Showing posts with label 2020 Postgraduate Certificate Program. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 2020 Postgraduate Certificate Program. Show all posts

February 26, 2020

Valerie Higgins returns to Amelia this summer to teach “Antiquities and Identity” at ARCA's Postgraduate Program in Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection

By Edgar Tijhuis 

This year, the ARCA Postgraduate Program in Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection will be held from May 28 through August 12, 2020 in the beautiful heart of Umbria in Amelia, Italy. In the months leading up to the start of the program, this year’s lecturers will be interviewed. 

Valerie Higgins
Can you tell us something about your background and work?

I am the Program Director for the Master’s program in Sustainable Cultural Heritage and Associate Professor in Archaeology at The American University of Rome. I am an archaeologist by training, and I began my professional career as an archaeologist working in local government before returning to university to complete a Ph.D., studying human remains from a medieval Italian monastery site.

After completing a visiting university appointment in New Zealand, I returned to work in Rome where I was lucky enough to get a tenured position at the American University. Being based in Rome, a lot of my teaching has been outside at the monuments themselves, rather than in the classroom, and it was this that first sparked my interest in cultural heritage. The daily contact with the monuments and witnessing the issues of caring for such a massive patrimony, gradually led to me becoming more and more involved in that side of archaeology. Looting of antiquities is a huge problem in Italy and it has deep historical roots. An important part of tackling looting is to understand the societal context in which it takes place.

What do you feel is the most relevant aspect of your course?

The course incorporates discussion of contentious issues that are currently in the news, such as the role of museums and their obligation (or not) to reflect social issues, decolonization of heritage and museums, issues of identity politics relating to ownership, etc. Those of us who are engaged in protecting heritage need to get involved in these debates and we need to ensure that the discussion are well informed. This is increasingly difficult in an era of fake news and short soundbites.

What do you hope participants will get out of the courses?

I hope participants will understand the broader context behind art crime and will feel a greater engagement with topical issues. I hope that they will have a more profound understanding of the background to current disputes. Increasingly, journalistic sources present arguments in a very one-sided way and reduce complex arguments to emotive headlines. I hope that participants will appreciate more the complexity and long history that underlies many current issues.

What would a typical day be like in your classroom?

My classes are very interactive. I like everyone to contribute to class discussions from their own experiences. Every year at ARCA we get participants from all over the world, with diverse professional and personal backgrounds so when we are discussing issues we can get many different viewpoints, and this is very stimulating.

While each year participants are very enthusiastic about your courses, is there anything you learn from them in class?

A huge amount! I encourage everybody to take the topics we cover in the class and apply them to situations they face in their professional lives back home. As a result, I get to hear about new places, new disputes, new heritage sites, new groups and it is always fascinating to me. I regularly incorporate in my teaching at the American University information I have gained from ARCA participants and in that way I hope that I spread the knowledge.

In anticipation of your courses, what book, article, or movie would you recommend to participants?

I enjoyed the book ‘Chasing Aphrodite: The Hunt for Looted Antiquities at the World’s Richest Museum’ by Jason Felch and Ralph Frammolino. It is written by two journalists, not academics, but it conveys very well the attitudes that were current in the museum world in the last part of the twentieth century and the first decade of this century and the almost total disregard for ethics that should have governed museum acquisitions. I would also recommend the BBC podcasts in the series the Museum of Lost Objects. This series looked at antiquities that were lost or looted in Iraq, Syria, India and Pakistan. I like the series because it focuses on the human cost of looting not the economic cost.

What makes the yearly ARCA program so unique?

The people! Every year we get an incredible mix of people taking and teaching the courses in the program and then, of course, during the conference this number increases dramatically. The setting in Amelia also makes the program special. Amelia is a small intimate setting where it is easy to meet people outside of class, over a coffee.

Which other course in the program would you love to follow yourself and why?

