Saturday, January 21, 2012

My hero: George Clooney turning The Monuments Men into a film

According to the internet sources, George Clooney is allegedly working on writing, directing, and starring in a film based on Robert M. Edsel's book. The Monuments Men chronicled the work done by the special forces of American and British museum directors, curators, art historians, and soldiers during WWII to prevent the destruction of Europe's cultural property at the hands of the Nazis. 


That kind of war time bad-assery is a natural fit for Hollywood glorification. I am stupid with delight that the actions of these WWII heroes will be brought so far into the mainstream consciousness. So stupid with delight that I promise right now not to complain (too much) about the historical inaccuracies or inconsistencies that are bound to be suffered for the sake of plot because this film could give the public a more immediate and relatable reference point for issues of art crime, provenance, and heritage. At least, more relatable and reliable than Indiana Jones.

I don't know about you, but I know I'll be spending the next few hours figuring out which big time celebrities should be cast based on Edsel's cast of characters. I vote for Michael Fassbender as James Rorimer and Isabelle Huppert as Rose Valland. 

Object Biographies at the Manchester Museum

Via Egyptology News, I stumbled across the University of Manchester's museum blog, Egypt at the Manchester Museum, and their first in a series of biographies on objects in their collection. Funnily enough, I had the same idea to include biographies of looted objects on this blog, and I am legitimately excited to see that a museum is thinking the same. This isn't just a great way to highlight objects that are not usually on display, but it's an important method of emphasizing the fact that every single artifact is not just a part of history, but has it's own history. The first object featured (a small Egyptian cup from the burial of Nesi-khonsu, wife of ruler Pinedjem II) is given a brief but a thorough biography, including how it arrived in the museum's collection. Whoever at the Manchester Museum had that idea should definitely be assured their job security because it's freaking golden and something I hope to see being emulated by other museum blogs soon.

TYCTB featured on Doug's Archaeology

Earlier this week, Doug at Doug's Archaeology and Open Access Archaeology was inspired by my own Featured Blog series and very generously highlighted myself and dozens of others in a series of posts listing his most highly recommended blogs on archaeology and cultural heritage. Click on over for a truly tremendous compilation of some of the most informative, interesting, and helpful resources out there. Thanks for the mention again, Doug! (And for all the new reading material!)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Featured Blog: Looting Matters

If you've been paying attention, you'll probably have figured out that David Gill is our current golden boy in the cultural heritage blogosphere. Last week he accepted the Archaeological Institute of America's Outstanding Public Service Award (aka the archaeology Oscar) and earlier this year he moved from Swansea University to be professor of archaeological heritage at University Campus Suffolk. His acceptance speech at the AIA awards did not mince words and directly called out institutions that have refused to take responsibility for their actions in supporting the illicit antiquities trade. Dr. Gill's blog Looting Matters is one of the first blogs I turn to when I've been away from the news for a while. My reason for featuring Looting Matters isn't just because you should absolutely be reading it if you're at all serious about these issues, or because it's one the first blogs to report on emerging topics as they happen (as opposed to days or weeks later when no one really cares anymore), or because Dr. Gill's voice has never wavered in addressing these issues. It's because it is also an astounding record of the illicit antiquities trade and cultural heritage issues that students can easily take advantage of for their research. A final project I did for a class last term consisted of a portfolio detailing the conflict between the St. Louis Art Museum and Egypt over the funerary mask of Ka-Nefer-Nefer. As I scoured my library's resources for articles covering the conflict, I soon realized that Looting Matters was becoming one of my most used and valued sources. The timeline for the conflict was fuzzy from conflicting news reports; because Dr. Gill blogs so promptly and succinctly on issues as they happen, his posts helped me clarify the conflict's timeline and events in a way that Ebscohost could not. Looting Matters is not just a commentary, but is an incredible resource for issues that have come and gone, are ongoing, or are only just beginning. This is particularly useful for students like me who know the famous controversies (the Parthenon Marbles, the Getty, Euphronius Krater, blah blah blah) but don't have any experience with conflicts or events that haven't been published in gripping non-fiction form.

Congratulations to David again on his award!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Update on the "Shipwrecked" controversy/I can't believe I get to talk to these people.

"Shipwrecked" on display in Singapore
Today it's been a week since I arrived in Washington, D.C. to research the "Shipwrecked" debate for my senior work at Bennington. Just a week, and I have already exchanged emails with some of the giants in this field to set up meeting times, met a Smithsonian museum director, and eaten the finest processed meat at two amazing burger/chili joints for under $7 each (Ben's Chili Bowl and the Shake Shack in Dupont Circle, the latter of which also serves beer and wine, what!)

Less than 24 hours after I got off the train, I met with Julian Raby, the director of the Freer/Sackler Galleries, to kick off my field research. Not only was he incredibly welcoming and supportive of my mission, but demonstrated that he is all about engaging younger generations and getting creative about the problem-solving that needs to be done in the museum/archaeology/cultural heritage field. In our meeting, he openly admitted to mistakes and problem areas he needed to focus on more carefully throughout the process of navigating "Shipwrecked", and emphasized that the re-excavation of the Belitung is not just about excavation; it's about engagement. He has high hopes that re-excavation efforts will bring together the two academic domains of art history and archaeology, that it will create training opportunities for younger generations in archaeology/museum studies/preservation in southeast Asia, particularly Indonesia, and that it will incite UNESCO to strengthen their conventions by turning them into discernible action. Which really reflects the hopes that I voiced for it when I heard the news of the surprise outcome. At the moment, all these good intentions are in their embryonic stages as the Smithsonian has internal meetings on the subject and separate foundations are contacted for funding. However, here's why I'm feeling really good about the outcome of this debate and the effect it will have on this field in the future: