Honoring Dr. John Malcolm Russell for his work to save the vulnerable archaeological sites in Iraq.

SAFE held its first benefit and honored Dr. John Malcolm Russell for his recent work to save the vulnerable archaeological sites in Iraq.

The event took place at Alan Sokal’s and Marina Papa-Sokal’s apartment in New York’s West Village with a magnificent view of the City.

Attendees included members of the museum, education communities with an interest in archaeology, antiquities and ancient studies, as well as members from law enforcement, advertising and media. Attendees came from as far away as New Hampshire and Maryland.

Among those present were Patty Gerstenblith, Professor of Law and Director of the Program in Cultural Heritage Law at the DePaul University College of Law; Lawrence Kaye, who represented the Republic of Turkey in the infamous Lydian Hoard case; Elizabeth Stone, Professor of Anthropology at Stony Brook University and co-project director of a federal grant to help rebuild Iraq’s higher education infrastructure; and Roger Atwood, author of the upcoming book, Stealing History: Tomb Raiders, Smugglers and the Looting of the Ancient World (please look out for details for the SAFE-sponsored book event in December). Micah Garen and Marie-Helene Carleton, who are working on a documentary about the looting of archaeological sites in Iraq, presented photographs and a video to introduce Dr. Russell’s presentation: a personal account of his experiences in Iraq.

SAFE Guardian invitation

SAFE Guardian Benefit invitation

Dr. Russell highlighted the situation of Iraq’s cultural heritage in its museums, and archaeological sites, and added information about conservation efforts. The informative and provocative presentation was so moving that at times it drew audible gasps from the audience.

While the gathering was primarily designed to draw attention to SAFE and its charter, the gathering was not all work and no play. Door prize items included the original first edition of Nineveh and its Remains, Volume II , a roundtrip airline ticket on America Airlines, design of a 10-page web site, six weeks of Italian language lessons for four people, an Ayurvedic Beauty Basket from The Mystic Masala, a gift certificate for Amazon.com, handcrafted wall art from www.Sumon.com and handmade silver jewelry by Judi Powers. All prizes were donated by SAFE members and businesses.

Author of the soon-to-be-published cookbook The Healthy Hedonist, Myra Kornfeld contributed hors d’oeuvres the event including Thai wontons with dipping sauce, Yucca cakes with mango mojo, Pissaladierre, vegetable quesadillas, and Spanikopita triangles. Guss’ Pickles provided olives, assorted pickles and pickled vegetables. Catering company, Out of the Kitchen, sent a platter of cookies to end the evening.

As an acknowledgement of support, all those who purchased a ticket to attend the benefit were offered a complimentary membership to SAFE. Dr. Russell was named a SAFE GUARDIAN, an Honorary Lifetime Member, and presented with a T-shirt as a token of appreciation.

SAFE is grateful to Dr. Russell for lending his name to support our efforts by making his first public presentation since his return from Iraq at this benefit. We would like to thank all of our guests for their contributions and attendance; the Sokals for the use of their apartment;Archaeology Magazine, Guss’ Pickles, Myra Kornfeld, Out of the Kitchen, Judi Powers, The Mystic Masala, and Sumon.com for donations. The event would not have been possible without SAFE members’ donation of door prizes, time and effort to make this first fund raising event a success.

I, and I think everybody, felt privileged to be present at the beginning of what is surely going to be a very important movement in the years to come. It’s important to develop a sense of cohesion and shared expertise among those who want to raise awareness with the public about the damage done by the illicit antiquities trade, and I think the event made a great start toward accomplishing that. John Russell’s presentation also was a powerful reminder of why this problem keeps us up at night.Roger Atwood