New publication: “Professional Ethics, Provenance, and Policies: A Survey of Dead Sea Scrolls Scholars”

We are happy to announce a new publication by two members of the WCOM working group.

Bonnie, Rick, Matthew Goff, Jutta Jokiranta, Suzie Thomas, and Shani Tzoref.  2020. “Professional Ethics, Provenance, and Policies: A Survey of Dead Sea Scrolls Scholars.” Dead Sea Discoveries 27 (2): 257–93.

In 2018, Rick Bonnie and Suzie Thomas were asked by a close Helsinki colleague, Jutta Jokiranta, to help developing an online survey to explore understandings of provenance issues among Dead Sea Scrolls scholars. Initially this was for a presentation in the  SBL International Meeting in Helsinki in the summer of 2018. Members of the audience back then, however, encouraged us to discuss the results in publication.

Abstract: “This article presents and discusses the results of an online survey undertaken in 2018, which targeted scholars of the Dead Sea Scrolls and associated research fields. Respondents were asked questions on the state of knowledge in the field regarding provenance issues and related ethics and policies. The goal of the survey was to establish the levels of awareness within Qumran and related studies concerning the role of the antiquities market, the potential accountability (or not) of scholars as perceived by respondents, as well as their general awareness of relevant policies and codes of conduct. The article discusses the key points that the survey raised, with the aim of offering textual scholars tools to assess their role in provenance issues.”

The article is currently behind paywall, but we are discussing the possibility of having it already open access. In any case, if you are interested you can contact Rick (rick.bonnie [at] for an offprint. Since Brill allows Green OA with a 12 month embargo period, the accepted (peer-reviewed) manuscript will be available to anyone in June 2021 from the University of Helsinki repository,


Nothing to do with us? New book sheds light on illicit trade of cultural objects

Cover image: Joonas Kinnunen

A new edited volume in the publication series of the Finnish Museums Association shows that the illicit trade in cultural objects is a topical issue also in Finland. It requires the attention of decision-makers, antique dealers, cultural heritage professionals and scholars alike. The civil war in Syria and the rise of terrorist organizations such as ISIS across the Middle East and North Africa have produced an ongoing humanitarian disaster. They have also created a wave of crimes involving ancient objects and significant cultural and historical sites. Media reporting has revealed this destruction of cultural heritage, as well as the looting and trafficking of antiquities. It is often assumed that these violations are confined to the countries of origin of cultural objects or to international centres of trade like Brussels, London and New York. However, illicit trafficking of antiquities and related distribution networks are a grave concern in the Nordic countries as well. Continue reading “Nothing to do with us? New book sheds light on illicit trade of cultural objects”

NOS-HS Workshop Grant Awarded to Strengthen and Internationalize Nordic Region Cultural Property Trafficking and Preservation Research

A research team comprised of scholars working at the forefront of Nordic region and international archaeology, ancient history, and cultural heritage preservation have been awarded a workshop grant from NOS-HS (The Joint Committee for Nordic research councils in the Humanities and Social Sciences). It will fund three workshops over two years in Stockholm, Oslo/Kristiansand and Helsinki. The workshops will present new methods to detect online trafficking, prevent forgery, the ‘authentication’ of the market by the academy itself, and the overall ethics of working with and communicating about cultural heritage, all through Nordic region and international case studies. Scholars at all career stages operating at the host universities and elsewhere will also have the chance to hear from and liaison with relevant parties throughout the museum, government and law enforcement sectors.

As is so frequently shown in the news, the plight of cultural objects, especially but not only in times of conflict, is a global issue, and it is important that also scholars and decision-makers in the Nordic region discuss these issues.

Figure from Palmyra in the Museum of Cultural History, Oslo, wearing a black ribbon in mourning of recent events.

