Walter V. Robinson—1998 Outstanding Public Service Award

Award Citation:

Walter V. Robinson, journalist, is the first recipient of the Archaeological Institute of America's Award for Outstanding Public Service. Presented for exceptional contributions to the public understanding of and interest in archaeology, this award is given in recognition of the important series of articles written by Walter Robinson of the Boston Globe on the plunder of archaeological sites.

Walter Robinson has devoted two decades of his professional career to reporting on local, national, and international affairs for the Boston Globe. In addition to serving as the Globe's bureau chief at Boston City Hall and the Massachusetts State House, he has been the White House and national political correspondent during three Presidential campaigns. Robinson was Middle East Bureau Chief in Jerusalem, reporting on the Persian Gulf War in 1990–1991. The paper's Assistant Managing Editor since 1993, he has been a roving foreign and national reporter and has written extensively on artworks stolen from victims of the Holocaust during World War II. His articles on the modern-day traffic in antiquities looted from archaeological sites have focused national scrutiny on a problem of worldwide concern.

Walter Robinson's timely reports on the damaging effects of pillaging to supply the international trade in antiquities explore long-standing conflicts between countries rich in archaeological heritage and U.S. museums. Illuminating the scope and inner workings of the illicit trade through front page coverage of disputed objects from Central America, West Africa, South Italy, and Turkey, Robinson's skillfully researched articles have brought the cause of archaeology to audiences well beyond the Boston area. Together with Globe reporter John Yemma, he has covered Guatemala's recent attempts to recover Mayan artifacts, and has written as well about Mali's pursuit of its plundered patrimony. Two important investigative reports prepared by Robinson on location in Sicily trace artworks allegedly looted from the American excavations at Morgantina to prominent New York collections. Giving voice to divergent perspectives, he demonstrates an impressive ability to elucidate the complex legal and ethical dilemmas that confront collectors, dealers, museums, and archaeologists. Dramatic discoveries of the evidence of past civilizations will continue to thrill audiences, but the probing inquiries of Walter Robinson encourage best practices and will help to safeguard this precious evidence for future generations.

The Archaeological Institute of America is proud to bestow its first Award for Outstanding Public Service on Walter Robinson, in recognition of his commitment to the values of archaeological research, the accountability of public institutions, and the education of the wider public.

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