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June 13, 2016

This blog post is the first in a series that will written by our 2016 interns, which will describe the various weeks of ARCA's academic programming this summer.

Hello! My name is Chris and I’m a 2016 ARCA student and intern. I’m here to update all you art crime followers and fanatics about the goings-on at our summer program in Amelia. It’s been a hectic and explosive week with student arrivals, our first course, and even a field class in Cerveteri. This week we’ve discussed everything from Australian aboriginal skeletons to ancient Etruscan tombs to the trade in human remains. In fact, after dealing so much with bodies and burial grounds I think we, the exhausted students of ARCA, are starting to feel a bit like human remains ourselves. Fortunately, we have the weekend to rest, recoup, and prepare for our upcoming course on art insurance. But before that, let me recap our first week and share some of the excitement that coloured (quite literally) our first week in Amelia. 

Banditaccia, Cerveteri's Etruscan Necropolis
Last Friday was arrival day for most students. The majority of the afternoon was spent settling into student apartments and houses, all of which are scattered across this enchanting, medieval town. Some students will be living in the town’s Palazzo Farrattini, an impressive Renaissance-era building replete with a charming atrium, a picturesque swimming pool, and even a Salon of Sangallo. Other students are perched at the highest point in Amelia, just a stone’s throw away from the town Duomo, with a vista of the Umbrian countryside that can only be partially captured in the many photographs that we have all taken.

On our first night a cocktail party was held at La Locanda, a restaurant whose vaulted ceilings and glass floor displays—which exhibit the town’s ancient Roman streets—take the concept of dining in a “historic” eatery to the next level (or many levels.) This event gave students the opportunity to introduce themselves to one another and meet ARCA’s committed CEO, Lynda Albertson. If this meet-and-greet aperitivo made anything clear I think it’s that the ARCA student body is perhaps one of the most geographically, culturally, professionally, and generationally diverse groups you can get in a single academic program.

This year’s roster boasts participants from Australia, New Zealand, Yemen, Syria, Iraq, India, Canada, the Netherlands, and the United States. Some students have served as museum directors while others have worked in journalism, and many are just newly minted college graduates eager to learn more about (and contribute to) the field of cultural heritage protection. The fact that ARCA attracts such a diverse group of participants means that there should be a good deal of cross-pollination in disciplinary knowledge this summer.   

On Sunday Amelia held its annual Corpus Domini festival, an event that summons residents to participate in the decoration of the town’s streets. Amelia locals and ARCA students alike spent the better portion of the morning sketching emblems and insignia with chalk and coloring these designs with flower petals, coffee grounds, and wreaths. By mid-morning it looked as if city’s otherwise greyish-brown cobblestone streets had mutated into rainbow carpets—a truly stunning sight.

A church processional marched through the town’s main corridor, the Via della Repubblica, and a short service was held outside the Chiesa di San Francesco. Following a short bit of prayer and song, a ceremonial sweeping of the streets cleared the town of its colorful costume, though some remnants of chalk dust stuck to the cobblestone and remained even days after the conclusion of the Corpus Domini festa.   

The following morning students made their way to Sala Boccarini for the first day of Duncan Chappell’s Art and Heritage Law course. At the outset of class Chappell reviewed some his experience in the field of law and criminology—a lengthy and quite intimidating list of compelling professorial posts, research projects, field work, and accolades. The shear quantity of academic and professional experience that Chappell holds certainly percolates into his dynamic teaching style.

Throughout the first couple days of class Chappell covered the vast terrain of art law, touching upon major international conventions and smaller-scale cases unique to individual nation-states. Students had the fortunate opportunity of completing a reading assignment authored by the professor himself. In his fascinating (though eerie) article, Chappell charts out and describes the online trade in human remains and identifies the sellers and buyers who constitute this niche market. This article will serve as a prompt for the course’s final assignment, wherein students will carry out investigations into a particular online antiquities market. ARCA students will be looking into all kinds of internet trade: from the sale of murder memorabilia to space artefacts to taxidermy to “faux-bergĂ©” eggs. 

Mid-week the course was interrupted for a field class to Cerveteri's Banditaccia Necropolis. Stefano Alessandrini, a fervent archaeologist who has done much work to repatriate stolen Italian antiquities, guided ARCA students through Cerveteri’s ancient Etruscan burial mounds. This awe-inspiring complex is peppered with grassy tumuli, ancient streets, and cold, tufa stone tombs which bespeak the organized burial practices of the Etruscans.

In addition to recounting the rich history of the Etruscans, Alessandrini discussed the major security glitches that threaten the necropolis and reported on some of the recent looting events to which the site has fallen prey. Chatting with Alessandrini and hearing about these attempted thefts gave much purpose—not to mention “real world” substance—to the readings and classroom work that we’ve been doing at ARCA.

It was a special opportunity entering these tombs and admiring millennia-old architecture. The English novelist D.H. Lawrence, commenting on his visit to the Etruscan necropolis, observed that, “there was a stillness and soothingness in all the air, in that sunken place, and a feeling that it was good for one’s soul to be there.” Our trip to Cerveteri was no doubt a nourishing one, and I think many of us in the ARCA crew would echo Lawrence’s sentiment.

That’s it for this week! I look forward to sharing more after a week with Dorit Straus! 

--Christopher Falcone, ARCA 2016