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Major Getty Paper Challenges Cultural Heritage Policies

January 4, 2018. The Case for Global Responsibility to Protect Heritage in Conflict The first J. Paul Getty Occasional Paper in Public Policy is Cultural Cleansing and Mass Atrocities: Protecting Cultural Heritage in Armed Conflict Zones, published December 2017. While Cultural Cleansing and Mass Atrocities is intended to “provide guidance about how best to pursue an international framework for the protection of cultural heritage in wars,” the 45 page paper should be required reading for everyone involved in cultural heritage from museum curators to archaeologists, diplomats and NGOs. The entire paper is available to download for free. What follows is a summary of its key points. The authors, Thomas G. Weiss and Nina Connelly, cover much more than cultural cleansing and horrific crimes against human societies. The paper analyzes political and diplomatic history showing which policies to protect heritage have worked and which, much more often, have failed. The authors argue in favor of re-framing the international cultural policy debate, turning away from extreme nationalism and embracing broader concepts of global stewardship and international protection of heritage as a more workable approach to halting destruction in war and preserving mankind’s achievements for the future. In “The Problem,” the first chapter, the authors describe how a humanist approach to protecting cultural heritage is similar to protecting human rights. They identify the responsibilities to protect human beings and to protect cultural heritage as inseparable and requiring similar policies and strategies: prevention of harm where possible, swift reaction to remedy harm when inflicted, and accepting the duty to rebuild social and physical structures going forward. “Air, water, and culture,” they say, “are essential for life.” (p6) They argue that one perceived barrier to the protection of cultural heritage is essentially a false choice – the idea that there is a hierarchy of importance, or that the protection of people and the protection of heritage are non-complementary priorities. The paper defines cultural destruction during a conflict in broader societal terms than international conventions have in the past. These cover (1) deliberate damage and destruction during war, including destruction as a form of “cultural erasure” or “cultural cleansing,” (2) collateral damage to cultural property inflicted in order to achieve a different goal (for example, to secure strategic resources, or to kill people hiding or barricaded in a monument, a justification used for recent Syrian bombings by its military), and (3) forced neglect, such as occurs when traditional populations are forced out of a region. Weiss and Connelly examine the challenges to ending cultural destruction, both through “building on existing legal and normative tools” and through pursuing a “new policy norm.” They begin with the three pillars of current international policy on cultural heritage set forth by the United Nations in 2005: The primary responsibility of each nation for protection of the cultural heritage within its boundaries, The international responsibility to fortify the states’ ability to protect heritage, and The international responsibility to respond in cases of egregious state failure to act. The authors question how policies that “protect” cultural heritage can be valid when the beneficiary of that policy is not the people, but the state, and when the enjoyment of cultural heritage is not equally granted to all the individuals under the authority of the state. Weiss and Connelly identify state sovereignty – one of the pillars of current policy – as an obstacle to developing more effective policies to prevent harm to heritage. They note that the wanton destruction of cultural heritage in recent decades has not only been perpetrated by terrorist groups and other non-state actors, but also undertaken by government...

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“I Must Have It!” Art, Crime and Value in Film

