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Looking Ahead: 2017

As we look ahead for 2017 there are likely to be some key themes.

The Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Bill is likely to complete its passage through Parliament and pass onto the statute book. However it is likely to be applicable to material coming from conflict areas in the Middle East and a new legal response will be required. I also remain unconvinced that there is sufficient resource within London (and certainly not outside it) to enforce the legislation. The Cultural Property APPG will be changing its focus to museums and there is likely to be discussion about repatriation.

It is not clear how Brexit negotiations and intentions will affect the protection of the UK's cultural property or co-operation with other European nations to enforce the restrictions on movement of recently surfaced cultural property. The Heritage Alliance is clearly watching this brief.

Due diligence is a theme that has emerged from the Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Bill. Although we hear that auction houses and galleries are conducting due diligence checks, it is also clear that suspect material continues to surface on the market (including known material from Syria). There is a need to move away from an over-reliance on art databases, and to replace it with solid research on the authenticated collecting histories.

Even so, I suspect that we will see more material identified from the Schinoussa, Medici and Becchina archives.

Heritage Crime is a continuing problem in the UK. I am acutely aware that the theft of lead from medieval churches in East Anglia is damaging the fabric of some of the finest heritage structures we have in the region. However it is also clear that there is a passive acceptance in most of the archaeological and heritage communities of the use of metal-detectors on archaeologically sensitive sites in England and Wales.

I am also aware that heritage more broadly, and archaeology more specifically, will need to be seen to be contributing to the economy of the UK (and indeed other countries). Some of these broader trends will be addressed though our research unit, Heritage Futures (heritagefutures.org.uk), in collaboration with Professor Ian Baxter.

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