Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Chasing Aphrodite authors propose WikiLoot, a crowd-sourced initiative to address the illicit antiquities trade

Polaroid seized from Giacomo Medici's warehouse
Jason Felch and Ralph Frammolino, authors of Chasing Aphrodite, are two of the most tireless voices in the fight against the illicit antiquities trade right now. In addition to their fantastic book and their presence on Twitter and Facebook, they have just proposed WikiLoot, an entirely new initiative that, if successful, could revolutionize how we approach the illicit antiquities trade. The idea behind WikiLoot is that it would be an open source web platform for "the publication and analysis of a unique archive of primary source records and photographs documenting the illicit trade in looted antiquities." The wiki would use social media "and other tools" to bring together YOU plus a big network of experts (journalists, researchers, dilettantes, etc.) to collaborate on the analysis of a collection of photos of unpublished and missing artifacts that do not come from a known collection. Right now, Jason and Ralph are applying for funding, specially from the Knight Foundation, from which they've requested $250,000 to contribute to their $350,000 goal.

My own first impression of this is HOLY CRAP THIS IS WHAT WE'VE NEEDED ALL ALONG. One of the biggest problem with addressing the illicit antiquities trade has been the question of how to involve the general population. For such a global issue, the problem-solving has so far been limited to a relatively small network of police, academics, and lawmakers. Opening the problem-solving up to EVERYONE could be the kick in the pants that this fight really needs. However, there are admittedly a lot of issues that accompany this kind of proposal, so Jason and Ralph have created a Facebook group for people to discuss their questions, work out kinks, and come up with some creative ideas to make WikiLoot more than just a concept. The conversation itself is already super interesting; I don't know anywhere else on the internet right now where you can watch the experts/major reporters in this field (so far featuring Jason Felch, Larry Rothfield, David Gill, James Grimaldi) discuss together the pros and cons of an initiative like this. Read more about Jason's proposal on the Chasing Aphrodite blog, definitely "like" or comment on the proposal on the Knight Foundation Tumblr to help WikiLoot to get funded, AND join in the conversation on the WikiLoot open Facebook group!