by Doug McGrew
Perhaps when you recall incidents of cultural property theft your mind dwells on incidents in Europe or major institutions within the United States. Along this same process you remember priceless works of art created from oil and canvass missing from those institutions. Your thought process would only be partially correct.
On November 10th 2009, the Heartland Chapter of the International Foundation for Cultural Property Protection organized a daylong seminar titled: Cultural Heritage at Risk, Art and Book Theft: Past, Present, Future. Nearly 100 attendees from the cultural property community around the state of Ohio and beyond attended this event organized by Douglas McGrew and hosted at The Ohio State University’s Wexner Center for the Arts.
The mission for this seminar was simple and unique. Change the perception on what others view as cultural property and change your personal networks. Invitations were sent to a wide base of professionals in the cultural property community. This was an intentional casting according to Doug McGrew and one he believes made this event a successful venture. “We deliberately invited curators, registrars, librarians, archivist, collectors and law enforcement professionals. We wanted them in the same room, sharing observations, meeting new folks outside of their traditional networks. At the end of the day, hopefully, the attendees gained a new understanding of what cultural property is and how to protect our heritage.”
To accomplish this mission featured speakers Noah Charney and Travis McDade were enlisted to share their research and efforts to protecting cultural assets. Professor Travis McDade with the University of Illinois shared findings with the group focusing on thefts of rare books and manuscripts. Thoughtfully Prof. McDade covered cases with connection to the Ohio area and particularly touching on individuals with ties to Columbus the host city for this seminar. Mr. Charney continued the event covering some well known cases but also provided valuable information on prevention and recommendations for improving current procedures within the attendee’s institutions.
The speaking portion of the day was concluded with a roundtable discussion with McDade and Charney. Joining this discussion were:
· Patrick Maughan – former director of security the Ohio State University
· John Kleberg – former director of the Department of Public Safety, the Ohio State University
· Paul Denton – current chief of police, the Ohio State University
The roundtable provided expertise from all sides of the cultural property community, demonstrating the need to have a diverse professional network. After sharing their professional experiences creating, administering and protecting cultural property the entire panel received questions from the guest. The event concluded with the screening of the documentary The Rape of Europa.
Post mortem discussions have been very fruitful and the positive feedback received from participants has been overwhelming. Planning is currently underway for the next installment of what will become a series of events under the Cultural Heritage at Risk banner.