We have just returned from Amelia and the first five weeks of the ARCA program in Amelia. Last weekend ARCA held its fourth annual conference, and the event gets better every year, a fact evidenced I think by how many folks returned to Amelia for the conference again this year. The event brings together a diverse set of talents, which is necessary given the challenges facing heritage advocates. These dangers include theft, archaeological looting, the sale of illicit objects in the market, forgery, and destruction during armed conflict. And the challenge of course when one begins a conference is to ask what one little conversation can do in the face of this heritage crime. Our hope is to take the conversation and carry it back to our work. As we know, many of these conversations focus on the Mediterranean, and the return of illicit objects there (and even the claims for more returns).
This means of course that many other areas of the World are left under-considered. To open the conference I discussed the ongoing case of a looted statue from Koh Ker which has been seized by U.S. attorneys in a forfeiture proceeding from Sotheby’s. We were able to invite with His Royal Highness Ravivaddhana Sisowath, Prince of Cambodia to give some remarks. He spoke about the importance of these statues to the people of Cambodia, and the circumstances surrounding their removal in the conflict during the 1970s involving the Vietnam War and the Khmer Rouge. Later on Saturday we were able to present awards in person to three of the very best kinds of advocates in this field: Joris Kila, an expert in protecting cultural heritage during armed conflict who has visited Libya and other at risk sites; Jason Felch, a reporter for the L.A. Times who has continued important work in this field with ideas like Wikiloot; and finally George Abungu, the Vice-President of ICOM and a powerful advocate for heritage protection. His discussion of African rock art was one of the very best discussions of art and heritage protection I have seen.
There were many other highlights—the presentation from Dr. Laurie Rush on heritage protection as a force multiplier was outstanding, and of course the early career presentations were some of the best of the weekend.
Many many thanks to everyone at ARCA for such a terrific weekend, including Monica, Lynda, Catherine, Kirsten, Noah, and of course Joni. You can save the date already for our fifth conference, June 22-23, 2013 in Amelia again.