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ARCHIVES  July 2006, Week 1

ARCHIVES July 2006, Week 1

Subject:

Chicago Museum, Iran Fight U.S. Court

From:

Farris Wahbeh <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Farris Wahbeh <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Fri, 7 Jul 2006 14:35:27 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (110 lines)

One of the more bizarre actions taken against a museum in years...
Not necessarily archive news, but very well worth the read. 
On an administrative/museum level, this could have major repercussions: no
international loans, perhaps...


Chicago Museum, Iran Fight U.S. Court

Thursday July 6, 2006 5:16 PM

By NASSER KARIMI

Associated Press Writer

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) - The University of Chicago and the government of Iran
have come together in a rare alliance against a U.S. court ruling that aims
to compensate victims of a 1997 Jerusalem bombing by auctioning off a rare
collection of Persian tablets.

A U.S. court previously found Iran responsible for supporting Hamas, which
claimed responsibility for the 1997 bombing that killed five people and
wounded 192 others, and ordered Tehran to pay the victims $423.5 million.

The only Iranian asset that U.S. authorities could get their hands on was a
collection of ancient Persian tablets inscribed with one of the world's
oldest alphabets, dating to between 553 B.C. and 330 B.C. The clay artifacts
have been housed at the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute museum
since the 1930s.

A federal judge ruled last month that the school must auction off the
tablets, the proceeds of which would go to compensate the bombing victims.
But the university said it would appeal.

In a letter to Iranian cultural authorities, the museum's director called
the tablets ``an irreplaceable scholarly data set'' that should not be
subject to political battles.

``The protection of cultural patrimony and of scholarly research are
fundamental matters of principle for us, as they should be for every
civilized person and nation,'' wrote museum director Gil Stein.

Iran did not represent itself in the U.S. court battles - either in the
first one, when a judge ordered it to pay compensation for the bombing, or
in the current suit over the tablets.

But it reacted strongly to the rulings, calling on the U.S. government to
intervene.

``We expect the U.S. government to show a swift and serious reaction to
prevent implementation of the verdict,'' Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman
Hamid Reza Asefi said Sunday.

He said Iran would also appeal to the United Nations and UNESCO to protect
its cultural heritage.

``What America did was basically wrong. A local court should not issue such
a verdict. This also impedes cultural and scientific cooperation,'' Asefi said.

On June 22, U.S. District Judge Blanche Manning ruled that only Iran could
claim its right to the tablets, not the museum. She said she was
``sympathetic'' to the university's fears that an auction of the artifacts
would result in fewer international loans to American museums and American
artifacts being seized by foreign courts.

But the university's ``brazen accusation that the courts of the United
States are hostile to Iran and that, as a result, Iran should be excused
from bothering to assert its rights, is wholly unsupported,'' the judge ruled.

Lawyers for the school had argued they were protecting Iran's rights to the
ancient artifacts, since no Iranian representative was involved in the
proceedings.

Stein said the tablets were on long-term loan from Iran, which was not
profiting from their display in the U.S.

``This trove of tablets has never been a commercial item to be bought or
sold. They have never been a source of profit to either Iran or the Oriental
Institute,'' he wrote in a June 30 staff memo released Wednesday.

The artifacts were ``every bit as unique and important as the original
document of the Constitution of the United States,'' he added.

The tablets date from the Achaemenid Period, 553 B.C. to 330 B.C., and were
excavated from Persepolis, the ancient Persian capital built by Darius I.

Their inscriptions are written in cuneiform - one of the world's oldest
alphabets, consisting of arrowhead signs, points and dashes.

Iran and the United States have had no diplomatic relations since 1979 when
militants stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and held its occupants hostage
for more than a year. They currently are embroiled in a dispute over Iran's
nuclear program.

----

Associated Press writers Jasper Mortimer in Cairo and Tara Burghart in
Chicago contributed to this report.

A posting from the Archives & Archivists LISTSERV List sponsored by the Society of American Archivists, www.archivists.org.
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