November 27, 2004

Don't know much about history . . .

From the NY Post:

Somebody get Nicolas Cage's new wife, Alice, an American history book -- and quick! Spies at the L.A. premiere of "National Treasure" last week said Alice, 20, seemed befuddled when someone talked to her about the Declaration of Independence. "She looked at them and said, 'What is the Declaration of Independence?'" our witness relates -- an account confirmed by another attendee.
Via Best of the Web, which asks if the new Mrs Cage might not be a product of that California school with the strict, "no religion, please, we're Californian" policy.

PS: I should clarify the last cheap shot, since it's now abundantly clear that the initial headlines about the Cupertino case totally distorted what was going on (and in doing so, neatly illustrated how media bias is at least as much a matter of sensationalism as of ideology). Use corrective here.

Posted by David at 3:45 PM | Comments (0)

Saatchi Collection turned down by Tate?

It's Charles Saatchi's word against Sir Nicholas Serota's, and the sparks are flying:

Charles Saatchi, Britain's foremost art collector, reveals today that he offered to give his entire £200 million art collection to the Tate Modern last year, but that his extraordinarily generous donation was rejected out of hand by the museum's director, Sir Nicholas Serota.

In an interview published in The Telegraph today, Mr Saatchi says that his gift, which would have transformed the Tate Modern into the world's leading museum of contemporary art, was turned down by Sir Nicholas last October, without consulting his trustees, on the grounds that the museum "already had commitments". . .

Sir Nicholas has strongly denied Mr Saatchi's accusations.

He initially told The Art Newspaper, in its issue to be published this week, that he believed the art collector had only offered to loan his 2,500 works - which include Tracy Emin's My Bed, Marcus Harvey's portrait of Myra Hindley and Damien Hirst's shark suspended in formaldehyde. . .

Yesterday, however, his publicist contacted The Sunday Telegraph to try to claim that there had never been an offer of any sort.

From the Telegraph, which clearly believes Saatchi's story; a more balanced appraisal in the NY Times.

Posted by David at 3:31 PM | Comments (0)

November 26, 2004

Save the sardines!

Worried about global warming? No more snacking on sardines in your SUV:

By eating phytoplankton sardines may prevent the process where when phytoplankton die they settle on the bottom of the ocean and then get broken down (presumably by bacteria) to release methane. Over-fishing sardines may increase methane release into the atmosphere.
Methane is a major greenhouse gas. Read more at FuturePundit.

Posted by David at 5:23 PM | Comments (0)

Battlefield locket find

A tiny silver locket - discovered in a Westonzoyland field - may have fallen from the neck of a soldier fighting for the King at the Battle of Sedgemoor more than 300 years ago. The ornament, measuring little more than two centimetres, is a first for Somerset - and there are hopes it will eventually go on display at the County Museum in Taunton.

Historians are excited by the romantic find and, although they cannot be certain, believe it does date back to the battle - the last to be fought on English soil.

It is thought the silver, dating from between 1662 and 1685, was worn by a supporter of King James II, whose troops fought rebels led by James, Duke of Monmouth, born in 1649 as the illegitimate son of King Charles II and Lucy Walter. The battle ended in victory for King James.

Full article here.

Posted by David at 4:58 PM | Comments (0)

Not our fault after all

New evidence casts doubt on the theory that sabre-toothed cats, mammoths and other big North American mammals were driven to extinction by human hunting.

Genetic analysis of bison remains shows their populations started to crash around 37,000 years ago - long before humans arrived in the New World.

The authors claim that climate change and other factors are a more likely culprit in the extinction.

From the BBC.

Posted by David at 10:11 AM | Comments (5)

November 25, 2004

Open season at the V&A

THIEVES have raided the Victoria and Albert Museum, forcing the closure of its world-renowned ceramics galleries, only days after The Times revealed serious security concerns.

Fifteen 18th-century Meissen figures were stolen yesterday during museum opening hours. The thieves levered up a glass cabinet in the afternoon and helped themselves. The thefts, the second within two months, astonished Will Geddes, a security expert, because he had given warning of security lapses only last week in The Times.

Commissioned by an adviser to the National Trust and English Heritage, he had conducted a survey of the V&A’s security after the theft of Chinese jade antiquities from the same ceramics galleries on October 4. He had found unlocked fire exits, open access to electrical controls and a shortage of guards only weeks after the previous theft.

