Preserving the Past to Build the Future: Antiquities as an Economic Development Resource for Emerging Nations
Monday, April 27, 2009 / 2:30 pm - 3:45 pm

Glenn Yago, Director of Capital Studies, Milken Institute

Larry Coben, Founder, Chairman and CEO, Tremisis Energy; Archaeologist, University of Pennsylvania
Brent Lane, Director, UNC Center for Competitive Economies (C3E), Kenan-Flagler Business School, University of North Carolina
Jerry Podany, Senior Conservator, Antiquities, J. Paul Getty Museum
Charles Stanish, Professor, Department of Anthropology, Cotsen Institute of Archaeology, University of California, Los Angeles
Hakan Tekin, Consul General of Turkey in Los Angeles
Sharon Waxman, Founder and CEO, The

The relationship between preserving archaeological artifacts and helping poor communities in developing nations may not be obvious. But the speakers at this fascinating roundtable argued for several different policies that could leverage priceless antiquities to spur economic development in their source countries while simultaneously ensuring the conservation of these cultural treasures.

Glen Yago of the Milken Institute gave an overview of the current problems with antiquities. He described how the destruction and looting of archaeological artifacts is stripping the world of its cultural heritage, while at the same time denying any economic return or benefit to the local communities where such antiquities originate. Larry Coben of the University of Pennsylvania agreed: "The rate of destruction is extraordinary." They both introduced the notion that market and financial innovations may be able to solve both problems at once, perhaps through smart and innovative archaeological financing structures.

Jerry Podany of the J. Paul Getty Museum pointed to the partnerships the Getty has already undertaken as a potential model. The Getty has begun to lend its expertise to help source countries preserve their antiquities; in turn, the museum receives pieces on loan for display. The exhibition of these pieces also provides opportunities to excite museum-goers about visiting the country of origin, providing that country with further financial benefit.

Tourism could in fact be the key to solving this quandry, argued Charles Stanish of the Cotsen Institute. He provided two examples in Argentina and Peru of recent archaeological discoveries that have led to the creation of small, local museums for their display. This ensures preservation of the artifacts while simultaneously creating wealth for the surrounding communities.

Some differences of opinion on the appropriate use of money became clear near the conclusion of the panel. Brent Lane of the Kenen-Flagler Business School argued strongly for venture capital-type investment in archaeological financing. "Unless you create a local economic benefit, you don't have shared communal interest in the conservation process itself," he stated.

Hakan Tekin, Consul General of Turkey, countered that the perception from his country is that Lane and others are simply trying to create a market for antiquities. "Sale of cultural property has been banned in Turkey for over 100 years," he noted, urging the panelists to seek nonmonetary ways of exploring the problem.

Author Sharon Waxman emphasized the validity of Tekin's viewpoint, and said that multiple models might be worth exploring in different areas. Every culture is unique, she noted, and we may have to tailor our solutions in recognition of that reality.