Donna Yates

Donna Yates

Archaeologist in a criminology department. I study antiquities smuggling, art crime, preservation of cultural heritage. Not your average antiquarian! Twitter: @DrDonnaYates

Location Glasgow, Scotland


  • Hoi Judy. Ik woon ook in Maastricht, en Ik ben archeoloog!

  • Hoi! Mijn naam is Donna. Ik woon in Maastricht in Sint Pieter met mijn man en mijn zon. Ik kom uit Georgia. Ik werk bij de universiteit.

  • Note, in criminal fraud cases, the financial loss/harm need not have actually occurred for some charges to apply, it just needs to be possible. It has to have occurred in civil cases.

  • I'm sorry to say that I am not following here Patrick. Fraud is a difficult thing to prosecute both criminally and civilly. In both cases, one need to prove foreknowledge and intent to deceive, and there must be a harm of some kind, which is almost always financial.

    Cases that do not have those elements are not considered fraud in most legal systems. If you...

  • There will be more on restitution in week 3 Anabela

  • Now we just need a case of stolen Bakelite collectables!

  • Great suggestions. Do check them out folks!

  • These are very good questions. What do you all think?

  • Your militaria collector needs to be careful. Playing thick rarely gets you all the way out of a civil fraud suit!

  • Dominique, you've just hit on ANOTHER type of art crime: art insurance fraud. Well done!

  • There may be slightly a lighter tone this week, but the gloom will be back next week, don't worry. Next week we have colonialism, state crime, and holocaust to deal with.

    But seriously now, I've tried to come up with 'fun' topics here since this is an introduction, but I consider the theft and destruction of any heritage to be a serious matter, but the...

  • Upgrading security is all about the money and sadly there isn't any for museums. The Museo Nacional de Antropología is no exception, I am sorry to say. There's recently been announced a major funding cut to the INAH so sadly Mexico's museums and heritage sites are going to suffer...

  • I have mixed feelings about glass over paintings too David. Here's a blog entry I wrote about that while looking at a disputed Van Gogh at Yale:

    When it comes to art security we have to decide what matters more to us: protecting the painting from harm or...

  • To each their own Christian! I'd say, however that as a man Caravaggio was pretty hopeless. Or just terrible. A terrible person. Great painter, terrible person.

  • Well in this case you are talking about a Norwegian national treasure that many people in Norway feel is an important element of their culture and heritage. It is part of Norwegian identity and an important part of it too. Many would feel that the recovery of this tangible symbol of intangible Norwegian culture (not to mention world culture) is worth it...even...

  • This is an interesting topic Gary, for many reasons that have to do with this course, particularly the types of cases we will look at in week 3.

    Because these paintings are known by different names in different languages, in cases where loss victims must establish claim to, say, a painting stolen from an ancestor by the Nazis, it is very difficult to...

  • Admittedly it is a bit unclear what the circumstances were in this case. We're going by what was publicly said, but I think we could all do a bit of speculating.

  • You're a few steps ahead of us! Mona Lisa coming up.

  • Just letting you all know, I've JUST made a new website outlining the learning options for Antiquities and Art Crime at the University of Glasgow...including this course. Take a look if you are interested:

    I had just a bit too much fun making those skull circles from Dutch 'vanitas' paintings :)

  • Both very good choices!

    Anyone for "F for Fake" by Orson Welles?

  • I think it is interesting to think of "authenticity" as having a sliding scale. In the school of vs after vs copy vs fake. We are closer or father from an ideal that is set by both our needs and by our cultural understandings of, well, reality!

  • We'll have a whole couple of steps on vandalism vs graffiti this week Sofia!

  • I wish we had more time in this course to go into laundering and white-collar art crime. It's something we focus on at a master's level (see ) but there is simply too much art crime for this short course, so to speak. Good comment!

  • And let's discuss it!

  • Donna Yates made a comment

    Great discussion everyone. I will see you all in the next week! I'll be traveling for much of the rest of the course to do training in Beirut for Syrian lawyers and heritage professionals on how to collect evidence needed to bring about the return of antiquities that have been smuggled abroad.

    For more info see :...

  • It's a dark underworld behind the glass cases, no?

  • It's very timely to be thinking about the 1906 act as it is under threat! Act now to protect your National Monuments!

  • Not exactly Kimberle, but he did have a good long run. Check out Making the Mummies Dance, his memoir about his time at the MET for some discussion on it

  • For that, Julia, I suggest reading The Lost Chalice by Vernon Silver. It's the story of the OTHER pot (or maybe it's a 3rd pot). You can get it used on Amazon for very cheap:

  • You all are ahead of the game. I talk about that issue in week 3!

  • Seems like "the way it's done" Marianne, no?