By Mariam Hale January 4, 2018. First in a series on the representation of cultural property in popular culture. Cultural property is generally defined as artifacts, artworks, texts, or historic locations, important to a nation, a people, or to humanity as “cultural heritage.” In the modern world, places or objects designated as cultural property can serve many purposes. They attract tourists, educate the public, stimulate research, and inspire artists. In cinema, on the other hand, archaeological sites and historic venues exist primarily to add interest to the background of a story. The courts of the Forbidden City or the canals of Venice make striking locations for chase scenes and gun fights, while major museums such as the Louvre or London’s National Gallery are suitable settings for romance or covert meetings. Occasionally the museum, historic site, or work of art does play a more central role in the plot of a film. Unfortunately, the qualities for which cultural property is treasured in the real world hardly seem to matter in cinema. Scripts rarely include any serious consideration of art’s aesthetic or historic value. According to the movies, artworks and antiquities exist to be stolen, fenced, utilized in arcane rituals, or blown up. A consequence of cinema’s emphasis on the monetary value or mystic power of art and artifacts is a proportional erosion of the notion that art has real, intangible worth that can be neither quantified nor monetized, but which nevertheless renders it essential to human civilization and happiness. The majority of films about things or places regarded as cultural property follow one of three basic storylines: the heist, the treasure hunt, or the righteous return. Later articles in this series will address both the ‘treasure hunt’ film genre, with its dramatization of the pursuit of archaeology or art history, and the ‘righteous return’ plotline, which has often been inspired by real-life restitutions to individual owners of art stolen by Nazis. This first article takes for its subject the heist film, and its implications for the public’s understanding of cultural property, art, and the law. The art-heist has become a standard plot in cinema. Although they are less popular destinations than banks or casinos, museums have had their share of visits from charismatic thieves. Topkapi (1964), How to Steal a Million (1966), and The Thomas Crown Affair (1999) are just a few of the many films focusing on the museum, not as a venue for art appreciation and public education, but as a target for a burglary. The theme’s popularity endures; this year, Ocean’s Eight will follow a team of thieves as they attempt to steal a necklace during the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s annual gala. An art heist narrative is, at the most basic level, a story of an object moving in space, from one location (e.g. a museum) to another (the thief’s hideout). The difficulty, danger, and profitability of this transfer is what gives interest to the film. Almost invariably, the history, meaning, or beauty of the artwork in question is entirely irrelevant to the plot. In art heist movies, the art functions as what Alfred Hitchcock called a “MacGuffin,” an object whose sole purpose is to be sought after by the movie’s characters. The MacGuffin drives the plot forward, but its particular properties (apart from its desirability) have no effect on the film’s events. The MacGuffin is interchangeable, its nature arbitrary. The irrelevance of the specific qualities of artworks to their importance in films may be reflective of a general lack of public interest in the fine distinctions between artifacts drawn by connoisseurs, collectors, and curators. The...

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STOP Act Remains Threat to Longstanding Federal Policy

STOP Act Fails to Get Out of Committee in 2017 – Prognosis for 2018 Second Session of Congress is Uncertain At the end of 2017, the Senate Indian Affairs Committee sent nine bills to the Senate floor for passage – all passed with Unanimous Consent. The Safeguard Tribal Objects of Patrimony Act, S. 1400, known as the STOP Act, was NOT among them. It appears that a number of Senators on the Indian Affairs Committee heeded the questions raised by ATADA, CCP, the Global Heritage Alliance, and other organizations. The groups variously raised concerns about the constitutionality of provisions forbidding trade in unspecified objects, the negative economic consequences for Southwestern states and the harm to museums and private collectors by making it federal policy to return all Native American objects to tribes. The version of the STOP Act introduced in 2017 remains before the Senate Indian Affairs Committee through the second, 2018 session of the 115th Congress. There have been no changes to the bill since its introduction on June 21, 2017. (A 2016 bill of identical title but somewhat different intent was introduced in 2016 but died in committee at the end of the 114th Congress.) A parallel bill is before the House, the Safeguard Tribal Objects of Patrimony Act, H.R. 3211, which has been before the Subcommittee on Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs and the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations since last August. It is hoped that the issues covered in testimony and outlined below will continue to raise concerns about the STOP Act as written, and will engage the public in developing more positive public policies to protect tribal, economic, museum, and academic interests in 2018. Senate Testimony on Private Property Protections for Collectors and Museums To reprise the issues raised by the bill: On November 8, 2017, three organizations representing the interests of collectors, the art trade, and museums gave written testimony to a hearing at the Senate Committee for Indian Affairs. The Safeguard Tribal Objects of Patrimony Act of 2017, or STOP Act (S. 1400, HR 3211) would affect thousands of collectors of American Indian art, Indian artisans, and businesses throughout the Southwest. ATADA, the Committee for Cultural Policy, and Global Heritage Alliance provided critical perspectives on the bill, which threatens the trade in Native American art, and will hamper museums in their efforts to protect and share Native art and culture. If passed, STOP would impose broad restrictions on the circulation of tribal art and fundamentally alter Congress’ past support for private and public collecting. Committee for Cultural Policy Testimony on STOP Act Global Heritage Alliance Testimony on STOP Act ATADA Testimony 2017 STOP Act While supporting respect for tribal patrimony, restoring communally owned, inalienable objects to tribes, and protecting archaeological sites from looting, the three organizations argued that the STOP Act will not achieve these goals. The Act is harmful to both tribes and Southwestern states and unconstitutionally fails to give notice of what would be illegal to export. Although the legislation was triggered by French auctions of tribal artifacts, no proponent of STOP has shown how it would change the operation of French law. France is currently a market center for international tribal art from nations in Africa, Asia, and South America that already have export laws. Paris annually hosts the largest tribal art fair and market in the world, the Parcours des Mondes. How Would a Person Know When They Were Breaking the Law? Lack of notice to US citizens of what would violate the law and trigger a 10-year penalty was a key issue for...

