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  • November 03, 2021 7:38 AM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from The Art Newspaper

    Beirut National Museum has reopened—with expert assistance from the Louvre—following the double explosion that devastated the Lebanese capital on 4 August last year. The blast destroyed the museum’s windows and doors and caused serious damage to the security system. At least 200 people were killed and over 6,000 were injured in the aftermath of the explosions while countless buildings were pulled down. 

    The Directorate General of Antiquities within Lebanon’s Ministry of Culture drew up a plan of action to rebuild the museum, located 3km south of the port, in the days following the explosion. Teams from the Louvre’s Department of Near Eastern Antiquities and Department of Architectural Heritage and Gardens helped map out a recovery plan, beginning “emergency interventions” on 31 August last year.

    This involved securing the building and the collections as quickly as possible by repairing the doors, windows and security system; the team of specialists also helped repair damage in the museum’s administrative quarters and archaeological storerooms. 

    A Louvre spokesman says that the museum partly reopened mid-July for visitors such as tourists and Lebanese expatriates. “However the work is still in progress and should be completed in the next few days; 95% of the work has been done,” he says. 

    The restoration work has been funded by the International Alliance for the Protection of Heritage in Conflict Areas (Aliph), which provided $175,000. Aliph has supported 18 projects costing $2.3m, financing emergency measures to stabilise more than 30 historical houses in Beirut and restore monuments, religious buildings, and cultural institutions including the Sursock Museum($500,000). 

    "In the context of the crisis that Lebanon is going through, carrying out this work in such a short period of time constitutes a remarkable success," says Sarkis el-Khoury, the Lebanese director general of antiquities in a statement, adding that the joint project is "an important step in the collective work that we are carrying out jointly with the Louvre museum and the Aliph foundation”. New virtual tours of the collection have also been rolled out online. 

    But further funding is needed to carry out essential maintenance during phase two of the overhaul. “Major repairs valued at nearly $800,000 will be necessary to ensure the long-term balance of the entire museum, whose air conditioning is only operating at 30% of its capacity,” a Louvre statement says. Certain areas, such as the gallery displaying 13th-century mummies, are ventilated by backup systems. 

    The National Museum of Beirut, which displays over 1,800 objects on three floors dating from prehistoric times to the Ottoman period and originally opened in 1942, has undergone significant upheaval over the years. During the civil war that began in 1975, it was damaged by bombs and occupied by fighters from various armed groups. 

    The Louvre is also lending expertise to other key heritage projects in Lebanon. In the past three years, the Directorate General of Antiquities and Louvre’s Department of Near Eastern Antiquities have jointly carried out extensive archaeological research at the coastal town of Byblos where 20th-century excavations yielded works now housed at the Beirut National Museum.

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  • November 03, 2021 7:34 AM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from Security Management Magazine

    Deaths worldwide from the COVID-19 pandemic have surpassed 5 million, according to Johns Hopkins University. As of 1 November, there have been more than 246 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide in the two-year history of the disease, and nearly 7 billion vaccine doses have been administered. The United States has had the most deaths from COVID-19—745,837.

    The tally is almost certainly an underestimation, experts said, since many cases—especially early in the pandemic—were not tested and confirmed. United Nations Secretary General António Guterres called the death toll “a devastating milestone” and a clear warning to the world not to let down its guard.

    Despite rising vaccination numbers, some health officials are seeing signs of another coronavirus surge, particularly as some nations are loosening international travel restrictions, NPR reported.

    In October, Europe experienced an 18 percent surge in new COVID-19 cases, and Southeast Asia reported a 13 percent increase in new COVID-19 deaths, according to the World Health Organization.

    Nearly 34,000 people were locked into Shanghai’s Disneyland on Sunday to be tested for COVID-19 after a single confirmed case was linked to the park. Visitors all tested negative, but will be required to test again over the next two weeks. The park also announced it would be closed for two days after the incident, according to the BBC.

    In the face of rapidly climbing infection rates, Russian officials launched a 10-day lockdown that suspended work and travel. Officials ordered all unvaccinated residents more than 60 years in age—as well as unvaccinated people who may have chronic diseases or preexisting conditions—to remain at home for four months, CNN reported.

    Meanwhile, in the United States, the Food and Drug Administration authorized emergency use of COVID-19 vaccines for children 5 through 11 years of age. Children in this age group make up 39 percent of COVID-19 cases in individuals younger than 18 years of age; approximately 8,300 cases in this group resulted in hospitalization and 146 deaths.

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  • November 03, 2021 7:29 AM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from The Hour

    Officials at museums across Alaska have condemned repeated acts of antisemitic vandalism this year targeting the Alaska Jewish Museum in Anchorage.

    During instances in May and September, someone has placed swastika stickers on the building or carved the symbol associated with the Nazis into the museum door, the Juneau Empire reported.

    “Alaskan museums are appalled by the attacks, and they are eager to show support for the Alaska Jewish Museum and the Alaska Jewish Campus as they seek to address these crimes and ensure the safety of their facilities and community,” Dixie Clough, director of Museums Alaska, a statewide museum association, said in a statement.

    The September acts of vandalism came as the Anchorage Assembly held public hearings about instituting a mask mandate for 60 days amid a spike in COVID-19 cases.

    Many opponents of the mandate packed the assembly chamber to protest, including some wearing yellow Star of David stickers, similar to the patches Holocaust victims wore, to compare the mandate to what Jews faced under the Nazi regime in Germany.

    Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson, who opposes all COVID-19 mandates, initially defended the use of the stars. At the time he said: “There was a formal message that came out within Jewish culture about that and the message was, ‘never again.’ That’s an ethos. And that’s what that star really means is, ‘We will not forget, this will never happen again.’ And I think us borrowing that from them is actually a credit to them.”

    The next day, he apologized. “I understand that we should not trivialize or compare what happened during the Holocaust to a mask mandate, and I want to apologize for any perception that my statements support or compare what happened to the Jewish people in Nazi Germany,” Bronson said in a statement.

    “History reveals that malicious acts increase during uncertain times, and they flourish when encouraged or ignored by people in leadership positions,” Clough said her statement. “We will not ignore this spiteful act and we will work with the Alaska Jewish Museum to combat bigotry and prejudice in all its forms.”

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  • October 22, 2021 6:55 AM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from AAM

    “Can you describe a time you felt unwelcome or like you didn’t belong in a museum?”

    This question was posed during a recent conference call for the Facing Change Senior Diversity Fellows. As I listened to my distinguished colleagues recount their lived experiences of exclusion and unwelcome, many of them tied to racism, I tried to hold myself accountable to all the privilege I walk with in the world. Then it was my turn. Though I did not have the same experience with racism and did not wish to make a false equivalency, I wanted to share a story of my own and honor how it has shaped my journey personally and professionally. The story was of my first visit to a children’s museum with my daughter, who at the time was a year old. I had just moved to a new city and had been told by other parents about the wonderful local children’s museum. I had never been to one, despite having rich and expansive experiences with other kinds of museums and cultural institutions.

    While the exhibits at the children’s museum were thoughtful and playful, somehow the experience left me feeling isolated and alone, like I didn’t really belong.  There weren’t any signs or liaisons helping me figure out my role in this unfamiliar play environment, or pointing me to reflect on what the exhibits might teach. Looking around at the other groups of parents, I felt different from them; they seemed to have an understanding or secret code that I didn’t have. As a relatively new parent and a first-time visitor to this kind of museum, I felt the familiar twinge of “otherness” from my own childhood in an immigrant family.  I felt it especially after my daughter had a hard time taking turns and sharing with another child, leading to an awkward encounter with a parent. Ultimately, our visit ended with us sitting on a bench as I read her a book, an activity I knew well and felt comfortable doing, and then we left.

    A year later I returned to work and, as fate would have it, I found myself working in a children’s museum. I learned all about the deep and thoughtful intention that went into exhibits and programs, how they were designed based on theories of child development to promote health, inquiry, connection, and bonding. I felt I had finally been given the secret decoder ring I had been missing to understand all the benefits that a visit to a sensory-rich environment has on the growth and development of a child. In my role as an outreach coordinator, it was my job to share this newfound understanding with underrepresented and under-resourced communities, to help them reap those benefits with the sense of belonging and understanding that I had not felt.

    But my joy and enthusiasm for this responsibility was soon tempered by the realization that it was rooted in a posture of “doing to” these communities, instead of the empowerment of “co-creating with” them. I had my eyes opened to the deep racial inequities that existed in my city, leading me to reflect on my complicity in upholding structural racism. I had to look hard at what I was doing and how I was doing it—was I acting as a “white savior” upholding a hierarchy even while I felt like an outsider myself? How could I follow the path of empathy for this feeling of exclusion to the understanding and accountability that would make a more equitable and inclusive institution?

    My personal and organizational journey was not a solo adventure. It was supported by the museum’s leadership and done in collaboration with colleagues, childcare providers, and families, as well as many wonderful mentors in racial and social justice. At times this work was hard, messy, off-base, and complicated.  But what ultimately emerged was a community-created understanding of the barriers to participation that marginalized and minoritized people face in many public spaces. I’ve since adapted this understanding into a framework of guiding questions to help develop strategies for becoming more inclusive and welcoming.

    Every community and its needs are different, so your organization’s approach to inclusion and belonging should ideally be co-created with the community and local ecosystem in which it exists. I offer the following barriers and guiding questions in the spirit of reflection and as a starting point to creating collaborations, programs, policies, and practices that deepen the sense of belonging in your institution by your full community.

    1. Not seeing yourself, your family, or your values reflected in the staff, activities, or values of the organization

    This may be the strongest and most persistent barrier. It is one that our field has been putting effort and energy into and continues to grapple with. It is not enough to say we will diversify our staff; we must be willing to transform the culture of our institutions into inclusive places to work, visit, and champion. In the end, all of us resource with our time and energy the things we value. How valued are we as museums if only a part of our community is engaging with us?

    Guiding questions and reflections:

    • Whose voices and experiences are we centering? 
    • Whose are we leaving out?
    • Who is harmed by our policies and practices, and who is helped?
    • How are programs reflecting our community’s depth and richness beyond food, flags, and festivals? 
    • How are we listening to and engaging with our community? Can we go deeper? 
    • How are we incorporating the values and voices of our community into our exhibits, programs, policies, and practices?

    2. Being in spaces with unstated behavior and/or learning expectations rooted in dominant culture

    I have had over twenty years to reflect on my own discomfort in the children’s museum. My difficulties with parenting in public, “getting” the learning experience, and doing things the “right way,” are all sentiments I felt and heard from others as reasons they choose not to visit museums.