  • Never insurance, but sometimes the country of origin foots the bill, sometimes the museum returning does, sometimes the cost is shared. It's all hashed out in the return agreement.

  • Dr Tsirogiannis speaks with full Greek authority on antiquities topics :)

  • Exactly Gerard, and those ones are pretty much always labeled as such.

    Marianne, if we are talking about museums, the best way for them to obtain legal antiquities today is to do it through official exchanges and long term loans from museums in other countries. Everyone wins, everyone benefits.

    If we are talking about private collectors: well some...

  • Well, sadly I don't get round-the-clock research assistants to film me! Consider this a weekend addition to the scripted stuff. A bonus, not a bit of core material. Something different. Remember that as these were being recorded, live questions were coming in. It couldn't be scripted.

    There are two more like this so if you find the format not to your...

  • "Why" is the pertinent questions. All hows and whats lead to why.

  • Agreed Michael. Both can be found on under publications

  • I always say I ruin museums for people. Really, I love museums, I want them to be at their best for us.

  • Very true! You should check out the Shipwrecks futurelearn course. It covers looting from shipwrecks

  • Totally true. Asking the right questions can be the hardest step.

  • Next week, complication in contemporary art :) It is all complication

  • This is learning in action Harry! The goal is to make everyone to just that extra little bit of thinking.

  • It can really go on forever! I want to give you more information rather than less: everything at your fingertips!

  • Excellent Camilo, I am glad to hear that! In the very last step of the course I have links to all sorts of organizations and projects if you want to follow up for more information.

  • And there is PLENTY of that!

  • I love a good rant :)

  • It's still like that more or less, I was there two weeks ago.

  • Most recently, I think, photos were released of the Louvre following the Paris attacks which were attempting to show the sharp decrease in museum goers in the aftermath. The main image was a photo of the Mona Lisa with guards but no viewers. To a small extent, perhaps that is what was next? Symbolic value again of course.

  • I don't know Barrie. I've spent quite a bit of time looking at the high-quality photo of it on Wikipedia and I think it is a particularly good painting. We all have our own opinions though

  • Hi Chris. If you are heading to the Louvre, I suggest going on Wed or Fri night when they are open until 9:45pm. The crowed around the Mona Lisa is still there but is much much smaller. Two weeks ago I had a look and there were maybe 15 total, not including the two Mona Lisa only security guards. Yes, the barriers are rough and they keep you far back, but you...

  • Some certainly have tried to argue it recently, but yes only in cases where ownership has passed to someone else. I guess we can plumb the idea that artists still own their work, to a degree, after it is sold but I doubt that will hold up anywhere. Kevin Sharkey, last I saw, was saying that he owned these pieces that he was arrested over:...

  • I love presenting this case study. It brings out everyone's thoughts and passions. The visceral reaction we have to the urn being smashed is really quite spectacular if you think about it. I feel it so keenly too. Great discussion everyone!

  • Yes in most cases!

  • Hi Tracy, our quizes aren't serious. Simply for fun. A way to get you thinking about the topic and perhaps looking at paintings in a slightly different way.

  • The content or Prof. Mackenzie's Scottish accent? :)

  • I encourage everyone to read more about them. It's quite an interesting story. A good number of the Rembrandt Project board quit at one point for rather murky reasons. Retirement? Disagreement? But as Lily says many owners of Rembrandts were quite upset by what the project decided about their pieces.

  • Hi David, there are people doing exactly that and quite recently. It's the hot new thing and we're getting interesting results...results that are sometimes challenged

  • I wonder if any of the museum folks here can step in and offer some insight. These are good questions. I'm tempted to say "It all depends on how much cash is on hand", but I think that's too easy an out :)

  • Thanks for the link Charlotte. I love the folks at Yale's Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage. They tell great art forgery stories and are worth following for sure.

  • Alas, limited space Christopher. This is just a taster course so quite a bit got the cut.

  • Psst. You're a few steps ahead of us. We'll get to that

  • That is a very good point Patricia. Museums, especially public ones, are in a position of power to some degree. They are the gatekeepers of fine art for nearly all of us. We trust them and we don't like having that trust violated.

  • HI Paul, the key might be, as we will see in a later activity, is if the viewer knows that the piece is a fake (or knows that it might be a fake). Interesting neurological research indicates that knowing a painting is fake or even thinking it might be changes how we experience the piece quite dramatically. We process it differently. So, yes, if we don't know...

  • Hi Howard, people do still speculate! that said there are very, very few Vermeers. This is all of them: Most of them have solid provenance. If there are van Meegrans still hanging they might other forgeries, not Vermeers

  • Ha yes!

  • Exactly Orlando. We humans can't help but see what we want to see.

  • Agreed Charlotte, but I think that these very recent high profile cases show that there is a very real space in the market for high quality provenance research consultancies. Outside experts that buyers hire. Yes, this exists to an extent but its a place for expansion that could make serious inroads with collectors. I'm just waiting for some of my more...

