Yale and Peru Finalize Agreement

On Friday, Yale University signed an agreement with Peru over the disposition of objects removed from Machu Picchu nearly a century ago. The agreement, which will avoid continued litigation will create a joint Center for the Study of Inca Culture in Cusco, Peru. The center will preserve the artifacts, make the objects available for study and display, and promote research. This looks to be a beneficial agreement for all the parties involved. There will be a new joint research center in Cusco, pairing Yale University with the University of San Antonio Abad del Cusco. And though the objects will no longer be in Connecticut, the objects will be available for future study, and will still be cared for. And finally, Peru’s suit against Yale is no longer necessary to resolve the dispute. A memorandum of understanding was created in November, but Peru had backed out of agreements in the past with Yale. This time though, the dispute looks to be resolved for good.

As always, the best place for coverage of the dispute is the Yale University paper, and reporter Sarah Nutman is writing a series on the returns:

Since Yale and Peruvian officials signed a Memorandum of Understanding outlining the return of the objects last November, both sides have been eager to underscore the goodwill between the two parties. The document, they say, allows Peru and Yale to move beyond the mistrust that has often characterized their interactions over the century-long struggle — it has eliminated any underlying disagreement. 
For the most part, the two sides agree. Peru will repatriate thousands of pieces. Some will arrive in time for the centennial this July; the rest will be in Peru by December 2012. But there remain aspects about which Yale and Peru tell very different stories. For instance, how the pieces came to stay in New Haven for so long, and why, after nearly a decade of bickering, Yale simply offered to cede them to Peru.

  1. Sarah Nutman, Yale and University of Cusco sign collaboration agreement, Yale Daily News, February 11, 2011, http://www.yaledailynews.com/news/2011/feb/11/yale-and-university-cusco-sign-collaboration-agree/ (last visited Feb 14, 2011).
  2. Sarah Nutman, Returning to Machu Picchu, Yale Daily News, February 14, 2011, http://www.yaledailynews.com/news/2011/feb/14/returning-to-machu-picchu/ (last visited Feb 14, 2011).
Questions or Comments? Email me at derek.fincham@gmail.com

Yale Says Machu Picchu Artifacts Will Return

Yale has announced objects from Machu Picchu will be returned to Peru, and that an agreement is being “formalized”. It seems the objects will return to Peru early next year, which will bring an end to the ongoing lawsuit brought by Peru. Hopefully the two sides have reached a mutually beneficial compromise, and an agreement is close. But remember, an agreement has been announced before.

Questions or Comments? Email me at derek.fincham@gmail.com

Senator Dodd Weighs in on Yale and Peru

Sen. Chris Dodd has weighed in on the dispute between Yale and Peru over objects removed by Hiram Bingham from Peru during the early part of the 20th century. Bingham brought widespread attention to Machu Picchu during a serious of expeditions, and he returned home with many objects, which have been in the possession of Yale, despite what Peru claims was an agreement to return those objects.  Yale has offered to provide material and financial support for research in Peru in exchange for a traveling exhibition and continued lease of the objects, however that agreement fell through and Peru has sought relief in federal Court.

Yet now Sen. Dodd has offered to intervene.  Though he says Peru are the rightful owners of these objects, he may mean these are items of cultural heritage which should be returned to Peru.  “The Machu Picchu artifacts do not belong to any government, to any institution, or to any university,” Dodd said in a statement. “They belong to the people of Peru. I plan to work with both parties to resolve this dispute quickly, amicably, and return the artifacts to their rightful owners.”

From the AP story:  “Machu Picchu has special significance for Peru and the entire world,” Yale said in a statement. “We look forward to a plan that preserves the artifacts and ensures their availability to the public and scholars to promote further appreciation and study of the rich cultural legacy of Machu Picchu.”

For background on this dispute, see these posts

  1. John Christoffersen, Senator Christopher Dodd Says Artifacts Held by Yale Belong to Peru, http://www.artdaily.org/index.asp?int_sec=2&int_new=38572 (last visited Jun 15, 2010).
  2. In Peru, Dodd Works to Mediate Dispute Over Machu Picchu Artifacts | U.S. Senator Christopher J. Dodd, (2010), http://dodd.senate.gov/?q=node/5658 (last visited Jun 15, 2010).
  3. Cultural Property Observer, Connecticut Senator Sides with Peru Against Yale Cultural Property Observer (2010), http://culturalpropertyobserver.blogspot.com/2010/06/connecticut-senator-sides-with-peru.html (last visited Jun 15, 2010).
Questions or Comments? Email me at derek.fincham@gmail.com

Paracas Textiles

nullJudith Dobrzynski tries to track the disposition of Paracas Textiles currently ‘owned’ by the city of Gothenburg Sweden.  There are some reports that the objects may be returned, but the interesting aspect is how the objects are being displayed in Sweden, in a way which throws the doors open to the perils of the antiquities trade and the destruction looting can cause. 

First, Dobrzynski notes the city council was supposed to vote on April 26th on whether the textiles would be returned:

It’s possible that the decision was indeed made, but the announcement was put off until fall, when an exhibition on the textiles at the Museum of World Culture — called “A Stolen World” — closes. The show states its position pretty baldly: “This is the story of how an unscrupulous policy, the illegal commerce and hunting for antiques strip some cultures of their identity.”

