Response to “Cultural Property Observer” July 9 2008 blog post


On July 9 2008, a post entitled “Saving Antiquities for Everyone: Grassroots or Astro Turf?” appeared on the blog “Cultural Property Observer” which raised questions about SAFE’s membership, funding sources, position on the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild and coin collecting, as well as SAFECORNER’s support “for Iraqi Government control over Jewish holy books” and “SAFE members’ kudos for China’s treatment of Tibet’s cultural heritage at the CPAC hearing on the Chinese request for import restrictions.”

We think that this is a good opportunity for SAFE, who runs SAFECORNER, to bring our readers’ attention to the information on the SAFE website, which also answer these questions raised by “Cultural Property Observer”.

SAFE’s membership:
Please read “Who is SAFE?” to learn about the people who keep SAFE going.

Funding sources:
Please see here. Additional funding comes from fundraising activities listed here. We also solicit private donations via the website.

To date, SAFE has not received government funds.

Position on the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild and coin trade:
Please read paragraph 3 of SAFE’s Statement of Principles:
SAFE encourages legal and ethical behavior among collectors, dealers, and museums to stop the trade in illicit antiquities. SAFE recognizes the ability of individuals and institutions to lawfully acquire and properly retain or transfer title of antiquities where authorized by law. However, antiquities are more than just aesthetic objects of beauty; they serve as historical evidence of the past. Because principles of supply and demand influence illegal antiquities trafficking, purchasers of antiquities should recognize that high demand can entice others to illegally excavate archaeological sites, smuggle illicit antiquities, and sell stolen objects. Such unlawful and unethical behavior permanently destroys information about the past.

SAFE has made no statement about the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild.

SAFECORNER’s support “for Iraqi Government control over Jewish holy books”:
Please see paragraph 2 of SAFE’s Statement of Principles and Import Restrictions Imposed on Archaeological and Ethnological Material of Iraq sections III.G.1, IX.F and X.D.

SAFE promotes respect for the laws and treaties that protect cultural heritage and property. SAFE favors accountability for those who violate United States laws and/or tolerate the violation of other countries’ laws in pursuit of cultural artifacts. SAFE supports the enforcement of international and bilateral cultural property agreements.

“SAFE members’ kudos for China’s treatment of Tibet’s cultural heritage at the CPAC hearing on the Chinese request for import restrictions”:
The word “Tibet” doesn’t even appear in any of the 3 statements supplied by SAFE members to the CPAC committee.

Finally, we would like to point out that while SAFECORNER invites members of the SAFE community and other experts and opinion leaders in the field of cultural heritage protection to post on the blog, it does not necessarily mean that the opinions of the authors represent those of SAFECORNER, or the organization SAFE. SAFECORNER provides an open forum for discussion where dialogs begin, ideas exchange, and concrete solutions emerge concerning looting and the illicit antiquities trade. Please also read Blogging on SAFECORNER.

For further information, please review the SAFE’s Terms and Conditions of Use, specifically sections 5.1, 5.2 and 5.3.

Thank you for visiting our blog and participating in our discussions.


The following two tabs change content below.


Latest posts by SAFECORNER (see all)

4 Comments on “Response to “Cultural Property Observer” July 9 2008 blog post”

  1. Cultural Property Observer

    I find this post to be curious on several levels.

    1. The most curious point is that “SAFE has made no statement about the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild.”

    Frankly, I only decided to blog about SAFE given Nathan Elkins’ numerous posts on the SafeCorner blog as well as his article on your web site. In these posts, Nathan specifically takes on the “tactics” of the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild and the “coin dealer lobby” as he sees them.

    I should note that while I strongly disagree with the way Nathan paints the ACCG (and coin dealers in general), I do respect Nathan and acknowledge that he does really care about the study of ancient coins.

    I suppose you are indicating that Nathan’s views about ACCG are not specifically endorsed by SAFE. If so, fine. However, you will have to excuse me if I find this position perplexing. Certainly, Nathan is a SAFE “Team Member” and his views about ACCG are plastered on the SAFE web site, including in a “Feature Article.” Under the circumstances, anyone viewing your web site would have to assume that SAFE has adopted them.

