Carnegie Mellon University
March 30, 2017

Art Under Attack

Erin Thompson

Art Under Attack

Thursday, March 30, 4:30 pm

Porter Hall 100

The history of the world is under attack. Instability and conflict in Syria, Egypt, and other countries rich with the remains of our shared past have led to a recent rise in the looting and destruction of archeological sites. The damage done is incalculable, threatening our knowledge of the past as well as  the cultural identity of regions where archeological sites serve as reminders of diversity and tolerance. Terrorist organizations are funding their activities through the sale of looted antiquities and releasing propaganda videos of fighters destroying “idolatrous” antiquities and using ancient ruins as the backdrop for executions. What is to be done?

Professor Thompson’s talk will address the legal and policing strategies currently in place to address the looting crisis. She will also examine other less traditional, but perhaps more promising, proposals, from marketing campaigns that attempt to persuade collectors not to buy, to computer scientists producing 3-D reconstructions of destroyed antiquities from crowd-sourced photographs to the use of drones to monitor vulnerable archeological sites.

Erin Thompson (John Jay College, CUNY) is America’s only full-time professor of art crime. She holds a PhD from Columbia University and a JD from Columbia Law School. She has discussed art crime topics in The New York Times and on CNN, NPR, Al Jazeera America, and the Freakonomics podcast. Her latest book is Possession: The Curious History of Private Collectors from Antiquity to the Present (Yale, 2016).

Part of the University Lecture Series, co-sponsored by the Center for Arts in Society, the Humanities Scholars Program, and the Department of History.