trade news ticker on pause so that I can analyze all the little details of a few particular cases. This stuff is my life, so much so that I have managed to incorporate it into almost every single one of my courses. So, coming back to the blogroll and realizing that I’ve actually been missing everything was, in a word, overwhelming.
This has been my best term yet academically. I never imagined that I would measure academic excellence by routinely becoming confused in class because something we’re discussing is about something I already talked about in another class and the links between the two blow my mind. Between discussing memory as a social construct as applied to conflict and art and figuring out that the swarm of fruit flies plaguing my room were hiding in my bamboo plant and not, as I had initially assumed, in a two-day old mug of wine, my mind is just suffering one explosion of insight after the next.
This is particularly true for all things related to the illicit antiquities trade, conflict, activism, internet activism, blogging, ALL OF IT. The problem with my education right now is that there is too much of it and I don’t have any time to blog about the amazing connections I’m making between fields as I’m making them because there are more connections to be made before very important deadlines and it all turns into a big, knotted, twisty, crazy, complex ball of insight that becomes too much of a thing in itself for me to deconstruct it. At least, not in the couple hours I’ve given myself to blog. So, I’m just going to list some bullets of the most important parts of this knotty learning mess before more come rushing in.

  • MY SENIOR WORK IS JUST SO COOL AND GOING SO WELL. In a nutshell, I am focusing on the rift between the museum and archaeological communities when dealing with ancient art/artifacts, particularly unscientifically excavated/looted objects. I will be using the controversy over the Smithsonian's exhibition of the Belitung shipwreck as a focus for how this rift is detrimental to academics and the non-academic public alike. Last week, Julian Raby, the director of the Freer and Sackler Galleries at the Smithsonian, responded to my email wondering if he would be the least bit interested in talking to me about the "Shipwrecked" exhibition. Not only was he enthusiastic about working with me if the exhibition goes up, but he sounds like a very kind and generous fellow. I get the impression that he is a rare breed of museum director: not only is he very aware of the risks involved in exhibiting unscientifically excavated artifacts and willing to spend a great deal of time talking to concerned parties to see if he can make most everyone happy, but he was so kind to be open to the work of a lowly undergraduate student.
  • The CAPA opening at Bennington was an incredibly exciting weekend and resulted and three things: First, me finding a new personal hero in author/journalist/human rights activist Rebecca Tinsley. Second, me writing a half-baked draft about whether or not internet activism is more effective than physically protesting because Vermont state representative Brian Campion thinks internet activism isn’t effective; PEOPLE. BOTH INTERNET ACTIVISM AND PHYSICAL PROTESTS ARE A MEANS TO AN END, NOT THE END IN ITSELF. BOTH ARE TOOLS AND WE NEED TO LEARN HOW TO USE THEM TOGETHER IN ORDER TO HELP THE SYSTEM WORK EFFECTIVELY. This really deserves its own post. And third, the introduction of infographics into my life: first there was Gong Szeto’s CAPA workshop on infographics, then today in my conflicts class, our librarian Oceana Wilson gave a talk on infographics/complexity mapping in relation to conflicts. I cannot stress just how much a) Gong should have a class related to infographics next term and b) how important a tool infographics is for EVERYTHING but especially for studying the illicit antiquities trade. 
  • My conflicts course, Solving the Impossible, is one of the most glaringly useful courses I’ve ever taken EVER. A post will happen sometime in the near future about finding vacuums in conflicts, and the vacuums I’ve discovered in the antiquities trade conflict that need filling by all of you.
  • I am ¼ of the way done with my senior year of college. Nausea, again.

Now that I am halfway through this term, most of my research is done and I’m in my writing stages. Hopefully, I will have more of an internet presence and posts like this will not occur regularly.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Sarcastic Art History Students

I'm not entirely sure how Sarcastic Art History Students got past me for so long, especially because one of the creators is my friend/housemate/fellow blogger, but I'm glad I'm finally "hip" and stuff again because this is CRAY CRAY FUNNAY.

Seriously, though, go check out their blog because they have some genuinely intelligent background info on all the works and also no one is this funny about these things.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

I went pro, yo.

In addition to this blog, I now also write for Bennington's student blog, Tapped In. Before this week, I could call myself a professional blogger only in the sense that if I make one cent a day from my ad revenue, I'll get my $5 check from Adbrite in about a year and a half. Now, I'm feeling slightly more legit. Be sure to check out Tapped In if you're interested in how we design our own curriculum at Bennington, or if you just want to see examples of the work some amazing young people are doing here!