Saturday, December 31, 2011

Japanese tycoon donates a boatload to restore Italian pyramid

Yuzo Yagi, the owner of Yagi Tsusho Limited, has agreed to donate one million euros to restore a 2,000-year-old marble pyramid in Rome. The monument (inspired by the rage for all things Egypt) was a burial chamber for Roman magistrate, Gaius Cestius. This bit of generosity from the business sector follows Diego Della Valle's (founder of the Tod's shoe business) 22 million euro restoration of the Colosseum which begins in March. Apparently, Mr. Yagi has had business connections with Italy for more than 40 years and is funding the restoration of this monument to commemorate his links with Rome.

THIS is what I'm talking about. If we could just take the money that's being spent on buying illicitly excavated antiquities and redirect it into the restoration of archaeological sites and dilapidated monuments, a lot of conflicts might be solved, the illegal trade might be forced to downsize considerably, and more valuable connections would be made between states, institutions, and individuals. I know it sounds like a grandiose pipe dream, but I think that in the next twenty years it may be possible to achieve, especially considering the lessons my generation of museum/cultural heritage/archaeology professionals will have learned from the blunders of our predecessors. Hopefully, Mr. Yagi and Mr. Della Valle are planting the seeds for a trend that could revolutionize how we approach the problem areas in cultural heritage and archaeology.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities opens hotline.

Via Egyptology News, it looks like the new Minister of Antiquities is already pushing out the memory of Hawass and doing his best to get the Egyptian people involved in preserving their region's history. Ahram Online reports:
The Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) is to operate a hotline service to receive complaints, ideas and suggestions to help the council develop its archaeological work.
Minister of State for Antiquities Mohamed Ibrahim announced the hotline would open on Monday. It will be operated five days per week from Sunday to Thursday from 10:00 am until 2:00 pm until its full operation in January when it will be operated 24 hours per day, seven days per week. 
I have high hopes for this guy. He's already emphasized his intent to better develop the skills and knowledge of Egypt's archaeologists and his plan to involve youth and junior archaeologists in a much bigger way. It seems Ibrahim has a thorough understanding of the weaknesses and failures in the SCA left over from Hawass's reign, and a much needed perspective on how to fix them. My only complaint is that I think there should also be an emphasis on revamping Egypt's museums; cataloguing their confusing collections under one system, upping security, making new efforts to do outreach education, etc. Can Americans call the hotline? Is that allowed?

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Ryan Gosling Meme Guide. Really.

I'm not even into Ryan Gosling. I guess he's attractive, objectively speaking. But after finding these history related memes devoted to him, I'll concede that he's a legit babe. Even if you don't want to jump his bones, you have to admit, he's suddenly made museum studies and art history much more relatable to a general audience. For your convenience, my favorites:

Featured Blog: the Center for the Future of Museums

I'm going to do this new thing where I show you the blogs that I find the most useful and make it a point to keep up with, even when I'm too busy to blog myself. I think it's appropriate that the first be AAM's Center for the Future of Museums blog. CFM is a think tank and research/design lab that guides museums in exploring the cultural, political, and economic challenges facing society and helps them "transcend traditional boundaries to serve society in new ways." Right on. Written by founding director Elizabeth Merritt, the blog has an educative (but definitely not condescending) approach that combines commentary, news, and, how shall I say, museum studies guides that are always impressively on the pulse of such an interdisciplinary area. I always feel a little more savvy after reading. I particularly recommend their Twitter recommendations.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The "Shipwrecked" controversy sails in a totally different direction and also I told you so.

On December 8 and 9th, an advisory committee assembled by the Smithsonian met to discuss whether or not the exhibition "Shipwrecked: Tang Treasures and Monsoon Winds" would be shown at the Smithsonian's Sackler Gallery. By lunch on the first day, it was decided that the exhibition won't go up. Instead, the Smithsonian jumped on the idea of re-excavating the Belitung shipwreck and creating an exhibition from those findings.


I don't think anyone who has been following this controversy could be any more surprised. Or, in my case, stupid with delight. Since I first started reading about it in April, I saw this case as a real tipping point in how museums approach unscientifically excavated and unprovenanced artifacts. I was supportive of the Sackler putting on the exhibition if it meant that it would educate the public on the ethics behind archaeology vs. commercial salvaging vs. looting and the complicated relationships between all three in Southeast Asia. But regardless of what side you're on, I don't think anyone ever considered this kind of alternative. I'm hoping aggressively that everyone's surprise at the resolution to this complicated and messy debate has highlighted just how stubbornly unyielding and uncreative we've all been about which way this thing, and all things like it, should go. We have ALL been so busy figuring out if we should go right or left that we never stopped to consider that we could go back

Now, without going right or left at all, this unexpected move is even more of a game changer than I anticipated. Not to get all this-I-what-I-learned-this-term, but this kind of situation is what mediators call "filling a vacuum".

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

It Could Happen To You: Provenance mysteries in rural Vermont.

I'm young, I guess, so things still surprise me sometimes. For example, I know logically that when you make something a big chunk of your life, it is obviously going to take up a big chunk of you life. But hearing about my fellow bloggers receiving death threats, needing to ask a fellow student about the human skull staring at me from their shelf, and emailing my school administration to ask for details on the mysterious and legit-looking Buddha bust displayed in a school hallway with no label are not things I expected to be a part of this chunk. Maybe I'm just more sensitive to them now in a way that I wasn't pre-chunk, but in the last few months I encountered two particular issues that prove this isn't just for museums.

This first was an acquisition made by a person I know at school.

Monday, December 12, 2011


I know I already did the whole, "I'm back, I promise, sorry for the silence" post back in October, but I really mean it now. I'm back. I promise. Though, I'm not that sorry for the silence because in the last month and a half that I've been MIA, I've been learning new social, political, and media tools that have revolutionized my perspective on cultural heritage issues. This past term was, in a word, bitchin', and I am incredibly excited to bring what I've learned from my work to this blog. I was particularly affected by my conflict mediation course with dancer and mediator Susan Sgorbati, so in the next few months, you can expect to see more emphasis on problem-solving and conflict resolution in approaching cultural heritage issues. Also, there will be updates to the Books and Resources pages, as well as a a brand new Internship Guide.

Additionally, spending some time away from the blog allowed me to better see its problem areas. This past week I've been working hard on making over the whole aesthetic of Things You Can't Take Back, as well as beefing up the resources I've shared and re-approaching the social media that supports it. Now that I'm back (at least until spring term finals), I've made some new resolutions for this next year of blogging:

  • The TYCTB Tumblr will no longer solely feature the regurgitation of what I've already blogged here; from now on it will feature all the joys and horrors of Tumblr, which means a lot of entertaining pictures, .gifs, and reblogs, as well as some light regurgitation. 
  • Twitter still overwhelms and frightens me, but I'm resolving to be more present. And sassy.
  • The resource pages (Books, Grad School Guide, Resources) will be updated more regularly and joined by an Internship Guide and a sort of dummies guide to the illicit antiquities trade for first-time readers.
  • The Facebook is also no longer a dark hole for my sparse Twitter link regurgitations, but is actually trying to be a Facebook page. Show the most official gesture of support imaginable on the internet and "Like" Things You Can't Take Back!