From the Times. The previous Times report mentioned above is here; it contains the following quote:
Peter Osborne, former museums security adviser for Britain’s national collections, estimates that 500 objects are stolen each year from public collections, but said that museums had been reluctant to spend money on security.
Acquisitions budgets may be tight, but what's the point in acquiring if the stuff's just being walked out the door? I would think that hiring more guards would be a popular move, given the government's push for museums to be more socially aware in other respects. This recent rash of brazen daylight thefts in London's most prominent museums is a scandal; what changes will result remains to be seen.

Posted by David at 8:09 PM | Comments (1)

November 24, 2004

Yet more on plagiarism at Harvard

What's good for the students isn't necessarily good enough for the faculty, as the NY Times reports:

When it comes to its students, Harvard University policy shows little tolerance for plagiarism.

Undergraduates found guilty of "misusing sources" will "likely" be required to withdraw from the college for at least two semesters. They will lose all coursework they have done that semester (unless it is virtually over), along with the money they have paid for it. They must also leave Cambridge.

With such a policy for students, what is Harvard to do when two of its most prominent law professors, Charles J. Ogletree Jr. and Laurence H. Tribe, publicly acknowledge that they have unintentionally misused sources, as happened this fall?

Previous post here.

Posted by David at 11:21 PM | Comments (0)

Good stuff . . .

. . . over at Regions of Mind:

Background to the current upheaval in Ukraine;
Simon Schama: great historian, bad election analyst (here and here);
Race in 19th-century California;
and, as usual, incisive writing on American regionalism (here and here).

Posted by David at 9:23 PM | Comments (0)

Gallé exhibition looted

GLASSWORKS by Emile Gallé thought to be worth over £1.5m have been stolen from a Swiss museum. Thieves seized 15 items by the French master craftsman in the raid on the Neumann Foundation, housed in the castle of Gingins overlooking Lake Geneva, on October 27. . .

The gang’s haul included five technically superb libation cups decorated with the dragonfly motif that Gallé made shortly before he died in 1904. They formed part of a Gallé exhibition, jointly organised by the Musée de l’Ecole de Nancy with loans from other museums in France and Germany. This was due to be the last exhibition at the Neumann Foundation, which closes its doors in December.

From the Antiques Trade Gazette.

Posted by David at 7:26 PM | Comments (0)

Chardin to be returned as Nazi loot

A painting in the Burrell Collection in Glasgow was looted from its Jewish owners during the Nazi era and must be returned, officials have declared.

Le Paté de Jambon, attributed to the artist Chardin, was acquired "in good faith" for the collection established by shipping owner William Burrell.

However, advisers to the Department For Culture Media and Sport said it was seized from an auction house in 1936.

They want it returned to the claimants, who wish to remain anonymous.

From the BBC.

Posted by David at 6:32 PM | Comments (0)

Pilgrim communism

It's one of the ironies of American history that when the Pilgrims first arrived at Plymouth rock they promptly set about creating a communist society. Of course, they were soon starving to death.
So writes Alex Tabarrok, in noting the perspicacity of Governor Bradford in describing the episode. My question: what of the afterlife of Bradford's account? Did any political philosophers take note of it in debating later collectivisms?
Posted by David at 2:25 PM | Comments (2)

WW1 disfigurement

THE darker side of the Science Museum's Wellcome Trust exhibition, Future Face, is all too palpable in this week's horrifying exhibit, simply entitled The Gunner.

This cast of a badly disfigured First World War veteran poses some powerful questions. Is it worth living when your face is considered "abnormal"? How much do your own facial features contribute to your sense of identity? The medical authorities who looked after this man evidently decided that men like him could not face the presumed indignity of revealing the true extent of their injuries. In the town of Sidcup in Kent -- the site of a hospital built specifically for facial injuries towards the end of the war -- benches were painted blue to warn local residents that men sitting on them might have a frightening appearance.

Full article in the Times of London.

