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“Shipwrecked” Advisory Group

Statement on “Shipwrecked” Advisory Group Meetings, Dec. 8-9

Media only: Linda St.Thomas: 202-633-5188
Media website: http://newsdesk.si.edu

December 14, 2011

The Smithsonian’s Sackler Gallery of Art completed its two-day conference on “Shipwrecked: Tang Treasures and Monsoon Winds.”

Participants included experts from professional organizations such as UNESCO, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the International Committee on Monuments and Sites, the World Archaeological Congress Committee on Ethics, the Philippines National Museum and others.

The group recommended that Smithsonian take a leading role in bringing together interested organizations and countries to advance understanding of underwater cultural heritage through exhibitions (virtual and traveling), educational programs, professional training and symposia.

The key component of this recommendation is a re-excavation of the Belitung shipwreck site, following international best practices.

The exhibition shown at the ArtScience Museum in Singapore earlier this year will not be brought to the Sackler.

This recommendation will be considered by museum and Smithsonian officials as part of the Institution’s ongoing exhibition review process.

A news release about this conference was issued Dec. 8: http://newsdesk.si.edu/releases/sackler-gallery-convenes-advisory-group-discuss-shipwrecked-tang-treasures-and-monsoon-wind.

“With the approval and involvement of the Indonesian authorities this can become an exemplary initiative in international collaboration,” says Julian Raby, director of the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. “It can achieve multiple goals, and that is why it elicited consensus from the participants.

“Scientific re-excavation could reveal context that was lost or ignored in the original salvage operation. There is almost 50 feet of the hull that can be uncovered. The details of the ship can be better understood, and its ‘biography’ can be reconstructed, as experts try to determine where precisely it was made, and where it had recently sailed from. More can be discovered about the cargo, and more about the crew.

“The excavation and post-excavation research could become an ideal training experience for a new cadre of underwater archaeologists in the Southeast Asian and Indian ocean regions, a group already receiving training from UNESCO.

“For the United States and the Smithsonian, this could be an opportunity for the disciplines of archaeology and art history to work together to reveal as rich a story for the public as possible.”

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