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Antiquities and Cultural Property Are Subject of Yale Symposium


New Haven, Conn. — Lawyers, museum curators and collectors, journal editors and scholars will gather on the Yale campus on Saturday, April 14, 9:30 a.m.–6 p.m., for an international symposium exploring issues surrounding cultural property, antiquities and archaeological ethics.

Titled “The Future of the Global Past,” the symposium will take place on in Rm. 101 of Linsly-Chittenden Hall, 63 High St. The event, which is free and open to the public, is sponsored by the departments of Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations, History of Art, Classics and Anthropology, as well as the Council on Middle East Studies and the Council on African Studies, both part of The MacMillan Center.

According to Karen Polinger Foster, lecturer in ancient Near Eastern and Aegean art, the event is the first ever to be held at Yale on the subject matter. Foster and Roderick McIntosh, professor of anthropology, are co-organizers of the symposium.

“The event is particularly timely as the symposium date marks the fourth anniversary of the week that witnessed the looting of the Baghdad Museum, the flooding of the Central Bank and the destruction of libraries and archives in Baghdad in the aftermath of the failure of U.S.-led invading forces to protect cultural property,” Foster comments. “This catastrophic series of events, coupled with the widespread destruction of Mesopotamian archaeological sites, focused national and international attention as never before on cultural property, antiquities issues and archaeological ethics.”

Symposium participants represent different points of view and will discuss issues “spanning five continents and five thousand years,” the organizers note.

The symposium will focus on four main themes. In “Whose Culture? Whose Property?” lawyers involved in significant cases of cultural property law, restitution and repatriation will address national and international legal regimes currently governing cultural property and will also suggest avenues for the future. This session, chaired by Christina Kraus, professor of classics and chair of the Department of Classics, will feature discussions by attorney George Pavia, senior partner of Pavia & Harcourt in New York, and Lucille A. Roussin of the Lawyers’ Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation.

The second session, “The Media and the Message,” chaired by McIntosh, will address challenges of communicating to the general public the issues covered in the symposium. Speakers will discuss U.S. news media bias, political agendas in various other media outlets, the role of archaeological publications in setting ethical standards and the impact of the press on the trafficking of cultural artifacts. Speakers include Roger Atwood, visiting researcher at Georgetown University, John Malcolm Russell of the Massachusetts College of Art and documentary filmmaker Michel Brent.

“Scholars and Collectors, Laws and Ethics” is the theme of the third session, chaired by Milette Gaifman, assistant professor of classics and the history of art. This session will explore how scholars, collectors, the past and present response of museums and nations to cultural property issues, as well as the choices available to individuals and institutions regarding cultural property and the acquisition of antiquities. Speakers include Annie Caubet, a curator at the Louvre Museum, Michael D. Coe, professor emeritus of anthropology at Yale, and McIntosh.

The final session, “Yale and the Past,” will feature present and former directors and curators of Yale collections speaking about how the various issues discussed in the symposium have affected the material in their charge. Among the specific issues this session will examine are questions concerning the acquisition and repatriation of African art, Native American repatriation and the controversy surrounding claims of looted art by the Nazis. The session will be chaired by Colleen Manassa, acting director of graduate studies in the Department of Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations, and will feature Benjamin R. Foster, the Laffan Professor of Assyriology and curator of the Yale Babylonian Collection; Frederick Lamp, curator of African art at the Yale University Art Gallery; Richard L. Burger, the MacCurdy Professor of Anthropology and former director of the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History; Lucy C. Salazar, senior researcher in the Department of Anthropology; Richard H. Colten, senior collections manager in the Division of Anthropology at the Yale Peabody Museum; and Jock Reynolds III, the Henry J. Heinz Director of the Yale University Art Gallery.


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