The World's Repatriation of Antiquities
To listen to a recording of my speech: repatriation of antiquities recording.wma
I. When I was younger, I wanted to be Indiana Jones.
II. I loved the adventures he went on, the cool places around the world that his work took him, the different peoples he met, and the rare artifacts he discovered. This image, from IndianaJones.com, shows my favorite scene, which many of you probably recall--when Indy acquires a legendary, golden statue...after braving through Peruvian jungle and multiple death traps.
III. But I recently realized that what was for him an extraordinary and valuable artifact was, to the indigenous Peruvians, a precious idol, worshipped by their people. In effect, he was actually treasure hunting, looting from a sacred area, and he meant to take that idol far away, to an American museum.
IV. Museums across the globe house hundreds and thousands of years of revered world history; yet not all of that material is acquired fairly, and much is undeniably stolen. Our own country is guilty of such heinous acts. Many nations today mourn the loss of important relics valuable to their cultural heritages and desperately call for their return.
V. 30 years ago, according to UNESCO's webpage, a special Intergovernmental Committee was created by UNESCO to help countries disputing over cultural artifacts come to compromise. However, this group has a two-year schedule for looking at only a few select issues. To help take swift, affirmative action, there is much that you can do, such as joining a club, to spread public awareness and bring fierce disputes to the attention of many.
I. NEED: this debate over cultural artifacts is increasingly becoming a fiery issue in the global world of museums and antiquities.
a. International disputes between countries arise because many museums don't want to return antiquities that were questionably removed from their countries of origin. This removal occurred in multiple ways, including looting and illicit trade.
i. According to a 1997 Record article by Greg Bradsher, there are still over 100,000 unreturned items of Nazi plunder today--some of which are on display in museums around the world. As a result, survivors and heirs still want their works of art returned, and museums are profiting from exhibiting them.
b. Removal of cultural artifacts also occurs during foreign excavation, and events such as war, conquest, or imperialism.
i. In a 2003 Al-Ahram article, Zahi Hawass, Secretary General of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), wrote that the "SCA decided [that Egypt] will sever relations with any foreign institution or museum that bought, sold or exhibited artifacts stolen from Egypt." These artifacts include the Rosetta Stone and the famed bust of Nefertiti. Hawass uses his position of influence to try to solve this antiquities problem for Egypt.
ii. Another widely-debated issue today is that of the Parthenon Marbles. As stated in a 2009 Time Magazine article, these ancient marble sculptures were sawed out of and taken from the Parthenon to Britain by a British lord in 1801. Greeks then and now are outraged.
c. Because countries have lost their important artifacts, and museums don't want to return them, international disputes result.
a. So what do these disputes over cultural antiquities have to do with you?
i. National relevancy: the U.S. is involved in antiquities disputes
1. The 2009 Time article, titled "Top 10 Plundered Artifacts," states that American institutions have owned three of them: the Mummy of Ramses, a rare and ancient Italian bowl, and the skull of Geronimo. Geronimo's skull is said to be owned still by Yale's Skull and Bones Society, and the Apache Nation is calling desperately for its ancestral remains for proper burial.
ii. Relate through ethnicity/cultural background: the countries that your families are from are involved in these arguments.
iii. Moral ties: you should consider that it is right for meaningful objects to be returned to their nations of origin. Looting of cultural relics is wrong, whether it occurs in real life or is performed by the hero in an adventure series.
III. REMOVE OBSTACLES/ACTION
a. There are many ways that you can spread awareness and help gather support for the return of stolen artifacts to a particular nation.
b. You can send a petition to a legislator, write an article for a newspaper, boycott institutions that profit from exhibiting stolen artifacts, or create or join a club.
i. Petitions are a good way to help spread knowledge of this issue and to gain support.
1. Example: recent PetitionOnline.com petition to the US Congress, currently signed by 8,894 individuals, which outlines a detailed (if somewhat inflated) history of the controversy and calls for the return of Geronimo's skull to his descendents.
ii. Article for newspaper or school newsletter about local issue
1. Spring 2008 newsletter of the Burke Museum at the University of Washington details the University's repatriation of thousands of Native American artifacts to their former tribes. It also discusses the continued work by the university to return remains and artifacts to various other tribes of the Northwest.
1. Museums that profit from displaying stolen artifacts
2. For example, Berlin's Neues Museum houses the stolen bust of Nefertiti, and visitors must pay to see this iconic sculpture.
1. Penn State has our own Archaeology Club, which meets on Monday evenings. This would be an excellent sphere to spread awareness or gather support for an issue that you think is important to back.
2. An example of an organization with a broader participation is the British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles. According to their website, this London group is composed of politicians, professors, distinguished scholars, and other citizens, and it spreads awareness and promotes the marbles' return by: keeping archives, acting as an information center, publishing books, organizing debates over the issue, and attending promotion events. You could create or join a club such as this for an issue that you are interested in.
c. These ways to spread awareness to help fairly solve disputes are simple, effective, and fun.
I. Finally, disputes like these occur in most countries, including our own. If you want to help right past wrongs, to protect cultural heritage, to fairly solve long-lasting arguments, then...become involved--help spread public awareness and bring these issues to light so that they can be addressed. Make a petition, write an article about your concern to your local newspaper or school newsletter, boycott institutions that profit from exhibiting stolen antiquities, or join a club relating to an antiquities issue. You can gain support for a fair, just, and logical solution.
Bradsher, Greg. "Documenting Nazi Plunder of European Art." The Record Nov. 1997: n. pag. Web. 11 Apr. 2010. http://www.archives.gov/research/holocaust/records-and-research/documenting-nazi-plunder-of-european-art.html.
Hawass, Zahi. "Tampering With Nefertiti." Al-Ahram. Al-Ahram, 16 July 2003. Web. 11 Apr. 2010. http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2003/646/her1.htm.
"Intergovernmental Committee for Promoting the Return of Cultural Property to its Countries of Origin or its Restitution in case of Illicit Appropriation." UNESCO. UNESCO, 7 Apr. 2010. Web. 11 Apr. 2010. http://portal.unesco.org/culture/en/ev.php-URL_ID=35283&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&URL_SECTION=201.html.
Neues Museum. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 May 2010. http://www.neues-museum.de/.
"Petition to Repatriate Geronimo's Skull." PetitionOnline. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 May
Raiders of the Lost Ark. N.d. IndianaJones.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Apr. 2010.
"Repatriation News." Burke Archaeology Newsletter 2008: n. pag. Web. 1 May 2010. http://www.washington.edu/burkemuseum/collections/archaeology/newsletter08/newsletter08.pdf.
The Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles. N.p., n.d. Web. 11
Apr. 2010. http://www.parthenonuk.com/index.php.
"Top 10 Plundered Artifacts." Time 5 Mar. 2009: n. pag. Web. 10 Apr. 2010. http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,1883142_1883129_1883001,00.html.
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Reflection on my Speech
My persuasive speech, just like my introductory essay, needed the most revision out of all of my speeches. However, I chose it because, as an Anthropology major, I am very interested in this subject area, and I was fascinated by what I learned about this artifact controversy. This speech displays what I believe about cultural artifact repatriation, and my ideas are supported by many well-researched facts and details. Furthermore, I believe that my speech is well-organized and makes logical sense. However, I needed to do much during revisions; I made my thesis more specific and added more focus and detail in the individual action section--such as examples for petitioning, writing articles, and boycotting. I also added a few sentences throughout my speech to continue to relate my visual aid to the issue. I think that the comments on my original speech greatly helped me in improving my introduction, body, and conclusion.
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