Wednesday, May 7, 2014

DC: Initial Journeys

Just in case y'all were wondering, this post can confirm I'm still alive! I've hit the ground running here in DC, diving head first into my exciting new project. Despite the seemingly never-ending admin necessary to enter the Smithsonian network, I have managed to find the time to travel and (begin) to explore around DC, make an empty apartment into a home, and enjoy the wonderful spring weather (while it lasts). Life has been very hectic but fun, and a routine is now more or less established. While I have yet to work within the grand old Natural History Museum building (photo courtesy of the author), I will, and I can't wait! Wish me luck, and a good map; that place is huge!

On the illicit antiquities trade research front, things also continue to go well. Especially now that I am on the ground, I am only just beginning to appreciate the number and variety of relevant events I can potentially access and learn from, whether at the Smithsonian or not. I was fortunate enough to attend a lecture by SAFE Beacon Award winner Dr. Monica Hanna (reviewed here) at the Woodrow Wilson Centre (very prestigious, but a good audience). On the other hand, I was also fortunate enough to attend a small workshop entitled "Round table on Reform: U.S. Cultural Property Policy, Law and the Public Interest," held at the National Press Club. Quiet the eye opening event! 

A full transcript of the April 10th, 2014 symposium on which the round table followed on from is available here, but myself and a colleague are working on a more in-depth op-ed that lays out our reflections on what we saw (just as soon as I gather mine from among my notes and the myriad other tasks that accompany the start of a post-doctoral project). Suffice to say, while a few fair points were raised by the speakers, I (and probably any other illicit-trade savvy archaeologist in the room) left with a bad taste in our mouths... That being said, it can only be a good thing that such meetings are accessible and free to the (registered) public. This can only bolster further dialog. 

Speaking of new research, I am also happy to report that (by some miracle) some funding has been found for me to attend a small but important art crime and cultural heritage law conference in Geneva, Switzerland, this June. On behalf of my colleague Prof. Duncan Chappell, I will present a summary of our pilot research in Vietnam this past January, to an audience that (excitingly) includes many big names in the biz...people whose work I admire and who I've wanted to meet for some time. How I, perhaps the sole archaeologist and/or bioarchaeologist in the room will be accepted is unknown, but perhaps that just means my talk and perspective will be that much more unique? Hope so! 

So, to those who follow my exploits, please "watch this space" as things continue to develop into the summer. Publications will be submitted, released and shared, cool guest lectures will be attended, museums explored and written about, and science will march onwards! Summer undergraduate interns arrive soon, and all Fellows are expected to give a presentation related to their project as well as help staff advisers manage the mob. Exposing eager minds to cutting-edge archaeological research at the Smithsonian as it happens will (should be...) a treat. If the rising humidity (and the rising tide of tiny school children touring the stately halls) don't swallow me up first. What will happen next? Stay tuned!