Can the Black Market in Antiquities be Crowd-Sourced?

Posted on March 14, 2012


Jason Felch of Chasing Aphrodite has submitted an application to the Knight Foundation for assistance in creating WikiLoot – a website that will use crowd sourcing to create a database of looted artifacts in US museums. Of the project, Felch explains:

WikiLoot will be built upon an open-source platform (e.g. MediaWiki or Drupal), using semantic web and linked data technology. Tagging and analysis of the unstructured data in the archive will be crowd-sourced via an established and growing social media network of investigative reporters, academics, researchers and citizens combating the illicit antiquities trade…

It took European investigators nearly a decade to trace one hundred objects shown in records seized from black market dealers to the shelves of American museums. The result was an international controversy that exposed the connection between museums and the illicit antiquities trade. During six years of reporting on the topic, I obtained much of this archive, including images of thousands of looted antiquities that have yet to be located. WikiLoot will enlist the public to track down those objects, building a digital map of the illicit trade while raising awareness about the crisis of looting…

Cool idea, huh? The only way it would be effective is if many people elected to use the site, making it a primary place to go to perform checks for missing objects. On the flip side, purchasers of antiquities could help satisfy due diligence requirements by using the website as a place to search.  doI wonder how will this site compare to or interact with the Art Loss Register.

View the Knights proposal: WikiLoot: crowd-sourcing an analysis of the black market in looted antiquities.