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Who We Are

Dear Reader,

If you are reading this you are a member of ARCE, or someone interested in the organization. Over many years of ARCE membership and attendance at ARCE’s annual meetings many complaints have been heard about ARCE, how it works, is run and what it does. Until now, there has been no organized way for members and others to comment on ARCE’s policies and activities. Management of ARCE has been, at best, opaque. Disagreement with Management’s actions and policies has been discouraged, ignored, or squelched. In addition, some people in the field of Egyptology have not wanted to voice their complaints for fear of retaliation or being professionally disadvantaged in their necessary dealings with ARCE.

From this and as I have actually worked for ARCE for the last several years, from July 2007 through March 2010, at its project in Luxor, where I served as Assistant Director and Chief Conservator, I have been able to see close up many aspects of ARCE’s work and the conduct of its present Management. What I have seen and experienced are matters that need to be shared with members of ARCE, as much of it may be characterized as unprofessional, wasteful and inefficient. In some cases, which will be documented at other parts of this site, ARCE’s actions may be characterized as being based not on professional qualifications, but on non merit based criteria, e.g., who you know, rather than what have you done. This has worked against ARCE reaching the goals it should aim for and could otherwise achieve.

Two caveats before you read further. Some of you have known me for many years. Others do not. I first joined ARCE over 25 years ago. I have attended many of its meetings and have presented numerous papers on these occasions. I am a professionally trained archaeologist and archaeological conservator, certificated by UCLA and University College London, respectively in these areas.  I have been active in Egypt since 1976 and have worked continually in the field in Egypt for the last 22 years at sites including Giza, Saquarra, Luxor, the Valley of the Kings, Hierakonpolis and others, with Egyptologists such as Mark Lehner, Geoffrey Martin, Renee Friedman and Daniel Pohls. I have published numerous scholarly articles about Egypt in various journals, including JARCE, The Bulletin of the Egyptian Museum and others in conservation related journals.   

In 2007 I was made Assistant Director and Chief Conservator of the Joint USAID-ARCE
Luxor East Bank Dewatering Response Project. As such I was responsible for all conservation and design, management and running of the Archaeological Architectural Conservation Field School in Luxor, the subject of many articles in ARCE’s reports on conservation issued in the past several years. I also was deeply involved in designing and equipping the conservation lab built in Karnak.

I therefore write as someone who has a good deal of experience in Egypt, working with the SCA and first hand knowledge of ARCE’s practices over several projects. What I write will be documented whenever possible, often by way of copies of e-mails and other documents pertaining to the particular matter at issue. Where there is more general criticism offered, it will be based on information that is publicly available, though perhaps specialized where it concerns certain aspects of archaeology or conservation. But it will be factually correct to the extent it does not express mere opinion. The point is that this needs to see the light of day and get out to members.

Let me make clear that I am not against ARCE as an organization. It performs needed tasks and can and should make valuable contributions to Egyptology. What I am against is poor management in the several aspects of ARCE’s conduct that I will be posting about. This will range from poor selection of personnel, to wasteful use of funds and  specialists in their fields, to unnecessary, improper and dangerous decisions taken about conservation projects, to the undemocratic procedures used by present Management to prevent or frustrate dissenting opinion finding its way out to members, or running for ARCE’s Board. There is a lot to cover. It will take a while for all this to get onto the site. Please be patient, as there will be more added to the site as time goes by.

Once you read what is posted, you can draw your own conclusions. You may agree, disagree, or take a different position and offer different criticisms. The site will allow for that. The aim is to create a dialog between and among members with the ultimate aim that members will speak out and make known to Management that some things should and must be changed and that it cannot continue business as usual. Whether this is successful and changes occur very much depends on you and whether you will speak out as matters come to light.  

More than ever as a result of the political changes in Egypt and the damage to monuments all over the country during that period, those of us who are ARCE members and care about Egypt, its monuments and history must to see to it that gross waste, inefficiency and lack of professionalism in staffing and carrying out work in Egypt are prevented. ARCE’s management, which solicits member’s proxies every year at the time of the annual meeting, owes that to its members, whether Individual or Research Supporting Members, as well as private donors, who, through their contributions, enable ARCE to undertake projects in Egypt. Likewise, in this era of constrained budgets, ARCE’s management must act as the most effective steward possible regarding US taxpayer funds, which is a main source of its financing for many projects.

I hope after reading some of what appears here, you will take a more active role and if you are dissatisfied in any way with what is outlined, you will let ARCE’s Management know, so that things may be changed for the better.     

Edward D. Johnson

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