I am very interested in Marc Balcells course because he studies art crime as a sociological phenomenon rather than on an individual case by case basis. I believe this aspect is very underdeveloped. Although we will always need law enforcement as a backstop, the greatest impact on reducing art crime is to have a greater understanding of the underlying social forces. Very few people do this and Marc does it so well.

Is there anything you can recommend for future participants to do in Amelia or Umbria?

Amelia is set in beautiful countryside and there are some great walks and picnic spots in the countryside outside the walls. Don’t think that you always have to get on a bus or train to have a great day out!

Are there any funny or interesting things you experienced in Italy, outside class?

Italians certainly have their own ways of doing things which often seem incomprehensible to foreigners. It is not uncommon to go to see something that is supposed to be open and you find it isn’t. However, if you ask around there may be someone who can help you to get in or you might find something else to see that you did not even know existed. Italy is full of fantastic sites that are not in any guidebook or on any website, you may end up having an even better day out. It pays to be flexible and laid back.

What is your experience with the yearly ARCA conference in June? 

I find the conference a very useful way to catch up with what is going on in the field and also people working in the field. The refreshments breaks are almost as valuable as the presentations. To my knowledge, no other conference has such an eclectic mix of people from museums, law enforcement and academia.

Anything else…. The most important thing is to enjoy yourself in Amelia!


For a detailed prospectus and application materials or for general questions about this postgraduate program please contact us at education@artcrimeresearch.org 

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Edgar Tijhuis serves as the Academic Director at ARCA and is a visiting scholar at the Institute of Criminology in Ljubljana. He is responsible for the postgraduate certificate program in the study of art crime and cultural heritage protection and since 2009, has taught criminology modules within the ARCA program.

January 19, 2020

Flashback Sunday: ARCA's Postgraduate Program: From the eyes of one of our alumni - Part I


I’m not sure whether it makes more sense to say that we’re only halfway through with the ARCA postgraduate program or that we’re already halfway through with the program. On the one hand, we have had the good fortune of hearing from six expert professors and have covered all sorts of ground—academic and professional terrain alike—in the study of art crime: from heritage law to art insurance, from art policing to forgery, and from museum security to war crimes. We’ve practically memorized most of the UNESCO conventions at this point, we’re capable of sketching out the infamous Medici trafficking organigram at the blow of a whistle, and we’re all pretty used to having revenge-fantasy dreams about prosecuting certain museums with less-than acceptable collection ethics and repatriating all of their loot.

On the other hand, however, it feels like we’ve only just arrived in Amelia and that there’s still a whole lot more for us to learn in the coming weeks about cultural heritage protection. We’ve yet to encounter the international art market or art criminology head-on, and we’re not quite sure whether we believe the Spanish or the British are more entitled to Goya’s Portrait of the Duke of Wellington. Moreover, we still don’t know how we would actually steal the Ghent Altarpiece or Munch’s The Scream and this makes me wonder: can anyone really fashion him or herself an art crime expert without knowing how to pull off a major museum heist? It’s probably a good thing that we’re only halfway done with the ARCA program, but I’ll share with you what we’ve covered in the courses so far since we are, after all, already halfway finished with the program.  


Following Duncan Chappell’s course our studies shifted from the subject of art law to its not-too-distant relative, art insurance. Dorit Straus, art insurance veteran and board member at AXA Art, served as the instructor for this course. Straus has had a lengthy and exciting career with all sorts of cinematic turns and climaxes. Its major plot twist: Straus began her career studying Near Eastern Archaeology and only later in life migrated into the world of art insurance. For those of us trained in the humanities—which is to say, with little to no background in the fine arts market—Straus guaranteed a convenient point of entry into the study of art insurance. Pairing her formal explanations with fascinating anecdotes, Straus shaped and colored the art insurance industry with remarkable and stunning mastery. By the end of the week Straus had participants map out the entire process of acquiring art insurance coverage in role-play exercises—a form of evaluation that was, I am sure, most entertaining for Dorit herself.