Posted by David at 2:25 PM | Comments (1)

Reading 'em the Riot Act: still on the books in Rhode Island

Ran across an ongoing discussion of the original Riot Act here; this link notes that it is still the law of the land in Canada, and in modified form, Little Rhody. Can't wait to try it out:

§ 11-38-1 Proclamation commanding dispersal. – (a) If any persons numbering twelve (12) or more, being armed with clubs or other weapons, or if any number of persons consisting of thirty (30) or more shall be unlawfully, routously, riotously, or tumultuously assembled, any justice of the supreme or superior court or of a district court, justice of the peace, sheriff, mayor, deputy sheriff, town sergeant, or constable shall, among the rioters or as near to them as he or she can safely come, command silence while proclamation he or she is making and shall openly make proclamation in substance as follows:

"By virtue of the laws of this state in relation to routs, riots, and tumultuous assemblies, I charge and command all persons here assembled immediately to disperse and peaceably to depart to their habitations or to their lawful business, upon the penalties inflicted by law: God save the state."

Posted by David at 9:37 AM | Comments (0)

Athens metro: tunneling around the past

What happens when you try to construct a subway system in an ancient city? This article in the Telegraph highlights the discoveries and the consideration given to archeological concerns, but also gives some hint of the (unstated) losses.

Posted by David at 9:24 AM | Comments (0)

The origins of large-scale commercial fishing

Intensive fishing by humans may be more ancient than previously thought, suggests a new archaeological study, which shows that significant marine fishing may have started in the UK in the 9th century. . .

James Barrett and colleagues at the University of York looked at fish bones, dating from AD 600 to AD 1600, recovered from a range of archaeological sites across Britain. To their surprise, they discovered a sudden and dramatic change in the intensity of fishing and the type of fish deposited at the sites in just a 50-year period, around AD 1000.

“Before AD 1000, most of the fish had been freshwater, but there was a rapid change to marine fish – mainly cod and herring – which was very unexpected. And it was by far the biggest change we saw during the period we looked at,” says Barrett.

The researchers had been expecting an increase in marine fish at about AD 1400 - corresponding to the new Icelandic cod-fishing channels that were expanded at the time - or perhaps in AD 1500, when fishermen explored the New World areas.

From New Scientist.

Posted by David at 9:14 AM | Comments (0)

Affirmative action -- for males

We've been watching as the male-female balance has evened out and then tipped in favor of the females, not just in test scores but also in college, graduate school, and professional program admissions. And we've wondered what might happen if the trend continued.

Here's part of the answer: some schools are now quietly adjusting admissions standards to favor the men. Back when women were underrepresented on campus, you knew female graduates were the real thing. No one was cutting them any slack. Now, for different reasons, we seem to be ending back in much the same place.

Hat tip to Orin Kerr at the Wonderful World of Volokh.

Posted by David at 8:29 AM | Comments (0)

November 23, 2004

Connoisseurship by computer?

A group of Dartmouth College researchers will describe a new technique today they hope can help art specialists figure out how to avoid being snookered by an expert forger. The method, published in the National Academy of Sciences online report, is also sure to draw skepticism from many curators, who don't believe their jobs can be reduced to a mathematical equation.
Many articles on this work; this extract is from the Boston Globe, which takes a pretty well-balanced view of the new technique's possibilities and likely limitations:
Farid acknowledges limitations to his method. It won't work well with contemporary art, particularly those paintings that don't have much contrast. In addition, the method won't work well with an artist who has changed style, which can happen over years or even in the same painting.
Above all, there will have to be much, much more testing and refinement of algorithms.
Posted by David at 9:01 PM | Comments (0)

Ancient Greek ship to Portsmouth

The remains of a 2,500-year-old Greek trading vessel have arrived at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard where the experts behind the conservation of the Mary Rose will preserve its ancient timbers.

Discovered in 1988 about 800 metres from the coastline off the city of Gela in Sicily, the ship dates to between 500 and 430 BC.

It was found in several layers of silt at a depth of five metres (16 feet), but wasn’t excavated until summer 2004 when some 700 timbers and fragments were raised to the surface.

Read more here.

Posted by David at 8:47 PM | Comments (0)

Bronze Age finds in Scotland

Archaeologists in Scotland have made a "hugely significant" discovery by unearthing the best and most comprehensively-dated Bronze Age site in the UK, The Scotsman has learned.

The tightly clustered group of 29 cremation pits, one containing eagle talons, was uncovered at Skilmafilly when the gas maintenance company Transco was excavating and installing its £56 million gas pipeline from St Fergus to Aberdeen.

