Thousands of artifacts seized at Indiana home

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Authorities seized thousands of Native American, Russian, Chinese and other artifacts that have "immeasurable" cultural value from the private collection of a 91-year-old man in central Indiana, the FBI said Wednesday.

The items, which also came from Haiti, Australia, New Guinea and Peru, were collected by Donald Miller of Waldron over eight decades, FBI Special Agent Robert Jones said at a news conference. Waldron is southeast of Shelbyville in Shelby County, but Miller's home is in Rush County.

"The cultural value of these artifacts is immeasurable," Jones said while refusing to disclose details of any of the individual items taken from Miller's property.

Some items were acquired improperly, but Miller, who traveled extensively, obtained others legally or before laws affecting them were on the books, Jones said. Federal authorities will attempt to repatriate illegal items with their rightful owners, he said.

Miller was cooperating with the investigation. It was unclear whether he would face any criminal charges, Jones said. Miller could not be reached for comment. His home telephone number rang busy Wednesday evening.

Video shot from television helicopters showed an FBI command vehicle and several tents at Miller's property.

Miller stored the items in several buildings on his property.

Larry Zimmerman, a professor of anthropology and museum studies and one of several experts assisting agents in cataloging and preserving the collection, said the quality of the items was variable but Miller had maintained them in good condition.

"I have never seen a collection like this in my life except in some of the largest museums," Zimmerman said.

As the items were assembled over several decades, it will likely take a lot of time to determine the age and origin of all of them.

"Mr. Miller has made an attempt to safeguard and protect the items," Jones said.


  • or maybe his family
    Don't be so quick to paint the government "bad guys" in this. The man is 90 years old. He collected and took care of this stuff. Maybe the family doesn't know what to do with this amount of treasure, meaning inheriting it, cataloging it, being responsible for legally dispensing of it, and and the easiest thing to do became calling in the authorities who have the resources to handle this. The family may have worried about the legal and financial ramifications, or if he has few or no descendants, he may have become concerned about the right thing being done with all these artifacts that mean so much to him and his life and that could end up on the black market, or be destroyed , or whatever poor end it could come to. If he or his family called in the FBI, they were doing the right thing for the artifacts and the smart thing for their own inheritance and peace of mind.
  • Here's how
    Laws change. Something that may have been legal becomes illegal and can then be seized. I'm not a lawyer but if anything he purchased was stolen from graves, even if he didn't know it, the artifacts require proof of origin by the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. Of course, it doesn't take a huge leap of imagination to realize that lots of these sales are probably still taking place or have taken place in recent years. Who can monitor them all? At least in this case they were purchased by a man who cherished them, maintained them, and didn't intend to toss,them aside or sell them, piece by piece, to the highest bidder. He kept them as a collection, and instead of handling this quietly it is being dragged into the public eye! To what end? It even made NPR today.
    • He reported that he had these items himself!
      I saw one news report which noted that he reported the info himself. In other words, he wasn't trying to commit a crime and my guess is that he became concerned how his collection would be handled after he died. He obviously respected and maintained these artifacts very well. In fact, most items were obtained legally. Now what will happen as they spend the decades they say it will take to determine what to do? Those artifacts will just set there! And what about the ones he obtained legally?
    • Police state
      This country is getting scarier every year. I can't imagine what this old man was thinking as he stood watching federal agents swarming onto his country property.
    • Why the investigation?
      Usually, these things get the attention of the government because someone was either jealous or envious of Miller's possessions. If he would not sell it to this person, they may then call up the FEDs or a high ranking official who they know (friend) to get the ball rolling. Even if no illegal activity is finally determined, it causes a lot of disruption and anguish to the accused party. Sometimes, the items "somehow" even disappear or get "lost" despite having them held in a bonded facility.
    • ??
      why are the taking his stuff? when did it become illegal to buy interesting things while traveling? And why is the governemnt concerned that this man has a collection? I don't get why they care if he traveled and bought interesting things...it's his choice to travel and purchase; how it is illegal?
      • What??
        They did a terrible job explaining why they are taking all of his items. Does he get to keep the items that were obtained lawfully? This sounds like the government going in and taking a man's personal possessions to me.
        • fascinating
          Videos show an outstanding collection - who would have thought the best museum in Indiana was in a Rush County home? No doubt an extremely interesting gentleman. Hope he plans to donate these items (and their history) to a local museum so that all of us can enjoy them. Took the FBI decades to discover what many people already knew - that he had a collection, in plain sight and you could get a tour by asking?? Maybe they could drop this 'investigation' for a while and help with the homicides, meth labs and political corruption in Indiana?
        • You preach it
        • Why doesn't the FBI do their real jobs and leave this guy alone!
          They can waste money on this crap! But they won't do anything about any of the corruption in this state! They will not investigate IURC, FSSA, INDOT, or DWD! But they can use a platoon of agents to deal with a 91 year old collector!

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