Here are updates and media coverage of WikiLoot:
OCTOBER — CNN’s Soundwaves
CNN’s Soundwaves featured a story on WikiLoot’s efforts to map the illicit antiquities trade. “I think the problem is far greater than the general public understands and far greater than most museum officials are willing to admit,” Jason told CNN reporter Tommy Andres. Antiquities dealer Hicham Aboutaam is also quoted acknowledging that virtually all antiquities on the market were looted. You can listen to the program here:
SEPTEMBER — FutureTense on WikiLoot
Australia Broadcasting Corp’s FutureTense program aired an hour-long feature on efforts to harness technology in the study of really old things. The discussion of WikiLoot comes in the final few minutes of the program.
UPDATE: AUGUST — NEH Grant Application
SwissInfo, Switzerland’s public broadcasting organization, has a feature on WikiLoot and its implications for the Swiss Free Ports, which have repeatedly been linked to the illicit antiquties trade. “By aggregating the wealth of information that is already available, Felch is hoping that people will be encouraged to look for the truth. ‘WikiLoot will shine a bright light on the black market,’ he said.”
JUNE — The Guardian Gives WikiLoot a Thumbs Up
The Guardian featured WikiLoot in an article on June 6th, calling it “a new crowdsourcing, data mining experiment to help track down some of the world’s oldest treasures.” A few days later, the newspaper followed-up with an editorial about the project, “In Praise of…WikiLoot.” “Collaboration on stories and sources has worked in journalism, runs the idea, so why not in an area of detection. And if it doesn’t fly, the sums needed to start up the project are nominal. Crowdsourced sleuthing: it’s worth a shot.”
UPDATE: May 2012 — The Economist Weighs In
WikiLoot was mentioned in an article in the Economist about Turkey’s efforts to repatriate allegedly looted antiquities, which we first revealed here. That article says: “The [Turkish] ministry is also working with the American group behind WikiLoot, a not-yet-launched effort to use crowd-sourcing to combat the illicit antiquities trade.” Well, not quite. Jason interviewed Turkish officials for an article he wrote in the LA Times, and ChasingAphrodite.com subsequently published lists of the objects they’re seeking from American museums. We’re not “working with” Turkish officials any more than the Economist. Still, we’re flattered by the mention.
UPDATE: April 2012 — KNIGHT GRANT
In April we submitted our first grant application to the Knight Foundation, which sponsors the News Challenge Grant. Challenge Grants reward innovative uses of new media to solve problems and inform the public. The theme of this first round of grants for 2012 was “networks.” We were among 1,000 applicants, and did not make the final cut of 4 projects that received funding. We did, however, start a lively conversation about the project on social media and elsewhere. Thanks for all the comments submitted on the application, which you can find here. The next round of Challenge Grants opens in June and the theme is “data.” We plan to apply again and would appreciate your support.
UPDATE: March 2012 — ASIA SOCIETY
WikiLoot was mentioned during a fascinating talk at the Asia Society about antiquities collecting. Not surprisingly, it was Arthur Houghton who brought up WikiLoot, saying, “We’re that far away from launching a vigilante effort that may flood the Asia Society and other American museums with people wanting to find out, Is this object looted or not? If it is unprovenanced, how do you know where it came from? And what should we all do about it?” There was much talk of a “climate of fear” among dealers and collectors concerned about growing awareness of the illicit trade limiting their ability to collect and donate objects to museums. See our full post and watch a video of the event here.
UPDATE: February 2012 — GOOGLE TALK
We publicly introduced the idea of WikiLoot at a February 11 talk Jason gave at Google headquarters in Mountain View, California. You can read about it and watch the full presentation here. We made some great connects with engineers who expressed an interset in the project, in particular whether computer vision might be used to find matches. (You can test it out for yourself by uploading an image via the camera icon at Google Images.) Also in attendance were several grad students and researchers from Stanford’s archaeology program who we hope to enlist in the effort.