With no previous indications of the burial site, either from ground-level observations or aerial photographs, the pits were stumbled on by chance. Transco called in archaeological contractors to check the site while the pipeline was being installed.

Full article here.

Posted by David at 8:42 PM | Comments (0)

Elizabethan cannon from Thames shipwreck

Followup on this recent story:

A 16th-century cannon, believed to be the most significant find since the Mary Rose, has been recovered by marine archaeologists.

Experts from Wessex Archaeology and the Port of London Authority (PLA) found the wrought-iron cannon during the recovery of a shipwreck from the bed of the Thames Estuary near Gravesend.

The cannon bears a grasshopper mark belonging to the coat of arms of Sir Thomas Gresham.

Sir Thomas, whose company cast cannons between 1567 and 1579, was a financial advisor to Queen Elizabeth I and founded the Royal Exchange in 1565.

Full story here.

AND MORE here:

Marine archaeologists have found in the mudflats of the Thames estuary the remains of an Elizabethan merchant ship which may have been carrying out a secret trading mission.

The 100ft-long vessel, one of the few Tudor merchant vessels ever found around Britain's coast, is of immense archaeological and historical importance. The ship was built of East Anglian oak at an east coast ship-building centre, probably Ipswich or Aldeburgh, around 1575 and its cargo and armaments suggest it may have been illegally trading with England's arch enemy, Spain.

Armed with at least four 3-inch-bore cannon, it was carrying a cargo of more than 100 8-metre-long folded iron bars, a few tin and lead ingots and a small number of Spanish olive jars, probably containing olive oil, when it sank, almost certainly in the 1580s or 1590s.

Posted by David at 6:19 PM | Comments (0)

Moroni exhibition in Bergamo

Entitled Giovan Battista Moroni. Lo sguardo sulla realtà (1560-1579), the exhibition runs from November 13 to April 3 at the Museo Adriano Bernareggi and in three locations in Bergamo's Città Alta (Palazzo Moroni, Chiostro di San Francesco, and, from February 11, the Biblioteca Civica). Full review in La Repubblica. Exhibition website here.

Posted by David at 6:05 PM | Comments (0)

London house for sale

Anyone wishing to contribute to the Cronaca purchase fund, remember -- give till it helps:

. . . the only listed house in the City of London with a private garden has hit the market.

Rectory House, this year's winner of the City Heritage Award, has three storeys, four bedrooms, a basement with medieval stonework, and a couple of gravestones in the front garden. . .

The three-storey, 5,000 sq.ft building is located on the small street of Laurence Pountney Hill, about 100 metres from the north bank of the Thames between London and Southwark bridges. . .

The estate agent handling the sale, Anne Currell, predicted it would be sold through a private sale "at or close to" the advertised price of £3.65m.

From the Telegraph.

Posted by David at 6:01 PM | Comments (0)

Medieval village rediscovered

Professor John Hunter and a team of 15 have discovered what is believed to be a buried medieval crofting settlement while carrying out general field survey work in and around a harbour village in the Western Isles.

Artefacts buried under the clachan of Rodel, on south Harris, may provide evidence that the community was once an international trading centre, with vessels arriving from Scandinavia and also the Mediterranean. . .

Up to 30 houses are understood to be buried on a croft next to St Clement's Church, recognised as one of the grandest examples of medieval buildings anywhere on the Western Isles. Professor Hunter and his team, from the University of Birmingham, used geophysical technology to scan the ground and provide a "footprint" of the hidden village.

Full article here.

Posted by David at 5:57 PM | Comments (0)

I colori del bianco

Ancient (and medieval) sculpture was normally painted, in colors that the modern eye would find garish. Microscopic analysis of pigment traces has made it possible to reconstruct how statues and architectural ornamentation originally looked, but this work has not gained much attention outside of specialist circles.

Now there's an exhibition at the Vatican, with various famous bits of antique sculpture displayed alongside painted replicas. There's a review in the Guardian; Italian writeups at La Repubblica (with photos), RAI, RomaOne.

Posted by David at 10:30 AM | Comments (0)

Weapons of mass confection

I just haven't been able to get those Verdun-made exploding chocolate artillery shells out of my mind. There's something markedly unsettling about this particular assimilation of ordnance and the edible. And, in fact, I was unable to find much in the way of parallels. Prank candies and cakes really don't count, nor do Pop Rocks (though I did run across an amusing account from an RAF veteran of chocolate-covered marshmallows that were unsafe at altitude).