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Catalonia Seeks Independence: Spain Orders Art Returned

December 29, 2017.  As Spain Divides, Removal of Religious Relics is Tied to Demand for Autonomy The first orders issued by the central government of Spain after suspending the pro-independence government of Catalonia required a Catalonian museum to send artworks to neighboring Aragon. The orders were the first made after a decision by Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to implement a never-before utilized Article 155 in Spain’s constitution to overturn the election of Catalonian independents to a majority in Catalonia’s regional parliament. The order brought 500 demonstrators to the Lleida Museum in the early morning hours to protest, chanting, “Hands up! This is a robbery,” as government officers hauled the artworks away to neighboring Aragon. According to Gareth Harris, writing in The Art Newspaper on December 11, 2017, in an interview with local press earlier in 2017, Catalonia’s cultural minister, Santi Vila, said, “Aragonese authorities have a great interest in recovering pieces in Catalan museums, but have no desire to recover other objects from Sijena that are, for instance, in the Prado in Madrid. Why? For political reasons.” A snap regional election in Catalonia on December 21 called by Prime Minister Rajoy failed to deliver for either the Conservative or Socialist parties, traditional opponents which had both argued against independence and for maintaining the Spanish constitution. Instead, pro-independence parties held a slight parliamentary majority after the December vote generated an unprecedented 82% turnout. This left independents in essentially the same position as after an October 1, 2017 referendum and November declaration of independence. They had a narrow mandate for independence, but no means of putting it into effect. After the October vote, Rajoy had invoked Article 155 of Spain’s Constitution for the first time, fired the entire regional government and suspended Catalonia’s regional autonomy. Spain’s central government also took control of Catalonia’s radio and television, police, and finances. But in the December snap election in which Spain hoped to gain support for a united Spain, Catalonian voters reinstated pro-independence government leaders, who had to campaign from prison and exile. However, Rajoy’s political strategy to combat Catalonian separatists continues to work primarily through the courts, employing claims of corruption, rebellion and sedition against independents. While a future political scenario could involve a three-way government of independence-leaning parties – even if the reelected officials can take their seats, there no guarantee that they will be able to agree on more substantive economic issues. Meantime, Carles Puigdemont, the head of the largest vote-getter, the PDeCAT Party, is in exile in Brussels, fighting an international warrant. He faces arrest if he returns to take up his post as President. Spanish courts have indicted and imprisoned many other civil-society leaders. (On November 19, Spain’s Attorney General, José Manuel Maza, who headed the prosecution, died suddenly of a liver infection, but the prosecutions have continued without delay.) On December 30, Puigdemont demanded that the newly-elected Catalan government reinstate him and all other elected officials. According to Sebastiaan Faber and Bécquer Seguín, writing in The Nation, pro- and anti-independence Catalonian political parties share similar but ill-defined positions on economic and employment issues, such as curtailing individual salary supplements and other aspects of what is viewed as a too-generous welfare state. The issue of Catalan autonomy, however uncertain the results may be, is galvanizing the population. It is not surprising that what might be deemed a purely symbolic question of where certain religious artifacts will rest has become the focus of controversy, demonstrations, and violent clashes between police and pro-independence activists. The Diocesan and Comarcal Lleida Museum (Lleida Museum for short) is owned by the Lleida city...