We then heard from private investigator Richard Ellis, the founder of Scotland Yard’s Art and Antiques Squad. He covered lessons on the dark, seedy underbelly that is the black market and did a solid job explaining the ins and outs of INTERPOL and clarified the issues that police forces deal with in an event of art theft—issues that are quite distinct from the ones that insurers, collectors, or museums address.

One of the recurring lessons that Ellis repeated over and over again was the importance of knowing one’s enemy.  Understanding the motives that animate an episode of art crime, Ellis stressed, is always integral to the investigation process. At the conclusion of his course Ellis held a charming cocktail gathering that was, I would hold, much needed after a tense week studying some pretty serious material.

ARCA founder Noah Charney took the reigns for our next course on forgery. Charney launched his course with an art history lesson in which students were asked to perform visual analysis on a set of Caravaggio paintings. This exercise offered an exciting opportunity for students to truly interface with the very objects that had been broached in previous courses but perhaps not formally or materially addressed. It was a delight to work through Caravaggio’s endlessly fascinating visual puzzles, and Charney’s thorough guidance and insightful explanations proved to be especially useful in our brief art historical investigation. The rest of the week was spent differentiating (conceptually) fakes from forgeries, discussing the psychological profile of art forgers, and reviewing some of the major historical cases that constitute Charney’s sector of the art crime world. With Charney still in town, ARCA held its annual interdisciplinary conference—an exciting three days of panel discussions.

After a weekend of conference talks and cocktail parties ARCA participants met with security pundit Dick Drent. Following 25 years in law enforcement, Drent joined the staff at Van Gogh Museum in the Netherlands and continues to provide security advising through his consulting firm. Though Drent’s energy and countenance might feel as formidable and high-stakes as his work, the Dutch professor’s instruction was often light and playful—much like the goofy videos he would screen at the beginning of class too lighten the mood.  This was especially appreciated given his course covers everything from everyday threats in a museum to Active Shooter incidents.

At the end of Drent’s class participants carried out a security audit at a museum. In this exercise we set out to observe surveillance cameras, security guards, museum layouts, fire prevention strategies, smoke detectors, alarm systems, and so on. The exercise gave ARCA participants a unique opportunity to spend a day at a museum not admiring precious artworks but instead observing the very security systems that attempt to protect these objects.

At the conclusion of Drent’s course we delved headfirst into “Art Crime During War” with Judge Arthur Tompkins. Tompkins’ hefty lesson plans and near-impeccable knowledge of world history made for an information-rich crash course in our study of art crime during conflict. At the outset of his first lesson Tompkins traced the origins of art crime all the way back to the ancient world.

The looting of what might be anachronistically termed “cultural property” often went part and parcel with military combat and imperial campaigns in the ancient world—thus giving birth to the lengthy history of what we now study as art crime. Tompkins then traversed the entire chronology of war—passing through the Middle Ages and early modernity until reaching the late twentieth century—and identified the various renditions of art crime that have plagued nation-states and peoples during times of conflict. By the end of the course participants were asked to submit a paper detailing one particular episode of art crime that took place in the midst of combat. Students wrote about everything from plunders during antiquity to more recent art theft in the Middle East to the destruction of libraries in the American Civil War. 

So there you have it! We have some of the covered vast terrain in the world art crime and are already halfway through this intensive training. I’ll get back to you with more storytelling and info when we’re only a few short steps away from calling ourselves full-on, to-the-core certificate-ready professionals!

By:  Christopher Falcone

January 9, 2020

De-weaponizing Culture: ARCA offers scholarships for military affiliated CPP reservists and civilians.