One non-food parallel: those Afghan war rugs (more here).

Posted by David at 7:26 AM | Comments (0)

November 22, 2004

Britain's biggest

A fossil bone discovered 12 years ago in the Isle of Wight may belong to the largest dinosaur found in Britain, according to research.

New analysis of the large vertebra, which is almost 2½ft (74.5cm) long, has suggested that it belongs to a huge herbivorous dinosaur from the sauropod group that measured more than 65ft from head to toe. . .

Although it has been displayed at the Isle of Wight Museum for several years, its significance was not noticed until it came to the attention of Darren Naish, a postgraduate researcher at the University of Portsmouth, in 2000.

From the Times of London (whose articles are now open to all, hurrah!).

Posted by David at 10:59 PM | Comments (0)

Google Scholar

Haven't had a chance to play much with Google's latest, but so far it doesn't look all that useful for few random historical queries I've tried. Probably more useful in the hard sciences, perhaps due to a larger amount of material online, if only in abstract. Anyway, will have to see how it evolves -- any comments from our readers?

Posted by David at 10:51 PM | Comments (0)

Vincent Brome obit

Vincent Brome, who has died aged 94, wrote over 35 books in a career that spanned nearly 80 years. A regular at the British Library, he was also a member of its advisory committee (1975-82), and a fervent supporter of its move from the British Museum to its new home in St Pancras, writing letters in support of the official policy to the Times Literary Supplement and the Times.

In 1997, Margaret Drabble, writing a farewell in the Guardian to the old reading room, noted that "biographer Vincent Brome has been working in the museum almost daily for more than half a century, and he still looks as though he's just about to be 60: the museum air must have preserved him."

In the Guardian.

Posted by David at 10:48 PM | Comments (0)

Boosting test scores, with modern pharmaceuticals

Randall Parker reports, leading off:

Adderall and Ritalin are becoming very popular to boost SAT and ACT test scores and improve performance in college.

Posted by David at 10:09 PM | Comments (0)

Treasure of the Sussex

More than 300 years ago, the flagship of the Royal Navy set sail on a secret mission to deliver a vast bribe to a wavering ally in the war against France.

But HMS Sussex never arrived, prompting the Duke of Savoy to switch sides in exchange for French gold. A violent storm off the coast of Gibraltar had swamped the ship, which sank with its precious cargo and the loss of all but two of its crew in 3,000ft of water.

However, an American salvage company and a Scottish archaeologist now believe they have found what could be the world’s richest wreck.

In the next few weeks they will begin survey work to establish whether it is the Sussex, before beginning a pioneering underwater excavation - the deepest ever attempted - and, they hope, recovering the "million pounds in money" sent by King William in 1694, which could be worth as much as £600 million today.

The plan to raise the Sussex’s gold, which was originally given the code-name Operation Cambridge, has been shrouded in almost as much secrecy as the original mission to prevent anyone plundering the wreck.

It has also proved highly controversial, with some archaeologists claiming the salvage company’s unique agreement with the Ministry of Defence, which stands to win a share of the recovered gold, could set a precedent for "the looting of wrecks around the world".

More here; previous post here.

Posted by David at 9:47 PM | Comments (0)

Save the art, or save the people?

At the height of the Cold War, with nuclear holocaust looming, British civil servants were engaged in a high-minded argument as to whether it was better to save priceless works of art or human lives.

The debate within Whitehall about how, or even whether, to evacuate masterpieces such as Constable's Haywain, or the Wilton Diptych, took so long that when disaster was truly imminent, no plans were in place, documents recently released at the National Archives reveal.

A certain beauty to that, I think. Full story in the Telegraph.

Posted by David at 9:47 PM | Comments (0)

Royal Museum of Scotland gets a rocket

A rocket called the Black Knight that dates from Britain’s 1950s space programme is to take pride of place in the Royal Museum of Scotland’s new £1 million science and technology centre.

The 15-metre high rocket, which has been gathering dust since Britain abandoned the space race in the early 1960s, is undergoing restoration at the museum’s site at Granton in Edinburgh.

The science centre, which will also boast a working steam engine, will open in the spring of 2006, in the first stage of the museum’s ambitious £70 million makeover.

More here.

