Spring 2014:

April 16 2014 - Professional Development Workshop

Museums, Collectors, and Cultural Heritage: 21st Century Dilemmas

Co-organized by

NIU Museum Studies/Illinois Association of Museums/Ellwood House Museum

Link to the on-line article for the
Professional Development Workshop

Workshop Leaders:

Katharyn Hanson and Jack D.M. Green

Katharyn Hanson is Visiting Manager, Archaeological Site Preservation Program at the Iraqi Institute for the Conservation of Antiquities and Heritage, and Secretary for the U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield

Jack Green is Chief Curator at the Oriental Institute Museum and Research Associate at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago


9:00-3:00 Ellwood House Museum Visitor Center
3:00-5:00 NIU Museums and Galleries
5:00-7:00 Board of Trustees Room, Altgeld Hall

Transportation from Ellwood House Museum to NIU locations and back will be provided.

Program Schedule

9:00-9:30: Check in, Ellwood House Visitors Center

9:30-10:00: Welcoming Remarks:

9:30 Peter Van Ael, NIU Museum Studies Program Coordinator: general announcements
9:35 Richard Holly, Dean, NIU College of Visual and Performing Arts: NIU welcome
9:40 Brian Reis, Executive Director, Ellwood House Museum: Ellwood House welcome
9:45 Kate Schureman, President, Illinois Association of Museums: IAM remarks
9:50 Josephine Burke, Director, NIU Art Museum: NIU campus museum/gallery tour info
9:55 Peter Van Ael: Introduction of Katharyn Hanson and Jack Green
10:00-12:00: “Cultural Heritage Law and Policy – Case Studies for the Museum Professional” Led by Katharyn Hanson
This session will introduce the international and domestic US legal framework on culture heritage. Using handouts and role-playing scenarios we will explore these laws through five real-life case studies from incidents with collectors, auction houses, and museums. Through the case studies we will delve into the details of the 1983 US Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act and the international UNESCO Convention of 1970. Although much of this discussion will focus on objects of international origin we will also include the relevant sections of the US Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, Abandoned Shipwreck Act, and the National Stolen Property Act.
12:00-1:00: Lunch and Ellwood House tours

1:00-3:00: “Ethical Issues and Collections: Case Studies for Museum Professionals and Administrators” Led by Jack Green

During this session, case studies will be offered that explore some of the complexities and challenges of: acquisition and deaccession procedures (including “orphaned” objects), claims of ownership and repatriation, the impact of fakes and forgeries, transparency of collection information, and cultural heritage preservation efforts by Museums and cultural institutions.

3:00-5:00: NIU Museums and Galleries visits:
NIU Art Museum, The Anthropology Museum at NIU, One Room Schoolhouse of the Blackwell Museum of Educational History, Jack Olson Gallery.

5:00-7:00: Formal Lectures by Katharyn Hanson and Jack Green, Board of Trustees Room, Altgeld Hall, NIU

“Looted Heritage and the Museum: the role of unprovenienced objects within archaeological collections.” Jack Green

Looting of archaeological sites continues to be a global issue, and shows no sign of abating. Museums have long been seen as part of the problem: by purchasing or acquiring objects from private collectors or donors that lack provenance or provenience information, museums can be seen as contributing to the demand for looted objects, and run the risk of acquiring fakes and forgeries. Acquisition policies adopted in recent years by many museums in the United States, despite loopholes, now make it harder for private collectors to donate objects acquired after 1970. Museums with antiquities collections can do the following to become part of the solution: uphold the highest ethical standards in loans and acquisitions; make information on their collections freely available online; educate and advocate on the importance of archaeological context and threats to cultural heritage; and encourage cultural heritage training and preservation in countries and regions impacted by looting.

But what about unprovenienced objects that currently reside in museum collections, particularly in museums that mostly contain artifacts from controlled excavations? This lecture will focus on a museum specialized in the archaeology and history of the ancient Near East: the Oriental Institute Museum of the University of Chicago. I will summarize the acquisition and display strategies of the Oriental Institute from the late 19th to the early 21st centuries. I will then consider how objects were selected for redisplay in more recent years to provide emphasis on the value of past Oriental Institute archaeological expeditions, downplaying the role of objects (often purchased “art” objects) that lack provenience. This lecture explores some of the value-laden tensions and ethical dilemmas in selecting objects without context for display, and suggests ways in which such objects (e.g. Luristan bronzes) can be presented to highlight acquisition history, problems associated with lack of context, and the continued role of such objects for researchers.

“Looting and Loss: Cultural Heritage in Iraq and Syria.” Katharyn Hanson

In April 2003, the looted Iraq National Museum in Baghdad briefly focused international media attention on the plight of Iraq’s cultural heritage. This theft and destruction is only one part of a much larger problem. The looting of archaeological sites throughout the country poses a continuing threat to Iraq’s past and recently reached crisis levels in Syria. Although the initial flurry of destruction has subsided In Iraq after 2005-6, important archaeological sites continued to be looted and Syrian sites are at increasing risk. While we will never fully know the extent of the material and information stolen from these sites, satellite imagery allows us an opportunity to better understand which sites were targets, when looters were active, and what type of material is reaching the market.

While it is important to increase awareness about these current patterns in looting and the market for artifacts stolen from Iraq, it is also necessary to discuss the tools available to help prevent this destruction. Among these tools are recent developments in international and U.S. legal framework to help protect cultural heritage. As we begin to address the damage to cultural heritage sites in other conflict zones, especially as we witness the destruction occurring now in Syria, what can we learn from these tools created in response to the loss in Iraq?