Underwater Recovery – who owns shipwrecks?

The National Geographic News has a follow up story (complete with a photo of dozens of big packages of coins coming off a cargo belt out of an airplane!) on that big shipwreck revealed a little while ago. Spain is suing for the silver.
I blogged about this 10 days ago – and given what the great underwater archaeologist George Bass has to say to the National Geographic about the way Odyssey Marine Expeditions are operating I’m glad I called my post Underwater Recovery rather than Underwater Archaeology.
I followed the link the National Geographic provided for Odyssey Marine Expeditions and found shipwreck.net. It’s hardly academic. That’s not to say the information is without value or that these people are looters or treasure-hunters . . . but it’s clear they finance their exploration with coin sales – you can register your email for News and Product Information from the Black Swan shipwreck.
Ownership of old stuff is an issue I talk about in classes all the time – here’s some muttering about the Euphronios krater the Met is giving back to Italy. I understand that current law is on the side of the Italian government, but I have severe doubts about these current laws. The laws of the seas seem (I sure don’t know enough about them) to suggest that if a shipwreck is found in international waters (therefore not subject to the claim of a neighboring nation) that the shipwreck belongs to the country of origin of the ship. So someday Panama and Liberia will make it big off of shipwrecks? Sorry to snark, but that’s an amusing issue here. Spain, in the case of a 17th century shipwreck, certainly has more claim to be the same nation and to have rights to wrecked Spanish government shipping than, say, the modern nation-state Italy has to some dead Etruscan’s collection of Athenian red figure pottery.
Then there’s that other issue, one still related to current national ownership. Why not sell off some of the stuff? Odyssey Marine Expeditions is suggesting that they’ve found 17 TONS of coins. Surely we don’t have to catalog, photograph, and keep all of that in one storage room? Of course it should all be studied before being sold (and that’s going to be daunting – imagine the number of coins!), but really now! How are these different from the bajillion tiny clay oil lamps found all over the Mediterranean? Why not sell those to humble collectors? Why burden the already groaning storage shelves of underfunded museums?
The real problem is that many archaeologists have the collector bug, too. Their academic justifications for keeping everything they dig up in one place rather than taking really excellent photographs and getting rid of the dross tends to come down to “but we will develop better research methods in the future and we’ll want to restudy all these little oil lamps!” Yeah. Right. When you develop those better research methods, go dig up some more (an Israeli friend told me he thinks they breed underground and that therefore there is an inexhaustible supply). People without the collecting bug recognize a rationalization – the archaeologists offering this argument are pack rats – crazy uncles with complete runs of the National Geographic; grandmothers who stack, without actually filing, labeling, or doing anything with, family photos. They just want them all.
Just like we all wish grandma and uncle Fred would get a grip and throw some stuff out before we have to do the post mortem housecleaning, I sometimes wish archaeologists could come to some better balance.

Paper Journals

Derek Lowe has a very interesting observation about science journals:

What I’ve noticed is that the most widely read ones remain in paper as well as digital subscriptions. It’s becoming a clear sign of respect for a journal’s influence. That means Science, Nature and the like are always still to be had physically. Chemistry libraries always seem to have JACS, Angewandte Chemie and, interestingly, Organic Letters in hard copy, which is probably a good sign for the latter.

I’m on our Colleges’ library committee and hear the librarians’ side of the horror that isd journal subscription at least twice a year. We do our best, but we’re poor. We live on the digital thing. This is an helpful little item to forward to our collections development librarian (a woman for whom I have great respect! If she had the money she’d buy everything we want.).

What’s your O.Q.?

Your Offensiveness Quotient.
I’m not making this up.
Political correctness, all too often overstated and exaggerated on the Right, has been reduced to a grading rubric.

When we label sensitive terms for Random House Webster’s College Dictionary, there are a lot of factors to consider. The way we decide has to do with how offensive a word is (the degree to which a word offends the person it is used to describe) and how disparaging a word is (the degree to which the person who uses the word intends for it to be hurtful).
To decide how to label a word, we go through a process that is something like the chart we give below. We call it the O.Q., or “offensiveness quotient”–modeled after the more familiar I.Q. (Intelligence Quotient). This is only a rough guide, designed to help dictionary users understand what the labels mean.
Basically, the O.Q. is the average of a term’s rank on the scales of Disparagement and Offensiveness. To see how this works on specific words, go to Examples of How the O.Q. Works.

Via Right Reason.

Lifespan issues

Bloggers come and bloggers go – but important bloggers live forever in our hearts. Prof. Anne Brannen is closing down Creating Text(iles). She was kind to introduce herself to me at Kalamazoo in 2006! She had read between the lines of my blog most carefully and offered sympathy I needed at the time.

Hey, Eugene!


Hurray! Another song to add to my playlist of love and loss . . . Pink Martini’s “Hey, Eugene.” I saw the video on You Tube some time ago and downloaded the new album today. Go here and download the whole thing.You’ll thank me later. China Forbes can swing a song! And what can you do but love a song with a couplet like this:

and you looked into my bloodshot eyes
and said is it too soon if I call you Sunday?