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Industry, Indians and Archaeologists Battle Over Chaco Canyon

December 29, 2017.  Federal Leases Will Determine Future of Ancient Puebloan Lands Twenty miles of difficult dirt road separates visitors from UNESCO World Heritage Site, Chaco Culture National Historical Park. This is not the biggest barrier, though, to public access to the Chaco civilization.  Not far outside the park’s 53.09 square miles, the federal government has leased 843 acres of federal lands to oil, gas, and mineral interests for $3 Million, and another proposed sale in March 2018 includes lands less than 10 miles from the park. Critics fear that oil and gas money may become the controlling factor in managing these ancient lands. Ancient Civilization at Chaco The designated Chaco Culture Historical Park was at the center of a vast civilization – a part of Ancestral Puebloan culture – that existed for over 300 years in what is now the US Southwest. Chaco Canyon holds the remains of grand kivas and great houses – Pueblo Bonito, Una Vida, Peñasco Blanco and others. It is one of the most significant cultural sites in the United States.  The Hopi, Zuni, Navaho and Pueblo peoples of the Four Corners region (Utah, New Mexico, Colorado, and Arizona) all claim ancestral and spiritual ties to Chaco and its connected communities. Chaco was also part of an extensive trade network as evidenced by archaeological finds of cacao and macaws from Mesoamerica, marine shells from the Pacific coast, as well as raw and crafted copper from western Mexico, all of which have been found in the Ancestral Puebloan lands. For example, researchers have discovered cacao residue in the pottery at many sites and a sash made of red macaw feathers that was found in the Abajo Mountains, near Blanding, in what is now a part of the contested Bears Ears National Monument. Although pueblo peoples are said to have a connection to the region that spans thousands of years, Chaco Canyon itself flourished between 850CE and 1200CE. The park’s website states, “By 1050, Chaco had become the ceremonial, administrative, and economic center of the San Juan Basin. Its sphere of influence was extensive. Dozens of great houses in Chaco Canyon were connected by roads to more than 150 great houses throughout the region.” It has been estimated that in the contested Bears Ears National Monument, part of the Ancestral Puebloan lands, there are over 100,000 archeological sites, many connected to Chacoan civilization. An estimated 30,000 Chacoan peoples left their communities within a very short period of time, in what has been called one of  “the greatest vanishing acts in human history”. The exodus was most likely due to a long-term drought. The Chaco communities became countless ruins scattered throughout the Four Corners Region. Most have never been inventoried, fewer still have been excavated and researched. Rich in Oil, Gas and Minerals The lands surrounding Chaco Culture are rich in energy and mineral resources.  For decades the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has sold leases for oil and gas development in lands beyond boundaries of the national park. According to the Farmington Daily Times, the BLM Farmington Field Office stated that the San Juan Basin has 23,350 active oil and gas wells, more than 16,000 of which are on federally-managed land. In 2017 the BLM auctioned oil and gas leases on 843 acres of land around Chaco to an undisclosed buyer for $3 million. A proposed sale in March of 2018 is said to also contain leases close to Chaco Canyon, some less than 10 miles away. The BLM has promised to prohibit drilling within a 10-mile radius around Chaco, but it appears that the BLM is...

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