    Guiding questions and reflections:

    • Are the guiding principles and behavioral expectations for learning in your museum reflective of a multicultural perspective, or do they only reflect the dominant culture? 
    • What are ways we can we learn to welcome multiple styles of learning and behavior?
    • Who can we collaborate and co-create with to deepen our understanding and practice?
    • Are we thinking about what the experience could be instead of “should” be?

    3. Having to share low-income status (aka poverty shaming)

    Throughout our field there have been great strides in making visits to our institutions affordable, and most initiatives are income-based or tied to public assistance. But many families who would qualify for these programs still choose not to use them, for fear of having to disclose this information in front of their children or being treated differently for it. Having to prove low-income status with documentation undermines the impact of these programs.

    Field Example:

    Madison Children’s Museum removed the documentation requirement for its low-cost access memberships, which resulted in increased sign-ups and visits without any reduction in the other membership levels. There was also an increase in donations and grant funds to support the program. These goals were realized through deep community engagement and listening, as well as the courage to ask if standard practice creates additional barriers.

    Guiding questions and reflections:

    • How might programs that make the experience affordable and inclusive actually be creating a barrier to participation?
    • Have we created opportunities for deep listening from agencies and participants on how these programs are working?
    • How do we talk about the programs with visitors? With staff? With donors?
    • Do we ask for proof of low-income status for discounted admission/membership? 
    • How might a belief in program abuse be creating more barriers or a culture of judgment?

    4. Not speaking the primary language used by the museum

    Having to navigate interactions as a limited English speaker narrows the amount of places individuals and families will go. Often they will choose places that have significant staffing, visitation, and engagement in their native languages instead.

    Guiding questions and reflections:

    • What strategies, policies, and procedures are in place in your museum that address multilingual communication, such as staff and volunteer expertise, multilingual signage, interpretation, and translations for print and online materials?
    • Have you sought out an assessment of how many languages are spoken in your community? 
    • Who can you partner with to increase staff/volunteer presence and support in multiple languages?

    5. Not having physical or cognitive needs met

    The wide array of different physical and cognitive abilities offers an opportunity to work with agencies to assess the needs of the community and adapt exhibits and experiences within our museum to meet them. ADA compliance is not full inclusion or accessibility.

    Guiding questions and reflections:

    • Who are partners that we can collaborate and co-create with to increase accessibility and inclusion? 
    • Have we built partnerships with our city and county’s office of civil rights/disability rights to provide training, support, and advice on exhibit and program accessibility?
    • How can we apply a design thinking approach to create better experiences for everyone by addressing the specific challenges faced by people with disabilities? 
    • Have we assessed whether exhibits, programs, websites, and staffing are inclusive? Who can help us examine this?

    6. Not having time to visit

    Our most valuable and finite resource is time.  The pressures on modern families who are working multiple jobs, juggling competing activities and schedules, running single-parent households, or living in crisis and poverty severely limit the time to devote to visiting and engaging in museum experiences.

    Guiding questions and reflections:

    • How well do we understand the demands on time that all families face, and the extra time cost for marginalized and minoritized communities? 
    • What activities, events, and outreach programs are in place to address this and help expand engagement?
    • How are we making decisions about hours of operation? 
    • Are we offering expanded events beyond regular hours? 
    • What are our field trip options? 
    • How can we engage community employers in creating opportunities within the workday to participate and visit?

    7. Not being able to afford the cost of visiting and transportation

    The price of a visit can be prohibitive, even when museums offer low-cost admissions, because of the added costs for food, parking, and transportation.

    Guiding questions and reflections:

    • How do people get to our institutions?
    • Is mass transit an option in your community? Is it convenient? 
    • How is this issue compounded for those without cars in areas where it is considered essential to have one? 
    • Do we allow visitors to bring their own food? 
    • How far away is the closest parking? Is there accessible and convenient parking for people with limited mobility and families with little ones?

    One of the most significant questions we must keep asking ourselves is “for whom do we exist?” By reflecting on the layered impact of these barriers, questioning policies, engaging in community listening, and centering the voices of our communities (especially those who are marginalized and minoritized) we can begin to dismantle them with asset-based collaborative solutions. By doing so, we can make our institutions relevant, thriving places of connection, learning, and dialogue. Our very survival depends on it.

    “…your world and my world, Belonging to all the hands who build.” -Langston Hughes

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  • October 22, 2021 6:50 AM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from The Times of Israel

    New York Gov. Kathy Hochul announced $25 million in grants to boost security at nonprofits threatened by hate crimes.

    Speaking at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Lower Manhattan Wednesday, where a Confederate flag was tied to its doors earlier this year, Hochul also announced the rollout of a new online hate-crime reporting system meant to help the state deploy resources immediately and effectively.

    “You continue to wear that yarmulke every single day and I will protect you,” said Hochul. “This stops now. We’re letting people know that if they dare raise a hand to any New Yorker, they are picking a fight with 20 million others, starting with their governor.”

    The grants are part of the Securing Communities Against Hate Crimes Grant Program, which solicited grant proposals in spring 2020 from schools, daycare centers, museums and camps to boost infrastructure and security against hate crimes and hate-related incidents in New York. Hochul said the new funding will support another 800 projects across the state.

    This year, the NYPD has already reported 371 hate-related incidents in New York City, across the Jewish, Asian, Black and LGBTQ communities. The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s 2020 Hate Crime Statistics report showed that overall hate crimes were rising, and that antisemitic hate crimes made up 57% of all religious bias crimes.

