Don Miller is 91 years old, and in his rural community of Waldron, Indiana he’s something of a legend.
When Andi Essex got an eyeful of Don Miller’s gigantic basement collection of artifacts he’s acquired from his travels around the world, she was enthralled.
“It’s unreal,” Essex told WISH-TV in Indianapolis, adding that the “full skeleton is what blew my mind” and that her “favorite” was Miller’s piece of Hitler’s bunker.
The 91-year-old is a veteran, former teacher, and was part of the Manhattan Project which created the atomic bomb — and over eight decades has traveled to more than 200 countries, collecting and bartering for artifacts along the way.
“He’s just a very interesting, interesting guy,” Essex told WISH.
Miller’s collection of artifacts, which he’s picked up from his decades of globetrotting and finagling, picked up the attention of the FBI.
And this was the result…
That’s correct. The FBI descended on Miller’s house with moving trucks, command vehicles and crime-scene tape, and began a systematic dispossession of his belongings.
In other words, they’re robbing him in public.
FBI agents Wednesday seized “thousands” of cultural artifacts, including American Indian items, from the private collection of a 91-year-old man who had acquired them over the past eight decades.
An FBI command vehicle and several tents were spotted at the property in rural Waldron, about 35 miles southeast of Indianapolis.
The Rush County man, Don Miller, has not been arrested or charged.
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.”
“Frankly, overwhelmed,” is how Larry Zimmerman, professor of anthropology and museum studies at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis described his reaction. “I have never seen a collection like this in my life except in some of the largest museums.”
Let’s repeat this: “The Rush County man, Don Miller, has not been arrested or charged.”
So why are they invading his home to take his property away?
“Over the last several months, an FBI investigation has determined that Mr. Miller may have knowingly and unknowingly collected artifacts, relics and objects of cultural patrimony in violation of several treaties, federal and state statutes,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Robert Jones.
The TV report from WISH in Indianapolis contains some footage of the artifacts in question…
Supposedly, Miller is “cooperating” with the FBI. He’s old enough to remember Ruby Ridge, one imagines.
This is a scandal. The man is 91 years old. If there are a few items here and there that belong to Indian tribes or others, surely some negotiations could ensue to repatriate them. On the other hand, if Miller wasn’t stealing those artifacts one wonders why he or his heirs would have to give them up.
We haven’t heard Miller’s side of this. It will be interesting to see what he says about it.