Saturday, 21 November 2015

Paris's plan to protect cultural treasures from terrorists

There seems to be a general lack of discussion of the French government's notion of providing "artefact asylum" (Jonathan Jones, 'Asylum for artefacts: Paris's plan to protect cultural treasures from terrorists' Guardian 20 November 2015; Ed Adamczyk, 'Hollande proposes that Syrian antiquities be brought to France for safekeeping', UPI Nov. 17th, 2015 ). The original text here.

- "a new European database of stolen cultural property": Why not? But can we amalgamate it effectively with other existing ones? But then, in terms of antiquities, the French seem not to have noticed that everybody has been saying for yonks that a database of objects known to be stolen helps not a jot with freshly-looted objects. We've got one of those (ALR) and it's not working. 

- "a European Monitoring Centre to scrutinise the illicit art trade": Absolutely, the more the merrier, but why just scrutiny? Let us have proper regulation. It has to have teeth.

- "a special fund to preserve and reconstruct imperilled antiquities": (as if we do not have any of those within Europe), but yes, let us make lots of money available for documentation, securing the fragments, repair and where possible,  anastylosis of destroyed monuments like Warsaw after WW2. How to raise it? Somebody suggested on the Guardian comments thread:
"What they should be doing is setting up an international treaty so that national police forces can confiscate looted antiquities from the shysters in Paris, London, New York, etc who have bought them on the black market, in fact there should be hefty fines on them to be used in restoring damaged antiquties".
and why not?

- "a programme to train more archaeologists in Iraq and Syria": and not just archaeologists. But then everybody's doing it - are they trainng them for the same things in the same ways? More co-ordination here needed. But having the personnel is not enough, they need places to work from and in, and resources.

- but "providing asylum for antiquities"? Which antiquities? Those from the market, or are they proposing shipping out the antiquities evacuated from museums in occupied Syria and Iraq now in the shrinking areas held by the regimes of these floundering states? The latter seems to be suggested here:
In an address to the 38th meeting of the UNESCO conference in Paris, Hollande said he would assemble a group of French archaeologists and local authorities to remove antiquities from Syria for safekeeping in France. His plan, he said, would protect artifacts from "fanatics who are attacking the living and the dead, all who have humanity today and tomorrow, and those of yesterday." Officials of the Syrian government say more than 300,000 artifacts have been moved to safe places within the country, including from areas controlled by IS.
How would this be arranged/ executed? Under what legal measures and safeguards? When will the material return, and to whom will it be returned and in what form? What happens if evacuating the stuff is seen by the Syrians as an admission that their whole state will be overrun and they do not want to countenance the possibility of defeat (and if that is the case, why is France going to rescue old stones and pots and not people)?

That is just a few of the points that come to mind. Where is the discussion?

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