20 January 2014

Teaching about looted art to ten to twelve year olds

Ten years ago, I was invited to teach a workshop in a Jewish Day School outside of Ann Arbor, Michigan. The average age of the students was eleven or twelve years old.

Where to begin? Where to end?

I thought to myself that it was best to adapt to the ways of my hosts and to deliver a message that would appear to be appropriate and simple. Theft is wrong, regardless of who commits it. Buying stolen property is wrong and it’s especially wrong if you are buying stolen property from people who are being victimized because of their faith, their ethnicity, their belief systems, and their lifestyles.

Judge me, call me names, but I dare anyone of you to do what I did.

Sometimes one has to reach for simplicity, even over-simplicity, as long as the outcome is clear and the message is left unscathed.

I leave it to you to judge but someone has to do this. And in this instance, I accepted the job.

Two days well spent with enthusiastic kids who learned about provenance research and how to detect faulty provenances in less than a day. I gave them all the equivalent of a gold star.

Time well spent.