FBI's Art Crime Team Raids 91-Year-Old's Personal Museum, Won't Say What They Found

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
April 3 2014 2:05 PM

FBI Raids a 91-Year-Old Man's Personal Museum, Won't Say What It Found

51311324-objects-representing-some-of-the-animals-that-were-and
These objects are housed at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. Officials won't say what they found in Miller's personal collection.

File photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

FBI agents descended on the home and makeshift personal museum of a 91-year-old Indiana man yesterday, seizing thousands of what officials described vaguely as cultural artifacts, at least some of which authorities believe may have been obtained illegally.

Officials are being noticeably tight-lipped about the whole thing, although we should note that the owner of the home, Don Miller, has not yet been arrest or charged with anything. Here's more about what little we know and a lot of what we don't, via the Indianapolis Star:

Robert A. Jones, special agent in charge of the Indianapolis FBI office, would not say at a news conference specifically why the investigation was initiated, but he did say the FBI had information about Miller's collection and acted on it by deploying its art crime team.
FBI agents are working with art experts and museum curators, and neither they nor Jones would describe a single artifact involved in the investigation, but it is a massive collection. Jones added that cataloging of all of the items found will take longer than "weeks or months." ...
The objects were not stored to museum standards, Jones said, but it was apparent Miller had made an effort to maintain them well.
Advertisement

Miller lives in Waldron, a rural town about 35 miles southeast of Indianapolis built on property that was once Iroquois land. Along with American Indian objects, experts believe Miller's collection also likely includes items from China, Russia, Peru, and New Guinea to name but a few. Jones wouldn't put a price tag on the total value of the collection, although he did say that the cultural value is "immeasurable."

The investigation is focused on identifying each artifact and how it came to be in Miller's possession, presumably because at least some of the items are illegal to possess privately. Nonetheless, the FBI has acknowledged that Miller—who is believed to have built his collection over the past eight decades—might have acquired some of the items before U.S laws and treaties were on the books prohibiting their sale or purchase.

Kelly Tunney is a Slate intern in New York City.

TODAY IN SLATE

Medical Examiner

Here’s Where We Stand With Ebola

Even experienced international disaster responders are shocked at how bad it’s gotten.

Why Are Lighter-Skinned Latinos and Asians More Likely to Vote Republican?

A Woman Who Escaped the Extreme Babymaking Christian Fundamentalism of Quiverfull

The XX Factor
Sept. 22 2014 12:29 PM A Woman Who Escaped the Extreme Babymaking Christian Fundamentalism of Quiverfull

Subprime Loans Are Back

And believe it or not, that’s a good thing.

It Is Very Stupid to Compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice

Building a Better Workplace

In Defense of HR

Startups and small businesses shouldn’t skip over a human resources department.

How Ted Cruz and Scott Brown Misunderstand What It Means to Be an American Citizen

Divestment Is Fine but Mostly Symbolic. There’s a Better Way for Universities to Fight Climate Change.

  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 22 2014 6:30 PM What Does It Mean to Be an American? Ted Cruz and Scott Brown think it’s about ideology. It’s really about culture.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 22 2014 5:38 PM Apple Won't Shut Down Beats Music After All (But Will Probably Rename It)
  Life
Atlas Obscura
Sept. 23 2014 9:01 AM Tristan Da Cunha: Life on the World's Most Remote Island
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 22 2014 7:43 PM Emma Watson Threatened With Nude Photo Leak for Speaking Out About Women's Equality
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus
Sept. 22 2014 1:52 PM Tell Us What You Think About Slate Plus Help us improve our new membership program.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 23 2014 8:46 AM How Men Talk About Relationships in Rom-Coms: While Playing Sports
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 22 2014 6:27 PM Should We All Be Learning How to Type in Virtual Reality?
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 23 2014 7:00 AM I Stand with Emma Watson
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.