    The Jewish Community Relations Council of New York praised Hochul, saying “at long last” hundreds of organizations that submitted grant applications in spring 2020 will have access to funds to upgrade security hardware, planning and training.

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  • October 22, 2021 6:47 AM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from The Art Newspaper

    Crimes involving cultural property flourished during 2020, despite restrictions on travel and access to public institutions during lockdowns, a new Interpol survey has found.

    Police in 72 Interpol member countries seized a total of 854,742 objects, more than half of them in Europe, according to the survey. It also reported marked increases in illicit excavations in Africa, the Americas and Asia and the South Pacific. Crimes in museums, however, declined in all regions except the Americas.

    “The COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on criminals involved in the illicit traffic of cultural property, but did not in any way diminish the demand for these items or the occurrence of such crimes,” says Corrado Catesi, the coordinator of Interpol’s Works of Art unit. “As countries implemented travel restrictions and other restrictive measures, criminals were forced to find other ways to steal, illegally excavate and smuggle cultural property.”

    The number of offenses reported in the Americas in 2020 was almost double the 2019 figure. In Europe, the figure climbed to 6,251 from 5,088 offenses. In Asia and Africa, the overall number of reported offenses declined from 2019.

    Among the high-profile art crimes reported in 2020 were the theft of a Van Gogh painting from the Singer Laren museum in the Netherlands and three masterpieces stolen from Christ Church Picture Gallery in Oxford in the UK. Operation Pandora, a coordinated European law-enforcement effort targeting the illicit trafficking of cultural goods, resulted in more than 56,400 objects being seized.

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  • October 22, 2021 6:45 AM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from AAM

    Last year, an  ICU nurse at Arrowhead Regional Medical Center might have needed a morale boost during a particularly stressful week, and found collegial support through the work of Brianna Correa, a guest services cashier from the San Bernardino County Museum. Last fall, some of Brianna’s colleagues from the museum’s curatorial, educational, security and maintenance staff served as poll workers, drivers, and filled other critical needs during the election. This deployment of museum staff into critical emergency roles was a result of California’s history and legislative code, but it is a model that more states might want to consider.

    Californians have always lived with the reality of natural disasters. The state has well over a century of approaching man-made and natural disasters with extensive and intelligent planning and preparation. At the heart of the state’s emergency program is leadership, constituent empowerment, coordination, and partnerships. One of the most valuable elements that ensures flexibility and resiliency is the mandate of utilizing public employees in emergency response. While other states and government agencies (like FEMA) have trained reserves, I’m not familiar with anything quite like our program.

    California Government Code 3100-3109 states: “It is hereby declared that the protection of the health and safety and preservation of the lives and property of the people of the state from the effects of natural, manmade, or war-caused emergencies which result in conditions of disaster or in extreme peril to life, property, and resources is of paramount state importance requiring the responsible efforts of public and private agencies and individual citizens. In furtherance of the exercise of the police power of the state in protection of its citizens and resources, all public employees are hereby declared to be disaster service workers subject to such disaster service activities as may be assigned to them by their superiors or by law.”

    As a department of San Bernardino County, the San Bernardino County Museum staff – along with all public employees who work for California’s other 57 counties, 482 cities and towns, 2894 special districts, 1,037 school districts, and 518 state agencies – can be called upon as  disaster service workers (DSW) in the event of an emergency.

    California’s coordinated and legislated emergency response efforts date back to the early 1900s with the California Emergency Council, while the laws leading to the establishment of the DSWs were developed in the 1940s when the nation’s concern about invasion from the Pacific led to the creation of the California War Council. At the time, it was recognized that the capacity to address attacks or natural disasters could only be successfully achieved if personnel assistance could be deployed immediately. In a large scale emergency, as was evident during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s not enough to have immediate access to specifically trained emergency personnel, like EMTs, police, fire, doctors, and nurses. There are numerous support positions needed – information phone banking, community check-in stations, post-earthquake cleanup, etc  – that must be mobilized quickly, and can be filled with recruits that have entirely different job descriptions, but have the requisite applicable skills. With basic instruction and coordination these recruits can provide effective and much needed support. In 1970, the California Emergency Services Act created the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, establishing our current legal framework for these emergency deployments.

    In San Bernardino County, disaster response implementation involves coordination among the County’s Board of Supervisors, the County Administrative Office, the Office of Emergency Services and the department of Human Resources, through an emergency declaration process. So, when people are hired, and before they begin the duties of their employment, they take and subscribe to the oath or affirmation set forth in the California Constitution which establishes their duty as a public employee, including as disaster service workers in times of need. Whether they are in the office of the county tax collector or district attorney, the library, animal control, or museum, they know that at any time during their employment they may be called for deployment. From union memoranda to employee badges, there are reminders of this critical role. Whereas San Bernardino, just one county in the state, has 22,000 employees, it’s easy to see that the potential pool of DSWs in California is immense, with the added benefit of an efficient geographic spread.

    During the pandemic, once the Board of Supervisors had ratified the public emergency declaration, much of our museum staff were reassigned to temporary roles in the county during the museum’s public closure. Assignments included the Arrowhead Regional Medical Center, at County “MPODs” (Medical Point of Dispensing) sites, and as contract tracers. During the November 2020 election the office of the Registrar of Voters, impacted by the COVID shortage of applicants for temporary work, requested county staff to support their efforts, by acting as poll workers and drivers.