It’s also possible that exactly how to return them is an issue. According to a short item last January on the website of the Museum Security Network (here), “the delicate nature of Paracas textiles makes them extremely sensitive to the environment such as light and vibrations. And to move them could mean damage beyond repair.”

As with many issues of cultural patrimony, there’s no easy answer.

Note the description of the exhibition below.  Could we imagine similar objects in the United States on display with such language?  The museum of world culture describes these textiles which are currently on display there:

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Large quantities of Paracas textiles were smuggled out of Peru and illegally exported to museums and private collections all over the world around 1930. About a hundred of them were smuggled to Sweden and donated to the Ethnographic Department of Göteborg Museum. The accumulation of them used to be a prestigious task, and so, apart from Peru itself, there are Paracas textiles in art museums and private collections all over the world and in many western museums of ethnography. Today textiles from Paracas are among the most sought-after heritage objects in the illegal market.

More is known today concerning the problems associated with looted and smuggled artefacts, and discussions are in progress concerning the line which museums should take regarding dubious items in their collections. How should we relate to this part of history?

Questions or Comments? Email me at derek.fincham@gmail.com

Peru has Dropped Some Claims Against Yale

Peru has decided not to allege fraud and conspiracy claims against Yale University in its lawsuit over objects removed from Machu Picchu in the early part of the 20th century.  One of the main points of contention in the dispute is whether this action is timely.  It surely would have if brought soon after the objects were removed, but Peru will either have to justify waiting decades to bring a claim, or convince a court that Peruvian law applies—perhaps under the lex originis rule

For background on the dispute see these posts

From the AP:

The withdrawal of some claims comes after Peru hired new lawyers who said the move would simplify the case and “facilitate resolution” of the dispute. Yale’s lawyers had warned that the claims violated civil procedures prohibiting frivolous arguments.

The fraud allegations that were withdrawn accused Yale of intending to deceive Peru by promising to return the artifacts and conspiring with Bingham to retain the artifacts unlawfully by fraudulently assuring that Yale would return the artifacts when Peru demanded.

“Peru has dropped all claims of Yale having intentionally done anything wrong,” said Jonathan Freiman, Yale’s attorney. “We’re glad that they have done so, but we think the rest of the case is equally misguided and should be withdrawn, as well.” . . .

“Yale has wholly betrayed Peru’s trust and confidence,” the lawsuit states. “Yale has exploited its holding of the Machu Picchu collection for commercial and financial gain at the expense of the interests of the Peruvian people and in violation of the fiduciary obligations that Yale owes Peru.”

  1. John Christoffersen, Peru lifts some Machu Picchu claims against Yale, AP, March 10, 2010 (last visited Mar 10, 2010).
Questions or Comments? Email me at derek.fincham@gmail.com

Cultural Heritage Preservation Internships in Peru

I get dozens of requests every month from students and arts professionals wondering what career opportunities exist for the protection or preservation of cultural heritage.  There are not yet all that many opportunities, but that is changing.   

Here is one cultural internship program created to support the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Peru and the United States.  It looks like there are nine positions, and applicants should have an arts background and Spanish fluency:

 

In support of the MOU, the Embassy promotes an internship program for American graduate students of museum studies and conservation programs to be held from July through August 2010.The objective of this program is to enable well-qualified graduate students the opportunity to do field research in Lima, Arequipa and Lambayeque. It will also support museums that house rich art collections, but are greatly in need of skilled professionals.  These internships will provide an excellent opportunity for Peruvian and American colleagues to exchange ideas on new techniques related to conservation, marketing, and exhibition planning, with long-term possibilities for collaboration. Please find more information here.
Questions or Comments? Email me at derek.fincham@gmail.com

The FBI Returns pre-Columbian Antiquities

Pre-Colombian pieces found in retirement community head homeOn Tuesday the FBI announced it was returning 150 pre-Columbian artifacts which had been smuggled out of Peru and Ecuador.  The objects were found in the home of a recently deceased man, who had apparently been a collector of the antiquities. 

The 153 pieces of jewelry as well as pottery, baskets, sculptures and figurines were found last April in the home of a man after he died in his retirement community in Avon Park, Florida, according to the bureau’s Miami field office.
Experts indicated that the artifacts, presented in a Miami ceremony to representatives of the Peru and Ecuador governments, were between 500 and 3,200 years old, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said.
The FBI teamed up with specialists from Florida International University who determined that 141 of the pieces originated in what is present-day Peru, and the other 12 came from neighboring Ecuador.
“These artifacts represent the cultural heritage of Peru and Ecuador. They can never be replaced and should be on display for many to see, not locked away,” said the FBI’s chief agent in Miami, John Gillies.
“We are honored to return these items to their rightful owners,” Gillies added.

These announcements have become almost routine, with an estimated 2,600 items recovered just since 2004.  

  1. AFP: FBI returns smuggled artifacts to Peru, Ecuador, Dec. 1, 2009.
Questions or Comments? Email me at derek.fincham@gmail.com