Company of African American soldiers [US 5th Army] type/write reports between the ancient columns of the Greek Temple of Hera II in Paestum, Italy,
22 September 1943 Image Credit: US National Archives
Recognizing that culture has moved to the frontline of wars and conflicts, both as collateral damage and as a direct target, ARCA stands with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and with the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA), founded in 1879, and North America’s oldest and largest archaeological organization, in advocating for the preservation of the world’s archaeological heritage during conflict.  Likewise believing that unwarranted attacks on culture arouse hostility in local populations, offers adversaries a potent propaganda weapon, and undermines support on the home front and among US military allies, ARCA condemns the intentional targeting of ALL cultural heritage sites during conflict in unequivocal terms.  

The U.S. Department of Defense’s Law of War Manual as well as the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and its two subsequent Protocols clearly prohibit the intentional destruction of cultural heritage during armed conflict, unless said historical site has become a military objective and there is no feasible alternative for obtaining a similar military advantage.  Despite these obligations, included in international treaties and military regulations, ARCA as a group of civilian observers to the globe's conflagrations, remains concerned about cultural property protection in host and occupied nations, especially where regional and global conflict or symmetrical and asymmetric warfare are, or have, or might place a country's heritage at risk. 


Seventy-six years ago, 29 December 1943 to be exact, then General Dwight D. Eisenhower, commander of United States forces in Europe as well as commander of the Allied armed forces, who fully understood the complexities of war,  understood the need for protecting culture in times of conflict.  

Putting his thoughts and concerns to paper, Eisenhower wrote:

To: All Commanders 

Today we are fighting in a country which has contributed a great deal to our cultural inheritance, a country rich in monuments which by their creation helped and now in their old age illustrate the growth of the civilization which is ours. We are bound to respect those monuments so far as war allows. 
If we have to choose between destroying a famous building and sacrificing our own men, then our men’s lives count infinitely more and the building must go. But the choice is not always so clear-cut as that. In many cases the monuments can be spared without any detriment to operational needs. Nothing can stand against the argument of military necessity. That is an accepted principle. But the phrase “military necessity” is sometimes used where it would be more truthful to speak of military convenience or even of personal convenience. I do not want it to cloak slackness or indifference.

It is a responsibility of higher commanders to determine through A.M.G. Officers the locations of historical monuments whether they be immediately ahead of our front lines or in areas occupied by us. This information passed to lower echelons through normal channels places the responsibility of all Commanders of complying with the spirit of this letter.

Dwight D. Eisenhower
General U.S. Army
Commander-in-Chief

File: CAD 000.4 (3-25-43) (1), Sec. 2, Security Classified General Correspondence, 1943-July 1949, General Records, Civil Affairs Division, Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs, RG 165.

Understanding that when armed conflict, intentional destruction and looting damage or destroy cultural heritage, peace and security are simultaneously threatened, ARCA began offering a select number of Minerva scholarships to heritage professionals working in the conflict and post conflict countries of Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya and Egypt.  From 2015 until 2019 these Middle East focused scholarships have provided cost-free training to individuals living and working in specific conflict and post-conflict countries, involved in heritage protection.  These scholarships were established under the premise that cultural heritage personnel in at risk source countries, tasked and trained in art crime and cultural property protection, serve to help communities to understand, prevent and mitigate crimes against cultural in their respective homelands. 

Extending that advocacy into 2020, and given the recent statements made by US president potentially condoning the targeting of culture in Iran, ARCA has approved two full-tuition scholarships for its Postgraduate Certificate Program in Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection to US military personnel or allied civilians working to protect heritage in a military context and co-operating with the civilian authorities to avoid collateral damage of cultural heritage sites from military operations.

Understanding that cultural property protection can be a force multiplier instead of an ethnic or regional divider, by concurrently contributing to international and domestic stability and goodwill, interested civilian and military personnel should write to ARCA at support@artcrimeresearch.org for further information on what is needed to qualify and apply. 

Why not help us change the narrative and curb this scourge by de-weaponizing cultural heritage and by showing respect for the sacrifice of those working in military settings ethically tasked with saving culture, despite the complicating exigencies of conflict.