    Brianna Correa, a five-year museum veteran, first joined the museum as an anthropology intern while still in high school. Now a college senior, Brianna juggles her Cal State Pomona studies with her museum employment as a guest services cashier. During our pandemic closure, while many positions like finance, curators, educators, could continue in their existing roles with tasks like virtual programming, the public-facing cashier function was deemed “non-essential.” Never having worked in government before my current position, I stressed over what would happen to these workers, and others – was their county employment at risk?

    I needn’t have worried. Behind the scenes at the county government center, the response wheels were rapidly turning to address the pandemic emergency. During March and April of 2020, when museums across the state were announcing furloughs and layoffs, our museum department was providing a list of names and skill-sets to HR so the county response team could match these skill-sets across the significant scope of COVID response needs.

    Brianna was one of two museum staff assigned to the regional hospital for an entire year, and returned to us when the county museum finally reopened to the public in March 2021. During her deployment at the hospital, she assisted with internal customer service and social media communications, including the promotion of amusing theme days for hospital staff. Her museum training in these seemingly non-emergency response tasks proved valuable for the times, when the morale and mental health of our front line workers was a priority.

    In the fall of 2020, the severe shortage of job applicants nationwide was being felt by all of our community, and impacted hiring in our county departments. For the Registrar of Voters, this was a particularly critical time with a complex election coming up. The worker shortage was a result of the pandemic emergency, so the county was able to apply the DSW process to meet the sizable need for poll workers, drivers and other related election needs by using county employees. Because these deployments had a narrow window, the museum was able to deploy curatorial, educational, security and maintenance staff, with minimal impact to their duties at the museum during our closure.

    The adage “many hands make light work” truly characterized our region’s COVID response. It’s hard to imagine any other emergency response as prolonged as this pandemic. I have gained a deep appreciation for this efficient, coordinated state process that truly operates at the local level. Museum workers are not front line workers. But for our staff, serving as disaster service workers both highlighted and enhanced our essential role as public servants.

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  • October 22, 2021 6:41 AM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from The Art Newspaper

    “The people who deal in antiquities—and we’re talking about a socio-economic strata that you and I can never hope to attain, with their limousines waiting at the curb and with their bespoke suits—are capable of the same base criminality as common hoodlums in the streets of lower Manhattan. For me, honestly, they’re just the same.” 

    This is what Matthew Bogdanos, the Manhattan assistant district attorney, the head of the New York Antiquities Trafficking Unit and former marine colonel, told me when I interviewed him for my podcast series Art Bust, about crimes and scandals in the art world. It was hardly an earth-shattering observation, just the typical put-down of white-collar crimes by a tough-talking cop. 

    I don’t agree with him. As I made the series, I had the growing sense that there was something different about the mindset of the art detective and the art crook, even if I found it elusive to define. Sure, the art detective, like any other detective, likes to take the moral high ground and gets a kick out of getting the bad guys. There is a contempt, which I have recognised among other kinds of detectives on white-collar crime cases, for the airs, graces and activities of their wealthy targets, such as that familiar figure, the international antiquities scholar-dealer-smuggler, whether it be the late Douglas Latchford, charged by US authorities in 2019 with trafficking looted Cambodian antiquities, or Subhash Kapoor, indicted by the US in the same year for running an international smuggling ring for more than $143m worth of Indian and Asian antiquities. Just like other detectives today, the art cops will engage the relevant communities if the crime has wider cultural implications. So when the FBI raided the basement of the collector Don Miller and found in his private museum not only Chinese antiques and Pre-Columbian pottery but also the human remains of hundreds of native Americans, dug up from sacred burial sites, they consulted native American organisations about how to handle what they found.

    But the art detective today differs even from the art detective of yesterday. Until recently, art crime was considered a low priority and a victimless crime. It was just rich people ripping each other off. Art crime squads were under-resourced. A job in the department was a way of putting someone out to grass. It was all about helping rich people get their stolen snuff boxes and Meissen porcelain back. This view was demolished by top-level detectives such as Vernon Rapley, who led Scotland Yard’s Art and Antiques Squad between 2000 and 2010. Now art crime is a way gangs launder their money. Looting antiquities is a way terrorists fund their operations. Stop the art crimes, and you put a spanner in the cogs of something much bigger.

    Philosophical conception

    But today’s art detective has a larger, even a more philosophical conception of his mission. Detectives conceive of the victims of crime primarily as individuals, but the art detective believes he is fighting against crimes which are being committed against a culture in its entirety. Looting antiquities is a crime that erases a country’s history, thereby damaging the identity of a people, and destabilising their society and civil institutions in the present. Art is a barometer of the health of society, and therefore it is of value in itself to defend it against forgers and fraudsters. We are familiar with the term “crimes against humanity”, which have been prosecuted since the aftermath of the Second World War, but we may now be seeing the embryonic emergence of a new category: “crimes against culture”. 

    Perhaps, though, you might think this is all rather predictably self-interested. Have the cops merely fallen for the myth of the higher importance of art peddled by the art world itself?

    Well, if this is the case, the (alleged) art crooks are guilty of the same sin. There is plenty generic to find in them, too, of course. Inigo Philbrick, the high-flying art dealer currently sitting in a US jail charged with fraud, might prove to be like other millennial con artists such as Anna Delvey and the Fyre Festival organisers, seduced by the glamour, convinced they didn’t do anything everyone else wasn’t or isn’t still doing. On the other hand, art thefts are often carried out by organised crime gangs, whether it is the Johnsons in the UK, the mafia in Italy or Dutch drug cartels. The forgers are often unsurprisingly working-class, poor, down on their luck, with a grudge against society.

