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The CPAC review of the MOU with Italy

On Friday last week the Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC) met to review Article II of the MOU with Italy. This agreement relates to "the Imposition of Import Restrictions on Archaeological Material Representing the Pre-Classical, Classical and Imperial Roman Periods of Italy". The background to the MOU, which dates back to 2001, was the perceived problem of archaeological sites being pillaged to provide material for the antiquities market. The import restrictions were intended, in part, to check that archaeological material that was brought into North America had not surfaced recently (i.e. after the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property).

Police raids in the Geneva Freeport had drawn attention to the organised looting and redistribution of the antiquities from Italy (and elsewhere) . The evidence gathered from the raids led to the "Medici Conspiracy". One major auction-house effectively closed down its London antiquities department, and several high-profile North American museums have handed more than 100 antiquities back to Italy. One of the highlights was the Sarpedon krater from New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. These pieces have been joined by objects from a prominent New York collector.

Different groups gave presentations to CPAC. Museum Directors from the AAMD emphasised the need for more loans from Italy. Some loans have already been made. At the same time the Italian authorities have been generous in making loans to museums that appear to have minimal regard for ethics when making acquisitions. Back in the 1980s Maxwell Anderson understood the ethical issues and created EUMILOP that hosted a series of imaginative exhibitions of archaeological material from Italy.

At least two board members from the newly established Cultural Property Research Institute (CPRI) gave presentations. Its director, William Pearlstein, was concerned that Italy was identifying material pictured in the Geneva archive when it was being offered at auction in New York. Peter Tompa, the legal officer for the CPRI, also spoke on behalf of two numismatic trade bodies, the International Association of Professional Numismatists (IAPN) and the Professional Numismatists Guild (PNG). Tompa asserted that "Italy has done a poor job taking care of the coins at state institutions and archaeological sites". It seems that the challenge to the MOU is in order to free up the trade in archaeological material between Italy and North America.

Representatives of the Archaeological Institute of America (Sebastian Heath) and the University of Pennsylvania (Richard Leventhal) are reported to have indicated that the MOU should extend its definition of archaeological material to include ancient coins. Stefano De Caro, of the Italian Ministry of Culture, appears to have suggested that Italy favours a revised MOU that will include coins as part of the agreement.

The MOU appears to be working to preserve the archaeological heritage of Italy - and indeed the rest of us -  but needs to be revised in the light of the concerns of the Italian authorities.

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David- I think you have it a bit backwards. The point of Kerry Wetterstom's presentation and mine was not to "free up trade." Trade is already free in ancient coins (except Cypriot and Chinese ones entering the US). Our point is that the market is quite robust in Europe-- Italy included-- for unprovenanced ancient coins. Why should the US State Department put restrictions on US citizens in such circumstances, particularly when Italy has no such controls on what its collectors can purchase?

Also, Bill and I were not speaking on behalf of the CPRI. The CPRI ia a reseearch institute and not an advocacy group like ACCG or SAFE. IAPN and PNG are trade associations which perform advocacy work on occasion, but that is a rather minor part of their missions.


Peter Tompa
David Gill said…
I mention trade because this is the point of Wetterstom: "The Italian MOU creates a “one way street” in terms of trade."
I did not say that you were speaking on behalf of CPRI. However as you mention the Research Institute, would it be possible for you to disclose the author(s) of the summary report? Who was interviewed for the "research"? Which institutions are represented?
Best wishes
Wayne G. Sayles said…

If you would be so kind, please explain to me why you, and your friends Mr. Barford and Mr. Elkins, constantly harp on this fabrication that the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild is a trade lobby? Is that supposed to be some sort of insult or condemnation? If so, you folks are really out of touch. References to the trade are understandable among collectors because without a trade, there would not be any collectors of ancient coins. That is of course why cultural property nationalists attack the trade. Collectors and the trade are obviously important to each other. It is no insult to the ACCG nor to collectors in general when you claim that we support the interests of the trade. WE DO. But, the fact remains that we are a collector advocacy group. Your inability to comprehend that simple fact is curious, unless it is a willful distortion that you somehow see as an insult. If so, I think you are probably the only ones who see it that way. Yes, curious indeed.


David Gill said…
Dear Wayne
I do not even mention the ACCG in this post. What I do say is this: "Peter Tompa, the legal officer for the CPRI, also spoke on behalf of two numismatic trade bodies, the International Association of Professional Numismatists (IAPN) and the Professional Numismatists Guild (PNG)." Is Peter Tompa so closely identified with ACCG in your mind that when he speaks for IAPN and PNG he is also speaking for ACCG?
Best wishes
Wayne G. Sayles said…

Do I need to refer you to your own words?

I mention trade because this is the point of Wetterstom: "The Italian MOU creates a “one way street” in terms of trade."

You know full well that Mr. Wetterstrom (as President-Elect of ACCG) represented ancient coin collectors at the CPAC hearing.

Do you deny that you have mischaracterized the ACCG as a trade lobby? If so, I would accept that and apologize for misunderstanding you.

Why don't you just address my point instead of taking your usual circuitous end-run around subjects that you wish to avoid?

In case you need help, the point is: ACCG is a collector advocacy group. Is that really so hard to understand or admit? And, please, do not waste everyone's time with a rehash of that balderdash that your friends constantly throw up about the trade association of several ACCG Board Members. It just doesn't matter. The board members were individually elected by the voting members of ACCG, less than 20% of whom have any association with the trade at all, and several of whom are archaeologists.

I can understand your passion for what you believe, but does truth have to be massacred in the indulging of that passion?

David Gill said…
Has an officer-elect of the ACCG raised the issue of "trade" at CPAC? Clearly the answer is yes.
Did I mention that the IAPN and the PNG were represented by a lobbyist? Clearly the answer is yes.
Can the IAPN and the PNG be described as "numismatic trade bodies"? Clearly the answer is yes.
Did I mention the ACCG in this post? No.
And does the ACCG include members of the numismatic trade?
The answer lies in your comment.
Wayne G. Sayles said…

Your ability to twist words and facts is impressive and I must say that you find new ways faster than I can digest them. I think I said that something less than 20% of ACCG members have an affiliation or association with the numismatic trade. How did you misread that? And please do tell me and all of your readers why it matters? I personally have an association with the trade, and have had for 40+ years. Does that mean I cannot be a collector? I hope not. Is it forbidden for archaeologists to dig holes in their garden? I think the picture is clear. You simply do not want to answer a question -- any question. OK, have it your way.



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