Posted by David at 9:44 PM | Comments (0)

Exotic foods at Roman Bath

Exotic spices unearthed beneath the Bath Spa show military administrators lived in the lap of luxury in the city's early days. Food and architectural remains found preserved beneath the remains of Roman buildings provide new evidence of the high living enjoyed by the military rulers of what was then Aquae Sulis in the first century AD.

The remains were discovered in 1999, but have only just finished being analysed.

The ancient grapes, figs, coriander and a peppercorn - along with highly decorative architectural fragments - are believed to come from a military administrator's building, which was demolished when the city passed from military to civilian use in the second century AD. . .

The peppercorn is the first to be found on a British Roman site and only the third in the world, the other two being found at Pompeii and in southern Germany.

Full story here.

Posted by David at 9:14 PM | Comments (0)

Conscripted, for the mines

They are the forgotten heroes of the second world war, conscripted to serve in the armed forces but forced to do their service under brutal, dangerous conditions in Britain's coal mines.

Now efforts are being made to recapture for posterity the story of the Bevin Boys, the young men who were sent to work in collieries between 1943 and 1948 to provide the economic backbone for a crucial stage of the war effort. . .

However, surviving members of the group complain that they received little or no formal recognition for their efforts at the time and are still popularly misunderstood as draft-dodgers and conscientious objectors. . .

About 750,000 people worked in the mines at the time and, on average, one miner was killed every six hours and one injured every two minutes. . .

In the early stages of the war, British miners were allowed to join the armed forces, leaving a shortage of workers which soon became acute.

Sounds as if being a soldier was a better deal all around; no wonder the miners jumped to enlist. Full article here.

Posted by David at 9:02 PM | Comments (0)

The joy of dynamic templates

So perhaps it doesn't take much to give me a thrill, but now that I've finally fully upgraded Cronaca's Movable Type installation, I just have to tell the world how much faster everything runs with dynamically generated archive pages (all the individual permalinked posts, that is). Posting, editing, and commenting alike -- it's like switching from dialup to broadband. And when it comes to rebuilding (including despamming), raise that to the next power.

Here are some links that were helpful to me. To the various authors, my heartfelt thanks:
How it works and won't mess up your external links; 9 steps to a quicker installation; Dave's blog, with followup; .htaccess tips; and last but far from least, Migrate Your MT 2.x Blog To Movable Type 3 (essential reading for those of us with lots of legacy code).

ADDENDUM: Though MT-Blacklist 1.6.5 supposedly doesn't work with MT 3.x, to all appearances it kept blocking comment spam during the short time between upgrading Cronaca from MT 2.661 to 3.121 and installation of MT-Blacklist 2.01b. I still ended up having to clear out a bunch of spam, however, since I initially relied on the default blacklist rather than importing my old one. Nonetheless, since it was all on older posts, it was put into a queue for moderation and never appeared on the public site.

An unexpected consequence of doing away with comment pop-ups in favor of inline entries: a significant increase in bandwidth consumption. Logs show a sudden doubling (more or less) of pageviews per visit, and though I'd love to be better read, self-delusion has its limits. At least Cronaca is a pretty bare-bones site, so the increased bandwidth will add at most a few bucks a month to hosting charges.

CORRECTION: Upon further study of traffic reports, the increased bandwidth usage doesn't appear to have anything to do with the upgrade. Instead, it appears to be a real surge in traffic due to a couple of prominent links, but a surge that for some reason registered only in terms of page views and not number of visitors. Will have to check how AWStats registers links from sites like MSN (which also was recorded as a link from a search engine, rather than from another site).

UPDATE: Our recent bandwidth usage spike was due to Avantgo users, directed by a link on MSNBC. Avantgo appears to be rather ill-behaved, not just in downloading whole sites, but in not caching content so that the massive downloads occur repeatedly, even though the pages downloaded haven't changed. Note that others have had similar problems with badly configured RSS aggregators.

Finally, something important for those who opt for dynamically generated individual entries along with the caching option: while the dynamic option frees you from the need to rebuild, using the cache option means you may have to manually delete the cached (old) version of any entry where you delete a comment. This only applies to comments that have made it through any filtering and have already appeared on your public site.

Posted by David at 8:02 PM | Comments (1)

Holocaust victims' biographies online

Biographical details of three million Jews killed in the Holocaust are to be posted on the web for the first time.

