September 24, 2003

PRICELESS ARTEFACTS, ETC

Where was the US military when this orgy of looting was taking place?

The NSW corruption watchdog today recommended charges be laid against a former employee of the Australian Museum over the theft of more than 2000 rare artefacts.

In its report, the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) said Hank van Leeuwen, a former employee of the museum in Sydney, had stolen rare and scientific zoological specimens between 1997 and 2002.

The report describes as audacious some of van Leeuwen's activities - at times he used museum vehicles to remove specimens and displayed in his home a large stuffed lion that was a museum heritage item first exhibited in 1911.

The items stolen included skulls, skeletons, skins and complete animal specimens in alcohol.

That copy is a touch dry. Letís Fisk it up a little:

Not since the Taliban embarked on their orgy of destruction against the Buddhas of Bamiyan and the statues in the museum of Kabul - perhaps not since the Second World War or earlier - have so many rare and scientific zoological specimens been wantonly and systematically stolen.

"This is what our own people did to their history," the man in the grey gown said as we flicked our torches yesterday across the piles of skulls, skeletons, skins and complete animal specimens in alcohol. "We need the American soldiers to guard what we have left. We need the Americans here. We need policemen." But all that the museum guard, Al, experienced yesterday was being a museum guard. "Look at this," he said, picking up a large stuffed lion that was a museum heritage item first exhibited in 1911. "This was Assyrian." The Assyrians ruled almost 2,000 years before John Howard.

Yes! Much better.

(Via reader Rob S.)

Posted by Tim Blair at September 24, 2003 04:16 PM
Comments

Charged? He should be congratulated for protecting the stuff against the ravages of modern museum curators.

Posted by: ilibcc at September 24, 2003 at 04:33 PM

Tim, please do more of that type of news. It's a lot funnier with some creative additions and takes some of the bland away. Sort of like the curator but without the jail-time.

Posted by: Jake D at September 24, 2003 at 05:35 PM

What a scream.

In view of the items, are they sure Leewin wasn't paid to tkae them awy.Though, the stuffed Lion would be a nice addition to the furniture.

Posted by: d at September 24, 2003 at 06:44 PM

The American troops were too busy seizing the Australian oil fields to guard the Australian Museum.

Next up for American Special Forces are the Australian breweries.

Posted by: perfectsense at September 24, 2003 at 07:35 PM

Ok, who talked?? The seizure of Australian breweries by US Special Forces was a top secret operation. Months of planning and training had gone into this and now it's wrecked because someone talked. Now we'll never have good beer for the troops. We'll have to settle for US beer.

About the museum artifacts:

Didn't anyone find it unusual that this employee had items at his home? He didn't try and hide them, they were out in the open. Is this some sort of perk for museum employees? If not, why did he feel so confident displaying some items in his home?

Posted by: Chris Josephson at September 25, 2003 at 03:23 AM

You can borrow books from a public library, what's wrong with talking home a stuffed lion?

Posted by: pooh at September 25, 2003 at 01:11 PM

Well, to be fair, Chris, unless he invited people from the museum to his home, who could tell he had museum artifacts instead of reproductions? Remember that most of the stuff in any museum is in storage, not on display.

Posted by: John Nowak at September 25, 2003 at 03:13 PM

Hank van Leeuwen, hauling another stuffed elephant through the door: "Honey, I'm home!"

Mrs van Leeuwen: "Honey, you've gotta stop bringing your work home."

Posted by: pooh at September 25, 2003 at 05:22 PM