    But like the art detective, the art crook believes they are serving a higher purpose. The successful forger believes he is dismantling the phoney values of the art world and cocking a snook at its snobbery. The antiquities trafficker will tell you that if they didn’t get the artefacts out of this or that war-torn and failed state it would crumble through neglect or be destroyed by an extremist militia. Even the fraudulent art dealer with his ponzi scheme fantasises that he is shuffling his debts around for the long-term benefit of the reputation of the great, currently under-appreciated artist whose market he is invested in. 

    There is always this sense, to coin a phrase, that the art justifies the means. It’s okay for us to do it—but not for people outside the fantastical, privileged realm of art.

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  • October 22, 2021 6:38 AM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from the BBC

    Nine barracks were spray-painted with anti-Semitic phrases and slogans denying the Holocaust, according to the Auschwitz memorial and museum.

    The graffiti was found at the Auschwitz II-Birkenau site, the largest of the 40 camps that made up the Nazi complex.

    Police have been informed of the incident and are investigating. 

    Staff have called on anyone who may have been in the vicinity of the death camp on Tuesday morning and witnessed the incident to contact them, especially anyone with photos taken around the Gate of Death, at the entrance to Birkenau, and the wooden barracks.

    The memorial centre said the vandalism was "an outrageous attack on the symbol of one of the great tragedies in human history and an extremely painful blow to the memory of all the victims of the German Nazi Auschwitz-Birkenau camp". 

    "As soon as the police have compiled all the necessary documentation, the conservators of the Auschwitz memorial will begin removing traces of vandalism from historical buildings," it added. 

    The statement noted that while the security system at the 170-hectare site was "constantly being expanded", it was funded from the museum's budget, which had been hit during the coronavirus pandemic. Fully enclosing the site would not be possible for some time, it added. 

    The Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum and Memorial preserves the Nazi extermination camp set up on occupied Polish soil by Germany during World War Two.

    At least 1.1 million people were murdered at Auschwitz in the four and a half years after it opened in 1940. Almost one million of them were Jews. The majority of the victims were sent to the gas chambers at Birkenau.

    Israel's Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial condemned what it said was an "attack not only on the memory of the victims, but also on the survivors and any person with a conscience".

    While vandalism at Auschwitz is rare, in 2010 a Swedish man was jailed for more than two years for plotting the theft of the infamous "Arbeit macht frei" sign that hangs over the entrance.

    Earlier this year the wall of a Jewish cemetery near the camp was defaced with swastikas and other Nazi symbols.

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  • September 23, 2021 8:36 AM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from AAM

    I had hoped that by this fall COVID-19 would be receding in our rear view mirror, and we could turn our attention to the post-pandemic future. Unfortunately, my June update, which flagged the potential for the Delta variant of the virus to fuel a resurgence of the pandemic, proved to be prescient. Delta is projected to peak in mid-October and new variants continue to pop up, some of which may prove to be as contagious and more vaccine-resistant than Delta. The information you track, and the decisions you make, will need to evolve along with the virus. In this post, I’m going to recap the current COVID situation, make two big recommendations for what your organization can do to respond, and finish with an updated list of suggestions for preparing to weather the next few months.

    –Elizabeth Merritt, VP Strategic Foresight and Founding Director, Center for the Future of Museums, American Alliance of Museums.

    LET’S START WITH THE GOOD NEWS

    US vaccination rates are rising, with 53% of the population fully vaccinated and 62% having received at least one dose. With the CDC now recommending vaccination for everyone 12 or older, parents report that nearly half of children aged 12-17 have been vaccinated. The Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are all proving to be highly effective at preventing infection, and reducing hospitalization and deaths among people who are infected despite the vaccine. The FDA has formally approved the Pfizer vaccine for individuals 16 and older, and is reviewing approval for the Moderna and J&J vaccines. Also, WHO decided to stop naming variants after the places in which they originated in an attempt to reducing the geographic and cultural stigma, shaming, and violence that marred the first year of the pandemic.

    THEN WHY IS THE CASE COUNT GOING UP?

    COVID-19 is evolving rapidly, spawning mutations some of which are more infectious and/or more deadly than the originally dominant strain. The Delta variant, first detected in the US in late May, quickly became the dominant strain of COVID-19 in the US, accounting for over 80% of cases, primarily because it is more than twice as contagious as its predecessors. It also seems to cause more severe illness in unvaccinated individuals. Another of its characteristics is particularly worrisome, despite our rising vaccination rates: fully vaccinated people can both contract, and transmit, the Delta variant. Currently, the World Health Organization has assigned letter names (Alpha through Mu) to nine variants of interest or concern and also maintains a growing list (ten and counting) of variants tagged for further monitoring.

    HOW MUSEUMS CAN RESPOND

    The course of the pandemic is changing quickly, and your organization should continue to monitor global, national, state, and local COVID trends and adjust your plans accordingly. We don’t know, and won’t know for some time, when the end will be in sight. (Especially as the “end” is nebulous. Rather than disappearing, COVID is likely to fade into the background, joining the flu as a constant but manageable challenge.)

    I provide suggestions, below, for steps your museum might take in the face of ongoing pandemic challenges.  I’ll start with two big things, and end with a number of practical considerations.