Life is hard – and then there’s melancholy music

The last 15:

“Is you is or is you ain’t my baby?” – Dinah Washington (Rae & Christian Remix) – Verve Remixed, 2002
“Sinking in an Ocean of Tears” – Stephen Bishop – Careless, 1975
“Just Another Day” – Jon Secada – Jon Secada: Greatest Hits
“I Made My Excuses and Left” – Pet Shop Boys – Fundamental, 2006
“The End of the Party” – The English Beat – Special Beat Service, 1982
“Happiness is an option” – Pet Shop Boys – Nightlife, 1999
“No me llores más” – Omara Portuondo – Buena Vista Social Club Presents Omara Portuondo
“Last Night 10,000″ – M People – Fresco, 1997
“The Menu” – Jon Astley – The Compleat Angler, 1988
“Life During Wartime” – Talking Heads – Stop Making Sense, 1984
“Romeo And Juliet” – Dire Straits – Making Movies, 1980
“This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)” – Talking Heads – Popular Favorites 1976-1983
“Thin Line Between Love And Hate” – Annie Lennox – Medusa, 1995
“A Million Ways” – OK Go – Oh No, 2005
“Slave to Love” – Bryan Ferry – Boys and Girls, 1985

Forgive me, father, but this was only a randomization of one playlist.
The only two or three that would be hard to find are “No me llores más,” which is one of the greatest happy-through-the-tears songs I own and perhaps “A Million Ways.” I’m sure iTunes will do it. “Romeo and Juliet” has been part of the soundtrack of my bad weeks since – um – since before the Walkman and mix tapes. You know, one had to drop the needle to hear the song again. Crazy, hunh?
And you don’t wanna know what PSB song came out next. I’m weeping while I work on crab dip.

Second Empire + Gothic Revival = Excited Professor

I’ve lived my life mainly in ignorance of 2nd Empire – I grew up in the South, and don’t have a lot of extravagant buildings from the 1870s and none from the 1860s. I was on my way to the Corcoran to meet a friend. Since she’s delayed I’m having a latte at a coffee shop and posting this. Click on the picture to go to the flickr version and read my note about the gable on the roofline to the right of the central pavilion – and you can also see a detail there.

The Old Executive Office Building – 1871-1888 (and why on earth did it take so long in construction?) is a great example of Second Empire – but up there on the skyline we see two Gothic Revival gab les with cast iron ridge decorations! Fun!

American Ruins

I spent a lovely yesterday knocking around the District of Columbia.

I learned that the Philips Collection is more or less free when they’re between exhibitions (or donations only, and when I asked the man for change for my smallest bill to leave a donation he waved me in). Their permanent collection is always worth visiting, and not just for the Boating Party. They had two of their Diebenkorn’s up and let me tell you, that man could paint (click here and scroll down to the Diebenkorn entry). The photograph on the Philips page makes it look much more 3-dimensional than it does in real life – isn’t photography odd?

Then I walked around having an urban day. Coffee at an independent (or faux-enough-independent to fool unsophisticated me!) coffee house, book shopping at an independent bookstore, lunch at a street cafe (really good pizza, building-looking and picture taking. I even found gothic ruins!

We don’t have a lot of ruins in America. We tend to renovate or replace all too quickly for anything to get really ruined, no matter how many evocative post-industrial landscape photo books get published. But here in the heart of Dupont Circle there is a nicely preserved ruin – St. Thomas’s Episcopal Church.

The church was built in 1893 and burned in 1970 (arson, the plaque said). The congregation now worships in what was their parish hall, but the lost nave is now a park (with a labyrinth – we’re talking about Episcopalians, after all). They stabilized the ruins of the east end – and that’s what you see above. Perhaps the plexiglass canopy over the former altar is a typical bit of Americana – saving the altar from going any further into decay – or perhaps they still have services there – I didn’t find anyone to ask.

$100 Million in Art for Colby?

Colby College, the second-oldest liberal arts college in Maine, received a private art collection valued at $100 million that includes the work of American artists Georgia O’Keeffe, Edward Hopper, Mary Cassatt, James McNeill Whistler, and others.
. . .
The collection consists of 500 prints, paintings, and sculptures that will be housed at the college’s Museum of Art in Waterville. More than 80 works from the gift are currently on display at the museum, which is being expanded to accommodate the entire collection.

Oh my – that’s a big donation of art to a college museum. Here’s the museum’s site. Here’s a page of works from the donation.
I saw the announcement of a new museum building at some liberal arts college up that way, but I’m not turning it up (the expansion mentioned in this story isn’t what I was thinking of, I don’t believe). It’s not Bowdoin, either, I don’t think. Hmmm.*
via Cronaca.

*It is Bowdoin – read here. $20 million museum renovation and expansion – the link thanks to a commenter.