Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Article 10

In 1970, in the context of protecting world heritage, UNESCO adopted a Convention on the Means of Prohibiting the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. Its aim was to reinforce international solidarity in the fight against the traffic of cultural property by setting up a system of co-operation between States, and creating ethical standards which would be applied to the movement of cultural property. By June this year, 116 countries had ratified the UNESCO Convention.

Article 10 states that:
The States Parties to this Convention undertake:
[...] (b) to endeavour by educational means to create and develop in the public mind a realization of the
value of cultural property and the threat to the cultural heritage created by theft, clandestine excavations and illicit exports
I am trying to think what major educational intiative the government of the United Kingdom (became a party only in 2002) has instituted in the last decade or so which actually addresses the latter question. It seems to me that the public information campaigns and British media have tended to concentrate almost solely on the "benefits" (sic) of artefact hunting and collecting as a relatively effortless source of new information about where exciting (but largely contextless) finds come from, very little about the other side of the coin which is the unreported removal of thousands of artefacts from the archaeological record and the unregulated antiquities market. These seem to be topics British archaeological institutions are rather shy of broaching in public discussions. No wonder some continentals are calling artefact hunting with metal detectors "The British Disease".

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