    Two Big Things:

    UPATE YOUR COVID SCENARIOS

    Now, more than ever, we need to remember that the future is not fixed and singular. So many variables remain in play: COVID case counts, globally and locally; our ability to overcome vaccine hesitancy; what additional financial assistance may be provided by the government at the federal, state or local level; the focus of philanthropic relief efforts; and trends in travel and tourism, to name a few. These pandemic-driven trends, together with additional challenges of fire, flood, and storm, have increased the number of distinct, plausible futures we may face in two months, six months, or a year. 

    No one plan could be successful in all of these possible conditions. From the beginning of the pandemic, I’ve encouraged museums to develop a set of scenarios, encompassing several ways that this crisis could play out for your organization and your community, and to use these scenarios to develop and test create flexible, contingent plans that can you can modify, adapt, or discard as events unfold.

    You can revisit my posts from March and April of 2020 for examples of scenarios and advice on how to develop and update your own. (TrendsWatch: the Scenario Edition provides additional guidance on creating and using scenarios in general.) I will also continue to look for and share scenarios developed in other sectors that can inform museum planning by modelling possible outcomes for key variables whether those are epidemiological, economic, or related to travel and tourism.

    PITCH IN TO HELP END THE PANDEMIC

    Museums consistently rank as being one of the most trusted sources of information—you can use your museum’s trust and influence to promote safety and health. This can be accomplished through modelling good behavior and by providing timely, accurate behavior through exhibits, programming, and messaging.

    TWO RESOURCES/OPPORTUNITIES TO HELP THIS WORK:

    Communities for Immunity is an initiative supporting the work of museums and libraries in engaging their communities in COVID-19 vaccine confidence. It provides Vaccine Confidence Resources and offers funding opportunities for museums and libraries to help build vaccine confidence and combat the pandemic. The next application deadline is October 29, and will make about 154 awards, ranging from $1,500 to $100,000, to support the creation and dissemination of information resources, and activities such as facilitating community discussions or opening and maintaining a vaccination site.

    Vaccines & US, a collaboration led by the Smithsonian Institution, has created a resource hub for vaccination information for use by individuals, groups, and all museum and cultural organizations. The project’s site hosts a wide variety of videos, fact sheets, tools and resources that can be used to foster vaccine confidence. It also provides opportunities for your organization to become involved by contributing and sharing content or hosting an event.

    In addition, here are some steps your museum might take to update its operations and procedures in light of the ongoing pandemic, based on my own tracking of research, news and events.

    CONTINGENCY PLANS FOR RECLOSING/REOPENING.

    At the height of the pandemic, essentially all US museums were closed to the public—as of June, over two thirds had reopened, and a majority of those still closed had identified an opening date. However, the Delta variant, together with slow progress in vaccination, has disrupted that recovery and some museums have reclosed in the face of rising COVID cases in their areas. Sometimes this is required by government mandates. For example, the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum closed again on August 6 on instruction of the National Archives and Records Administration, which oversees presidential libraries. Other reclosing may results from a judgement call on the museum’s part: The Greater Southwest Historical Museum in Ardmore closed again in late August, to protect its volunteer staff in the face of the Delta variant, and local strains on hospital capacity.

    You may want to create plans for reclosing, and re-reopening, should circumstances warrant, building on what your organization learned from the initial COVID closure. The AAM blog features extensive documentation of how various museums navigated the attendant financial and logistic challenges over the past year and a half, and our website also provides resources on preparing to reopen.

    CONTINGENCY PLANS FOR CRITICAL EVENTS AND PROGRAMS

    During the pandemic, 67 percent of museums shifted major galas and fundraising events online, and while these typically fell short of the original revenue goals for their in-person counterparts, they also were less expensive to run and often yielded a higher net return. We may be entering another cycle of such events: the Lincoln Heritage Museum at Lincoln College had to transition from an in-person fundraising gala planned for later this month to a virtual event in response to new CDC guidelines about masking and concerns about the Delta Variant. Your museum may want to prepare contingency plans for running an effective digital fundraising event as well.

    Virtual programming has proved to be a highly effective way to serve museums’ existing audiences as well as reaching people who are not regular visitors to your museum or museums in general. As Brendan Ciecko documented on the Alliance blog, many museums have built effective income streams around digital content and virtual programming as well. Consider how you might continue, revive, or expand virtual programming as a buffer against potential reclosures, or a slow recovery of traditional attendance. (Recent polling from Axios shows that 60% of the public feel that returning to their normal, pre-COVID behaviors right now would pose a large or moderate risk (up from 53% two weeks ago.)

    UPDATE HEALTH AND SAFETY PRECAUTIONS

    CLEANING

    Early in the pandemic, before we knew how COVID-19 spread, recommendations focused on cleanliness—disinfecting surfaces, minimizing touch of public surfaces, and hand washing. Many museums (quite properly acting on what we did and did not know at that time) made changes to exhibits to minimize touching—shutting down or removing interactives, providing styluses for touch screen activation. Now there is a solid consensus that the primary vector for COVID-19 is air-borne particles, not fomites (contaminated surfaces or objects). Current CDC recommendations emphasize routine cleaning with soap and detergent, and call for disinfecting products only in situations where there have been a suspected or confirmed case of COVID. The emphasis for prevention has shifted to masking and ventilation (see below). While cleanliness is still important, you may want to review your cleaning procedures—what you use, how often it is applied—to make sure you are efficiently allocating your time and money towards COVID prevention. 

