Earlier this year I was asked to participate in a gathering of lawyers, archaeologists, antiquities dealers, economists, and members of the museum community at the Milken Institute in Santa Monica California: “Financial Innovations to Curb Looting and Preserve Cultural Resources”
The institute has published a report available here (registration required). From the press release:
Participants examined how market-based financial innovations could help stem the black market on antiquities by changing incentives that would create cultural and economic value to all stakeholders.
“An open, more efficient market can help address many of the problems that plague the antiquities trade, including poverty, corruption and environmental and cultural degradation,” said Glenn Yago, director of capital markets at the Milken Institute. “The whole chain of events, from country of origin to museum or personal collector, needs a new set of legal market-based rewards.”
I gave a few comments on the intersection of the Treasure Act and the Portable Antiquities Scheme in England and Wales, which I expanded and developed into a longer article.
I’ve read the report, and it offers three potential ways we might use these “financial innovations” to reform the antiquities trade:
- long-term leases for museums and exhibitions
- museum/collector partnership-sponsored digs
- the design and development of archaeological development bonds
The first is already taking place with increasing regularity. The latter two will likely be met with more controversy, but they do have a lot of merit I think if they are implemented carefully and thoughtfully. Any reform will have to have the support of nations of origin, and they have to be confident that their efforts are producing a good deal for them, and aren’t just a continuation of the taking of recent centuries.
The event itself was great, and it brought together a number of stakeholders — including archaeologists and antiquities dealers. It was clear that they have deep-seated disagreements, but there was a core of things upon which they did agree, which is the foundation of any effort at reform.
I strongly encourage those interested in the antiquities trade to give the report a read.