  • That is the key to an effective forgery: giving the target audience exactly what they want.

  • Hindsight is 20/20 as they say. This quite often happens in forgery cases, after the fact we can only see the 'wrong'. We'll talk more about that :)

  • Hi Anna, we have an activity on detecting forgeries coming up!

  • Hi Sarah, you've just reminded me that the painting that inspired the novel, The Goldfinch by Fabritius, is going on display here in Scotland.

    I only have a small window where I can go see it. I must mark my calendar

  • I'm not sure! Remember there might have been additional factors such as previous offences or he could have been armed. He could have been on parole and violated it. Not saying either of those were the case but there are possibilities in that area.

  • Again you beat me to it Charlotte, yes may museums, especially smaller ones or historic house museums that have notable art collections, are minimally insured.

  • Exactly what I was going to suggest Charlotte! Thanks!

  • A motivated thief with enough time can get around anything. In a way, much security is about increasing the time it would take for something to be stolen, hopefully enough that the attempted theft will be detected. A lock frame like that increases the time.

  • And on going, and on going Barrie. Here's are a few articles about some of those ongoing issues:

    You can guess I am interested in every Scottish art crime case !

  • That's a fair point Frederick. Perhaps that was a poor word choice on my part. I would say that the point went against my wishes :) But mostly I wished to convey that the issue was not anything to do with the strength of the case against the thieves, rather it was a flub elsewhere.

  • I'd love to see some recent interviews with him Malcolm. You're right, they'd be fascinating!

  • I think it was likely "any offer is a good offer". But I believe the only peoplep who could tell us are the thieves themselves.

  • Very true!

  • I guess it depends on what you mean by success! It depends on what the goal of the thieves is. In this case, I am not sure we fully understand what was going through their minds. In a way, they might think success is publicity, infamy, and not going to jail

  • Depressing times on that bridge!

  • Exactly Christopher!

  • I felt that way too when I was researching this article. I didn't know about the poem, for example.

  • Very true Christopher. The low-end of the art market is where theft and resale has the most possibility. Think something that's price tag is so low that no one is going to bother paying to check if it is in the Art Loss Register. This is the same with forgeries. At the middle and lower end of the price scale, forgeries abound simply because people are less...

  • You all are a few steps ahead of us! We'll be talking the Gardner Art Heist in a later step.

  • Victoria's right. Very difficult. To go back to antiquities, Dr Sam Hardy recently released a paper looking into the "looting to order" idea.

    "Is looting-to-order “just a myth”? Open-source analysis of theft-to-order of cultural property"

    You can access it here if you are interested:

  • Hi Sonja, well...they really can't! That's the real mystery. For the most part, that is why we say most museum thieves have no idea what they are doing. They take the piece because they can, imagining they will find someone to sell it to. They find out quite quickly there is no market for it. It's likely that most art thieves wouldn't bother if they knew what...

  • Aww thanks! We do what we can. It was fun trying to keep it meaningful and complete, but still keep it to a watchable time

  • Dare I ask which space John :) Indeed our National Museum has suffered some rather embarrassing recent thefts.

  • Hi Clare, Yes that's an idea that comes up quite often. The big Van Gogh bust this last month sort of sounds like that And you all might know that theme from the Goldfinch. Really, a lot of it is speculation based on not the best evidence but there aren't too many other options.

  • Hi Charlotte, it is interesting you mention Lucy in the same post as replicas. Well, interesting to me! One of my strongest childhood memories was seeing a display about Lucy in the Buffalo Museum of Science with a replica skeleton and a way to measure how tall you were compared to Lucy. The image of it is so clear in my mind. I was so jazzed by it that I...

  • There isn't a lot of evidence that entrance fees increase museum funding, oddly enough. People tend to donate a LOT more to free museums in all respects, often more than they'd pay in entry. I think lobbying is the way to go.

  • Hi All. Thanks for that! I'll move this activity to the end of the week next time around.

  • Thanks Sue, yes! I do love them. I even like the Steve Martin ones. Steve Martin, by the way, was recently the victim of art fraud, see:

  • Hi Irka, believe it or not there are some forgery cases that are not about profits, at least not monetary ones. We'll look at one of those later this week

  • They certainly explore and even drum up their own controversies on that show!

  • Magnus, exactly, and I think that is the danger in just blindly believing some of the news stories coming out of the region about antiquities. We have to wait for the dust to settle to unravel what has gone on. Sadly the dust isn't settling.

  • Hi Angela, you are meant to only do just one. If something is going a bit strange there, please contact FutureLearn's techhelp. They run the running of the actual site. Meg and I can only really offer you discussion of content. Sorry about that!