    MASKING

    When the pandemic started, mask scarcity led many people to craft their own from whatever materials were at hand. Now we have an abundance of options (though some medical grade masks are periodically in short supply). The CDC provides guidance on how to choose a mask and wear it properly.  One of the biggest issues has been, and continues to be, when to require people to wear masks, and how to enforce that expectation. AAM’s recently updated Considerations for Face Mask Policies reviews setting policies for staff and visitors, issues of training, accessibility, equity and racial implications, communications, and addresses some of the ongoing tensions over masks, enforcement of policies, and employee training.

    VENTILATION

    It is now established that the COVID-19 virus spreads primarily through the air as droplets or aerosols. But our understanding of what to do about that continues to evolve. For example, it turns out those plastic barriers many companies put up to separate staff from customers, or co-workers from each other, not only don’t help, they may also make things worse. What does seem to work is maximizing air flow and improving air quality. There are a number of no and low cost steps museums can take to improve building ventilation, and museums might want to consider investing in upgrades such as portable, high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filtration or ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI) systems as well. Download this AAM resource, Considerations for Building Ventilation, which summarizes these options.

    VACCINE POLICIES

    Health officials agree that the single most important thing we can do to end the pandemic is increase the rate of vaccination. Unvaccinated people have 5 times more COVID infections than the fully vaccinated, and 29x more hospitalizations (here’s the source for those two statistics), and unvaccinated people are more than 15 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than vaccinated individuals.

    In light of these facts, organizations are having to make difficult decisions about whether to require vaccinations for their own staff or their visitors/attendees. (And whether, absent proof of vaccination, to require testing.) The CDC provides guidance on navigating this issue, but notes that whether an employer can require or mandate vaccination may be controlled by state or other applicable laws. This article from SHERM summarizes the messy legal arguments playing out across the country around what employers can require, and when employees can opt out.

    One consideration is how these policies can affect individual decisions to become vaccinated. Recent Axios polling data on vaccine hesitancy indicates that 43% of unvaccinated Americans said their boss requiring vaccines would make them likely to do so (up from 33% a month ago).

    In light of these complexities, museums across the country are making decisions based on their own circumstances. For example, the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library is requiring proof of vaccination for attendees at its events, but the mandate does not apply to the associated museum because that is run by the federal government, and the foundation that funds the library events can’t impose the requirement. Earlier this month, the mayor of New York City announced that all visitors and staff members at museums and other cultural institutions would have to be vaccinated. Though imposed by the city, this mandate aligned with the consensus of the arts organizations affected by the decision. Other museums may decide to impose a vaccination or testing requirement without an external mandate. Earlier this month the Museum of Science, Boston issued a press release saying it would require all employees and volunteers to be vaccinated by mid-September. Not long after, the Montclair Art Museum in New Jersey announced that when it reopens on September 12, it will require guests over the age of 12 to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test for entry. I am sure you have seen more examples in the news.

    CONTACT TRACING

    Early in the pandemic, contact tracing was a highly valued way to help “flatten the curve. The International Committee for Museums and Collections of Modern Art went so far as to recommend that museums adopt visitor registration and contact tracing, and many museums did implement such measures. However, given how highly contagious Delta is, epidemiologists are pointing out that contact tracing may no longer be effective—by the time exposed individuals are located, they will have already passed it along through several chains of transmission. (Australia recently abandoned contact tracing for this reason.)

    TEMPERATURE CHECKS

    Another practice widely instituted at the beginning of the pandemic was temperature check for staff and visitors. (This article summarizes current statewide recommendations regarding temperature screening.) Over time, however, doubt has grown over the efficacy of this precaution for a number of reasons including the accuracy of the contact or remote thermometers and the variability of COVID symptoms. (Also the increasing number of vaccinated, asymptomatic individuals who may be contagious). While it may seem harmless to provide an additional level of screening, however imperfect, some health officials have pointed out that it may create a false sense of security. It also uses up staff time and financial resources that might be devoted to more effective precautionary measures. If your museum has instituted temperature checks, you may want to review the current literature, and evaluate whether it still plays a useful role in your COVID precautions.

    OPTICS MATTER

    You may have noticed a theme in the updates above: some things that organizations spent a great deal of time and money on at the beginning of the pandemic (disinfecting surfaces, contact tracing, temperature checks) may not be an effective use of resources when it comes to risk management. But the facts about efficacy, and risk, aren’t the only important factors to weigh in deciding what to do or stop doing. While zealous cleaning has been derided by some as “hygiene theater.” But it is important to foster a sense of safety for both visitors and staff. (58 percent of respondents to AAM’s “Impact of COVID-19 on People in the Museum Field” survey indicated that “creating a safe physical work environment” was an important step their employer took to make them feel safe and supported.) In making decisions on how to allocate scarce resources—money for equipment and supplies, staff time to implement procedures—you need to balance the cost with the benefits of various preventative measures, even if those benefits are mostly psychological.

    HOW IS YOUR MUSEUM PREPARING FOR THIS FALL?

    One of our strengths as a field is that museum people are generous in sharing their experiences with each other. Please share information on how your organization is approaching these decisions—planning to reclose, continuing virtual programming, setting policies on vaccinations, upgrading ventilation. You can use the comments section below, tag @futureofmuseums on Twitter, or write to me directly at emerritt (at) aam-us.org. By pooling our wisdom, we can be stronger together. Take care.

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