The organizing team consists of Dr. Damien Huffer (Stockholm University), Prof. Suzie Thomas (University of Helsinki), Dr. Rick Bonnie (University of Helsinki), Prof. Visa Immonen (University of Turku) and Dr. Josephine Munch Rasmussen (Universities of Agder and Oslo). The workshops follow on from discussions raised at a symposium at the National Museum of Finland in 2017, organized through the University of Helsinki Future Fund project Working with Cultural Objects and Manuscripts. The organizing team are excited to further put Nordic region cultural property/heritage research into international context, bring the work of diverse international scholars to local audiences, and build new links with governments, law enforcement, museums, and beyond.

New open access article published: “Researching Cultural Objects and Manuscripts in a Small Country”

We have just published a new article documenting the progress we made as a research project. The article sheds light on the position of Finland in conversations on the movement of unprovenanced cultural objects, within the national, the Nordic and the global contexts. Finland’s geopolitical position, as a “hard border” of the European Union neighbouring the Russian Federation, and its current legislative provisions, which do not include import regulations, mean that it has the potential to be significant in understanding the movement of cultural property at transnational levels. In particular, we outline a recent initiative started at the University of Helsinki to kick-start a national debate on ethical working with cultural objects and manuscripts. Continue reading “New open access article published: “Researching Cultural Objects and Manuscripts in a Small Country””

Sanna Aro-Valjus speaking on WCOM at Nordic seminar in Oslo

On 12th and 13th December, the Nordic seminar on the legal aspects and experiences with culture crimes in the Nordic countries will take place in Oslo. The seminar hosted by the Norwegian Ministry of Culture in cooperation with the Faculty of Law of the University in Oslo. For more information on the event and its program, click here (in Norwegian).

WCOM project member Dr Sanna Aro-Valjus (University of Helsinki) will speak on Wednesday 13th December about our Finnish collaborative work to combat antiquities trade.

Ulla Tervahauta presenting on WCOM at international workshop in Berlin

On 7th and 8th September, the Third AHRC Workshop “Art, Crime and Criminals: Plunder, Looting and Destruction” takes place in Berlin at the Federal Ministry of Finance.

WCOM project member Dr Ulla Tervahauta (University of Copenhagen) will speak on Friday 8th September about the work of WCOM and our next steps.

The event is free to attend, with a pre-registration link.

The Workshop is organized by Professor Duncan Chappell, Dr Saskia Hufnagel and Ms Marissa Marjos.

That’s a wrap.. The #WCOMHelsinki Symposium was a success

On Monday and Tuesday, some 60-70 speakers and participants gathered together in the National Museum of Finland to discuss and debate issues regarding antiquities trafficking in Finland and the different responses from the museum, academic, and governmental communities. The symposium was a success and has given us much ideas for future research and collaboration… more about this later.

At the start of the symposium. Photo: Suzie Thomas.

If you weren’t able to join us in Helsinki, but still want to have a look at what’s been discussed there, then please check out the following Storify-post: We were happy to have a few ‘live-tweeters’ among our audience!

Our symposium also received some attention in the Finnish media, though not very much and with an emphasis on the looting and destruction of antiquities going on in Syria. See here the two news stories that have appeared:

YLE Svenska:

Finally, we would like to thank all the speakers and participants for making our symposium a success. We surely couldn’t have done this without you all!

Registration is open!

Welcome to the International Symposium “Working with Cultural Objects and Manuscripts: Provenance, Legality and Responponsible Stewardship” Monday 5 and Tuesday 6 June 2017, National Museum of Finland, Helsinki.

Registration is free and open until 28 MayYou can register here!


Fourth keynote speaker confirmed

We’re delighted to inform you that our fourth keynote speaker is confirmed. Dr. Magnus Olofsson is the Director of the Vasa Museum, Stockholm, Sweden. In addition to this, he has been also working as an advisor to the Swedish National Heritage Board.

Dr. Olofsson is a long-time ICOM Nord member and has been working on the subject of illicit trade for some time, such as lining out strategies for future work in Sweden, opening dialogue with antiquity dealers in the country, and launching a campaign to inform the public.

Dr. Olofsson’s participation in the WCOM symposium is generously funded through our partner, ICOM Finland.