Monday, February 18, 2013

Live Blogging from Bhutan

For the last week, I have been attending the 1st annual "International Conference on Protection of Cultural Property in Asia" conference, in Thimphu, Bhutan. Pre-conference tours have been incredible, with scenic Himalayan mountain views, visits to Dzongs (monasteries) as old as the 8th and 16th centuries (such as the Taktsang, or "Tiger's Nest," at left) and weekend markets, nightlife, cultural institutions, and interesting and spicy food were all enjoyed. We even "auspiciously" caused a lovely snow fall yesterday and today through our very presence, according to many! The people, both the governmental, military and Ministerial authorities who have made this conference possible, and the "civilian" Bhutanese themselves, have been most accommodating to our varied international diets, levels of cold-tolerance, the occasional technical difficulties, etc. All in all, a wonderful time.

Conference delegates derive from numerous countries across Europe, North America, Australia, and several Asian nations; all united to share the latest developments in issues of policing, monitoring, documenting art and antiquities crime, and preserving heritage. Representatives of INTERPOL, UNESCO, most of Bhutan's governmental ministries concerned with heritage preservation, several museums, textile conservators, and numerous archaeologists and criminologists from several Universities.

Topics have touched on all aspects of local and international law and treaties, loopholes needing to be closed, how to better facilitate networking, active cases (some as current as last month), museum security, unique aspects of the Asian trade, etc., etc. I have left humbled, yet again, by the complexity of this problem, but also its urgency and the commitment, against often steep odds and dire statistics, to do something about it wherever possible.

Stay tuned for more detailed summaries here and elsewhere!