For several years I collected media reports about the looting of archaeological sites, the theft of art and antiquities, and all sorts of crime and legal entanglement related to cultural objects. The resulting database became a valuable tool for my own research, and in the spirit of open data, I sought a way to make the information I collect available. Scanning online media for relevant articles was a time-consuming task (it took at least an hour every day) which results in approximately 70 newly-published articles added to the database per week. I didn’t want any other researcher to have to repeat what I’d already done.
In 2014 I began publishing a weekly news round up on my blog, Anonymous Swiss Collector. Those posts can be found here. Shortly after I started the posts, I created the Culture Crime News email list, an email version of the blog post, which is sent out every Monday. I also posted all new articles to my twitter account daily. Yet none of the above retained the searchability that I had access to on my own system. I wanted people to be able to find what they are looking for quickly and efficiently.
Thus, CultureCrime.org was born.
Thanks to the spectacular work of Tony Garnock-Jones, my favourite computer science collaborator, this database site was integrated with what I already did to archive these articles and put them to use.
I highly recommend that you read the FAQs before you get started searching so that you understand some of the decisions we made.
Please note that CultureCrime.org was a labour of love, of an idea of data sharing towards an open and collective research environment; it wasn’t part of a funded project. It, like many things, is an an attempt at how things should be in academia, not how things are. I think it is important, even vital, that academics put a ‘public face’ on what they do, to support each other and the interested public by sharing all aspects of their work and creating usable and free tools so that everyone might advance our disciplines. We’re all in this together.
Sadly, though, like so many unfunded things, it had to be shelved. As my career moved forward I had less and less spare time. I’m not collecting this data for myself anymore, so I can no longer spare the time to share it.
Perhaps the time and money will be found to bring the database back someday. I don’t see that on the immediate horizon but you never know.