CALLS TO ACTION: 2012


The Lawyers' Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation (LCCHP) is asking the Senate to postpone the United States Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Immunity Clarification Act, until it has addressed concerns with  this bill through open hearings. 

The proposed legislation will allow foreign governments to immunize themselves from U.S. lawsuits when loaning art and antiquities to American museums. While LCCHP supports its purpose of cultural exchange, we fear that it would leave victims of theft and looting without recourse to recover their rightful property. By allowing museums to knowingly exhibit illicit artwork, it will also send a terrible message to the public, which undermines the longstanding U.S. commitment to cultural heritage preservation.

Congress has been unable to consider these concerns because of the unnecessary speed at which this bill is advancing. Many interested parties are unaware of it and have not yet made their voices heard. Given there is no apparent reason for such undue haste, we are urging the Senate to postpone this proposed legislation, pending open hearings. 

Help us send this message to Congress!

Learn More 

Senate Bill 2212 (S. 2212) was introduced on March 20 by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT). It was read twice and then referred to the Committee on the Judiciary, chaired by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT). It is the counterpart to House Bill 4086 (H.R. 4086), which had been introduced in the House of Representatives on February 24, 2012 and subsequently passed by voice vote.

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Call Senator Leahy at (202) 224-4242

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Call Senator Feinstein at (202) 224-3841

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Call Senator Hatch at (202) 224-5251

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What LCCHP Is Doing

• Since we first learned of S. 2212/H.R. 4086, we have been reaching out to other organizations and encouraging them to get involved. 

• On April 2, 2012 we emailed, mailed, and faxed this letter to Senator Leahy and modified versions to Senator Feinstein, Senator Hatch, and all of their relevant staff. 

• On April 4, 2012 we started a campaign for our members to email, call, fax, write, and tweet Senators Leahy, Feinstein, and Hatch.

• On April 18, 2012 we released a press release calling for open hearings on the bill.

• Throughout April and May 2012, we consulted numerous reporters on S. 2212, resulting in much press coverage of the bill.

• On May 21, 2012 the New York Times recognized the public campaign against S. 2212 with a major article on its implications.

• Senator Patrick Leahy was reelected on November 6, 2012 which ensures that he will continue to maintain his leadership of the Committee on the Judiciary. In light of this development, we congratulate Senator Leahy, but continue to press his office for open hearings on S. 2212.

• GovTrack.us just announced that Sen. Charles Schumer (D–NY) is now a cosponsor of S. 2212. Please stay tuned for more updates!




Respect Our History: End Production American Digger and Diggers 

The undersigned institutions join the growing tide of concern about the National Geographic Channel’s new series “Diggers” and Spike TV’s forthcoming series “American Digger,” both of which are designed to amuse and entertain audiences while glorifying the indiscriminate destruction of American history by artifact hunters.  The teaser advertisement for “American Digger” gives a good indication of how little the producers of these shows value the historical record; the show aims to “scour target-rich areas such as battlefields and historic sites, in hopes of striking it rich by unearthing and selling rare pieces of American history.”

America’s cultural heritage is worth more to all of us than the few dollars that the “diggers” will pocket as a result of their exploits.  The activities highlighted by these shows destroy the archaeological record, and in many cases, cause damage to the historic site that remains. America’s battlefields and historic sites deserve more respect than they would if they were to serve as the personal hunting ground for treasure seekers and pothunters.

What’s more, by glamorizing this type of activity, these shows encourage similar behavior by individuals who may not understand that in many cases this type of “treasure hunting” is considered criminal behavior.  Digging on federal lands without an archaeological permit is against the law, and unauthorized digging on state-owned land is illegal in most jurisdictions.  Digging for artifacts on private land without permission is trespassing at best, and theft at worst.  Interstate transportation or sale of illegally-obtained artifacts may subject a “treasure seeker” to criminal prosecution under the federal Archaeological Resources Protection Act. 

These laws are in place for good reason: our cultural heritage is indeed a treasure – one that deserves to be protected, not looted or destroyed for entertainment’s sake.  We urge these two networks to respect our history, and end production and airing of these shows.


The Lawyers' Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation


Cultural Heritage and Preservation Studies at Rutgers University 


Penn Cultural Heritage Center


Saving Antiquities for Everyone (SAFE)

 


More About the Signatories

The Lawyers' Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation

The Lawyers’ Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation (LCCHP) is a not-for-profit organization that fosters the stewardship of the objects, places, and traditions that define us as societies, nations, civilizations, and even human beings. We are lawyers, legal scholars, and law enforcement agents --- but also anthropologists, archaeologists, architects, art historians, students, and others --- who champion preservation through the justice system. Through our educational programs and resources, we are also working to prepare a new generation of advocates, as well as educate the public. 


Cultural Heritage and Preservation Studies at Rutgers University 

Rutgers' Program in Cultural Heritage and Preservation Studies (CHAPS) based in the School of Arts and Sciences provides a unique opportunity  to study heritage preservation issues within local, national, and global contexts. Based in the Department of Art History, CHAPS  offers a MA in Cultural Heritage Preservation, as well as a Certificate in Historic Preservation, (15 credits), open to undergraduates and graduate students.


Penn Cultural Heritage Center

The Penn Cultural Heritage Center contributes to current heritage debates by developing a two-pronged approach: combining intellectual research with an outreach agenda. This dual focus draws upon Penn’s longstanding tradition of applying expert knowledge to pressing contemporary problems. Noting that many of the basic questions surrounding cultural heritage have yet to receive proper theoretical attention, the Penn CHC aims to address such questions as what constitutes cultural heritage, cultural properties, communities, and sacred objects; why have cultural heritage and human rights become intertwined; what responsibilities do academics and museums have toward their indigenous, scholarly, and public constituencies; and what is the future of heritage policy and museums more broadly.
 
The Penn CHC links these intellectual themes to an outreach program that intervenes directly in the stream of the antiquities trade, the development of museum best practices, the development of international heritage programs, and cooperative programs with governments and local communities throughout the world.

Saving Antiquities for Everyone (SAFE)

SAFE/Saving Antiquities for Everyone is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving cultural heritage worldwide. Its mission is to raise awareness about the irreversible damage that results from looting, smuggling and trading illicit antiquities. Learn more at www.savingantiquities.org.


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