« The Rule of Law Trampled on the Red Carpet | Main | Amicus Brief by First Amendment Professors in Snyder v. Phelps »

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Musings on the Cultural Property Field from Italy



(Not my pic, but I saw it on many, many sites without attribution.  It can be found easily using Google Images.) 

The cultural property field is not just about restitution.  It’s also about preservation of monuments, objects, heritage and the archaeological record, among other things.  When objects are clandestinely ripped from the ground for the black market, their contexts are destroyed and we lose historical data from which we would know so much more about beautiful objects.  I’m currently writing during a sleepless, hot night in beautiful Amelia, Umbria, a town outside of Rome with a rich history (but I wasn’t able to post until my return flight’s layover in the slightly less beautiful Charlotte airport among the din of Jamba Juice production).  Umbria is a place of incredible archaeological richness.  For example, in Amelia, the tower outside the beautiful Catholic church at the top of this hill city utilizes Roman and pre-Roman archeological materials.  In Rome, I managed to squeeze in time at the Roman Forum, Palatine, Borghese Galleries (and surrounds) and Piazza Navona (for tartufo).  But, I must return to my husband and four-year-old son.  My son believes part of my mission to Italy was to determine which Transformers Italian kids like.  The outcome of this anthropological study remarkably coincides with the secret Transformer stash in our basement.   

Anyway . . .  Italy passed its first “in-the-ground” statute vesting ownership of all unearthed antiquities in the state by 1909.  Greek vases have nonetheless, since then, been dug out of Roman soil by the truckload and trafficked through “reputable” dealers into some of the most esteemed museums in the world, including the Getty, the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Met to name just a few of our most esteemed institutions that have returned loot.  Over 100 objects have been returned from U.S. museums and collectors in the last three years or so, largely as a result of Polaroids found in a raid in raid on a Swiss warehouse in the Geneva airport Freeport, as documented in the Medici Conspiracy.  Some of the antiquities are now on display in Rome, including in the National Etruscan Museum in the Villa Giulia. 

  The reason I traveled to Italy was to speak at a conference hosted by the Association for Research into Crimes against Art (ARCA), a think-tank which runs the first Masters program in the interdisciplinary field of art theft.  Presentations, which will be posted on-line in the near future, covered a diverse array of fields, including museum security, cultural identity, archaeology, the relationship of looting and terrorist funding, Nazi-looted art and more.  I particularly enjoyed hearing from Giovanni Pastore, former Vice-Commandant of the Carabinieri Division for the Protection of Cultural Heritage.  Part of his presentation was broadcast on Italian television.  Do you love antiquity?  History?  Beautiful objects?  Culture?  Heritage?  Art – old or new?  If so, I hope you’ll consider joining the American Society of International Law Interest Group on Cultural Heritage and the Arts.

The field is highly polarized.  Very few of us agree with each other on all issues, but most of us are open to a good debate and introduction of new views.  The field consists of a small number of lawyers, but a much larger community of people involved in archaeology, site preservation, government, museums, collecting, auction houses, military, indigenous groups and other organizations, and there is room for more - more profs, law students, and others!  Even if it’s just a passing interest, come learn more about the law surrounding cultural property and heritage!  Let me know if you're interested in writing for our publication, Cultural Heritage & the Arts Review or ordering it in hard copy for your library. 

(P.S.:  Apologies for likely font problems.  Computer issues and 20+ hours of travel are contributing factors in addition to my higher comfort level with things 70-3,000 years old than with blogging.)

Posted by Jen Kreder on July 14, 2010 at 07:16 PM | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Musings on the Cultural Property Field from Italy:


The comments to this entry are closed.