Thursday, 21 February 2008

The 1970 UNESCO Convention and Local Laws

The objects returned from North American museums to Italy seem to have surfaced after the 1970 UNESCO Convention. This is in spite of the USA not signing up to the Convention until 1983. (The UK was quite a bit later in 2002.) There are advocates of the 1983 cut off point but the Italian Government has been effective in applying the 1970 deadline. (See "Cultural Ceasefire: is 1970 the right date?")

But some disputed cultural property could have surfaced before that crucial date. Take for example these three examples:
  • The Lydian Hoard returned to Turkey from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (see "Bonham's, Lydian Silver and a Code of Ethics" a related piece offered by Bonham's in London in 2007)
  • The Keros Haul from the Cycladic islands in Greece
  • The monumental Roman bronze portrait statues from Bubon in Turkey
Can notorious acts of looting be overlooked because they apparently took place before 1970?

Is the 1970 merely a helpful and convenient marker? Is it hard for a museum (or a private collector) acquiring antiquities since 1970 to say that they were unaware of the issues?

And where do national laws on antiquities fit into all of this?

And what about objects that were acquired before the creation of modern nation states?


Ian said...

Looking for resources for undergrad paper, class "History of Archaeological Thought" My paper in planning, who owns the past from a museums perspective,is it national or International? Reading James Cuno, "Who owns Antiquity?"
Any info. much appreciated.

David Gill said...

First, have a look at my review of James Cuno in AJA (available on-line). There are other reviews linked from Looting Matters.
Second, see what Philippe de Montebello has said. His Berlin lecture is linked from Looting Matters.
Third, consider the universal museum. Look at the British Museum.
Fourth, have a look at my bibliography for this topic on WorldCat.
I hope this helps.
Best wishes

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