Israel's Holocaust museum, Yad Vashem, said it was a "duty" to ensure that the six million Jews who died at the hands of the Nazis will not be forgotten.

The museum called its website a "work in progress" and said it would work to retrieve the details of every victim.

The database is partly based on more than two million "pages of testimony" given by survivors, family and friends.

From the BBC. The Yad Vashem remembrance project may be reached here.

Posted by David at 7:55 PM | Comments (0)

Master plan for Museumsinsel in limbo

A proposal by the British architect David Chipperfield to regenerate Berlin's Museum Island, the city's historical heart boasting five museums in the former communist east, could be derailed because of the project's cost.

German federal auditors have criticised the scheme for a new entrance building which would lead to the neo-classical museums - including the Pergamon and its renowned collection of antiquities - by a series of tunnels. . .

The tunnels would be expensive to construct because the museums were surrounded by water. "The floor of the Pergamon museum would have to be sunk," said the spokesman. "Technically, this is extremely difficult."

The criticism threatens to sink the master plan for Museum Island, a world heritage site and pedestrian area.

Full story here; the Museumsinsel master plan site is here.

Posted by David at 7:41 PM | Comments (0)

Baghdad Museum cylinder seals: don't buy 'em when they're hot

An expert on Iraq's postwar reconstruction was sentenced Monday to six months house arrest and two years probation for trying to smuggle into the United States 4,000-year-old artifacts stolen from Iraq's national museum in the chaos after the U.S.-led invasion.

Joseph Braude, 30, had pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Allyne Ross in August to charges of smuggling and making false statements. Braude could have faced up to 16 years in prison.

Full story here.

Posted by David at 7:34 PM | Comments (0)

Stonehenge, A History in Photographs

That's the title of a new book, noted in the Guardian. I've always found old photos of older monuments fascinating, not least in revealing how heavily restored, rebuilt, and out of context many of them now are. To a dizzying extent, on occasion -- as when a place known only from old, bucolic images turns out to be on the edge of a busy highway or serving as a public toilet in the middle of a slum. Sometimes the images are a good hundred years old or more, but too often the changes have been wrought in much less time. I think of the pictures my graduate advisor took around Istanbul when he was my age -- it's like a trip into another world.

Posted by David at 3:58 PM | Comments (1)

Hawass vs the amateurs

Zahi Hawass is one of the most powerful men in history - at least of archaeology - and he is angry . . . the theatrical, outspoken and Stetson-wearing Egyptian with a string of academic credits to his name and the power to dictate what the world is told about Ancient Egypt is being challenged relentlessly by two plucky French amateurs. The retired estate agent Jean-Yves Verd'hurt and the architect Gilles Dormion have for two years been applying for permission to poke a 15mm lens through a floor of the Great Pyramid at Giza. Behind it, they believe they will find the burial chamber of Chéops (Khufu), the pharaoh of the Fourth Dynasty who built the seventh wonder of the world, the 150-metre-high Great Pyramid. . .

What has emerged since the Frenchmen went public in September with their accusations is a backstabbing world of academic ambition, national pride, tourism dollars and television ratings. "Dr Hawass treats Egypt as his private hunting ground," says M. Verd'hurt, from Lyon. "They are speculators, amateurs!" comes the retort from Dr Hawass. . .

Not far beneath the surface of Dr Hawass's rhetoric, observers have detected a sense that he is tired of being bullied by foreign archaeologists and perhaps, in particular, the French. . .

The French amateur team say Dr Hawass's hostility towards them is principally motivated by his links to National Geographic, which has funded several of his digs and to which they believe he may have offered filming rights to high-profile digs.

Full article here.

Posted by David at 3:47 PM | Comments (1)

Macclesfield Psalter fund nears goal

Looks like the Getty is due for a disappointment. Guess they should have had someone run them up a bit higher:

A total of £1,543,303 has now been raised. The outstanding £180,000 is needed by 10 February 2005.
From the BBC.

NOTE: The big break came a few days back, as reported in the Telegraph:

The campaign to keep a magnificent illuminated medieval manuscript in Britain received a huge boost yesterday when the National Heritage Memorial Fund agreed to give £860,000 towards purchasing the Macclesfield Psalter.

Posted by David at 3:32 PM | Comments (0)

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