    2. Thank you for pointing out where SAFE’s funding sources can be located on the SAFE web site. (The information is not as easy to find as it is on the ACCG site.) I was aware that SAFE has had various fund raisers, but it was not clear to me that the donor information provided there was complete.

    That said, the statement that SAFE has received no government funds does raise a question for me. It is my strong recollection that at one time SAFE received some money from NY City Arts authorities (something that was touted on the SAFE web site). I would appreciate it if you could clarify.

    3. I think you are taking my statements about SAFE’s evident support for Iraqi Government control over Jewish holy books out of context. You view my concerns too narrowly. The issue is not whether it is currently legal to import Jewish Holy books from Iraq into the US (it certainly is not without official approval). Rather, it is my view that SAFE takes an uncritical stance to source country control over “anything old,” even in extreme circumstances. If you read Alex Joffe’s post to the IraqCrisis list (also posted on my blog) my point should become crystal clear.

    4. In my opinion, a SAFE member did give “kudos” to China for its treatment of Tibet’s cultural heritage at the CPAC hearing on the pending Chinese request for import restrictions. On pages 88-89 of the official transcript, Jen Makrides (identified as representing SAFE) praised the creation of a “Tibet Museum” and a “Tibet and Autonomous Region Relics Protection Organization.” It is clear from the context of her remarks that she did so to counter considerable testimony about China’s depredations of Tibetan culture. (I must also note that a number of commentators (including the NY Times) have dismissed that museum as a “propaganda tool” for the Chinese government. See, e.g., my opinion, putting a “happy face” on Chinese control over Tibet and Tibetan cultural relics is exceptionally misguided.


    Peter Tompa


    Mr. Tompa:

    We hope this is clear enough: SAFE has never received money from any “NY City Arts authorities” or any other government funding agency.

    All the other points have been addressed in an earlier post.

    Please observe our request with respect to blogging on SAFECORNER that: when adding a comment to a post, we ask that before you hit the “publish” button, please reread what has already been posted in response to the person who made the original post. If the same points have already been made, please do not post the same information again. We do this for the sake of readers who do not enjoy wading through messages that contain repetitions.

    Thank you,

  3. David Ian

    Well I sure hope this puts an end to all this, which I personally find irrelevant to the purpose of this forum as I understand it. I have recently started reading this blog and also posted some of my own comments. But while I appreciate the opportunity, I wish to make a request that we all keep to the real issues.

    I must admit I am only mildly interested in SAFE’s funding sources and even less interested in what a member of theirs said 3 years ago, but what does this have to do with anything in question? Seems to me that Peter Tompa/Cultural Property Observer finds himself under scrutiny because of this auction Nathan Elkins described (interesting story, by the way), and instead of giving us some solid explanations, he’s turned on another organization: SAFE. This diversionary tactic is kind of sad and desperate, in my opinion, in its transparency.

    I visited the ACCG website and learned that Peter Tompa is their President, it’s strange that he doesn’t identify himself as such. And before you ask: I am not an archaeologist and I am not a member of SAFE (yet) but I can see what they are doing as opposed to what ACCG does, which in my opinion, is a total waste of time and money, at least in regards to the lawsuit against the US government. If I were a member of ACCG I wouldn’t be pleased, for sure.

    But please, Peter Tompa, do not respond to me, I don’t wish to engage in a battle with you. I can see right through your MO and I am not interested.

  4. Paul Barford

    David Ian wrote: “But please, Peter Tompa, do not respond to me, I , I don’t wish to engage in a battle with you.”

    I don’t think any user of the SAFE website is interested in witnessing any battles here. SAFE is a “place where dialogs begin, ideas exchange, and concrete solutions emerge concerning looting and the illicit antiquities trade”. Provocation like this does not seem to suggest a willingness to enter such dialogue in any constructive way, and it is unclear what it is intended to achieve.

    I think though we’d all be far more interested in what happened to Mr Tompa’s declarations here from last year in the thread “Towards a Forum for Constructive Dialogue” This seems a useful avenue to explore given the new developments within eBay concerning documenting of provenience of antiquities, which – though just beginning – seems to introduce a welcome new element into the discussion.

    Paul Barford

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *