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Open Letter To ARCE - Lack of Professional Staff Qualifications

EDWARD D. JOHNSON

ATTORNEY AT LAW

5040 OCEANVIEW BOULEVARD

LA CANADA, CALIFORNIA 91011

UNITED STATES

TELEPHONE& TELEFAX (818) 957-7923

May 10, 2011

By E-mail and Regular Mail

 

Gerry Scott III

American Research Center in Egypt

8700 Crownhill Blvd., Suite 507

San Antonio, Texas 78209

 

Re: Lack of Professional Staff Qualifications -Luxor USAID Project

 

Dear Mr. Scott,

 

In checking ARCE’s website, I find John Shearman listed as Director of Wall Painting and Conservation at Khonsu Temple, Karnak.

 

Wall paintings, especially Egyptian ones, are fragile, delicate and require a specialized and high level of knowledge to successfully diagnose causes of their deterioration and to successfully treat and conserve them. The title of Director of Wall Painting and Conservation implies a quantum of knowledge about the subject sufficient for such person to competently and safely initiate and supervise such conservation, making sure what is done falls within the ambit of professional standards and that nothing done would constitute any possible harm to them. Mr. Shearman has no formal training at all in conservation, let alone conservation of wall paintings, and completely lacks any professional qualifications in the subject, which I have pointed out previously to ARCE and for which I was ejected from the Luxor project.

 

How is it that ARCE is justified in giving him this responsibility, especially in light of his past actions regarding other antiquities, when he ignored warnings that the use of certain older, discredited conservation techniques endangered the antiquities he intended to so treat and was prevented from so doing only by SCA intervention? How does this fulfill ARCE’s obligation to Egypt to treat its antiquities with care and respect?

 

The ARCE website also separately lists Mr. Shearman as Associate Director, Luxor. The listing states, among other things, that Mr. Shearman, "has managed several projects associated with historic preservation." These are unspecified, however, so it is impossible to evaluate what projects he has managed, or what his experience is. What projects would these be? When and where were they located? With whom did Mr. Shearman work, who can verify the particulars of these claims?

 

The listing also states, " With his record of managing large scale projects, he brings considerable experience to the numerous conservation projects spanning the New Kingdom through the Late Period of Pharaonic rule in the Luxor and Karnak temple complexes."

 

The listing does not say Mr. Shearman has a record of managing large scale conservation projects, or any conservation projects, at all, before his appointment by you to the Luxor position. Mr. Shearman is neither an Egyptologist, archaeologist, nor conservator, but a building contractor, so what experience does he bring to the Luxor conservation projects that are in any way germane to them?

 

There are further references to Mr. Shearman having worked intermittently in Egypt previously, for which no specifics are provided and finally a statement that, "His company, Shearman International Industries, specialized in providing construction management of archaeologically sensitive projects." As I understand it, Mr. Shearman’s expertise in this area consists of overcoming objections to and delays on construction projects occasioned by discovery of archaeological material at construction sites and pushing them to completion as quickly as possible, over and in the face of the need for salvage and related archaeology. What little writing he has done on the subject, in connection with his construction studies, seems to confirm this.

 

How is any of this relevant to a conservation project, where such conservation and possibly related archaeological matters need to be carefully evaluated, appropriate responses devised and professionally implemented?

 

Persons or organizations working with Egyptian Antiquities owe a duty to Egypt to have and apply the highest degree of professional knowledge and experience when doing such work, especially ARCE, as it holds itself out as representing professional American Egyptology. The lack of detail and specifics which would enable anyone to check and verify Mr. Shearman’s alleged experience and confirm he has sufficient qualifications and experience to properly oversee conservation projects of any sort dealing with Egyptian antiquities falls far short of that obligation.

 

I therefore call upon you and Mr. Shearman to publicly provide his professional CV, with specific details of projects he has worked on before coming to Luxor dealing with historic preservation as referred to in ARCE’s web site, along with what large scale projects dealing with antiquities he has managed before arriving in Luxor, providing specifics and details sufficient to allow the claims and statements made to be independently verified.

 

ARCE’s members, especially its professional ones working with antiquities or in Egypt, for whom ARCE claims to speak, are owed an obligation by ARCE, which is to ensure that its staff is of the highest and professional caliber, so as not to discredit its members. ARCE should be eager to show it has met that obligation. Will it do so?

 

Very truly yours,

 

Edward D. Johnson

 

c.c. www.arcecomplaints.org

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