Thursday, 18 November 2010

"Italy's Heritage Crumbles, so Let's Stop Helping Them"

Californian coin dealer Dave Welsh has reactivated his moribund preservationist-bashing blog with a post called "Italy's heritage crumbles". The thesis of this is that "the Italian Government isn't taking anything resembling proper care of its ancient heritage" and this "is very much relevant to our struggle to prevent collecting ancient coins in the United States from being strangled by import restrictions requested under the 1970 UNESCO Convention". (Is the trade really being "strangled" by attempts to stop it being based on illegal exports? Hmmm)

The reasoning behind this is:
The 1970 UNESCO Convention requires that the governments of States parties to the Convention shall take adequate measures to preserve and care for their cultural heritage"
(that's laid down in Article 5 of the 1970 UNESCO Convention) The US implementation of this Convention is governed by the 1983 CCPIA ("Public Law 97-446 [H.R. 4566], 96 Stat. 2329, approved January 12, 1983; as amended by Public Law 100-204 [H.R. 1777], 101 Stat. 1331, approved December 22, 1987): "SECTION 303. [3]") which determines that the President may decide to help a petitioning country by imposing import controls on illegally exported cultural property from that country, provided
(B) that the State Party has taken measures consistent with the Convention to protect its cultural patrimony
US dealers therefore consider on these grounds that because a building fell down in Pompeii, for example, the US should not accede to requests by the Italians to stop US dealers buying illegally exported artefacts from Italy. That is basically what the ACCG is saying: Tompa here, Witschonke here. There are several others among the advocates of no-questions-asked collecting who feel the US should have a bigger place in bossing other nations about (insisting they look after their cultural heritage the way that best suits US collectors on the basis of the CCPIA).

There is just one snag. Their logic is faulty (again). What does the phrase in the CCPIA "measures consistent with the Convention" mean? The cultural patrimony which the Convention covers is defined quite explicitly by Article 1 of the 1970 UNESCO Convention, from which it is immediately clear (as if anyone doubted it) that this convention applies to MOVABLE cultural property and not upstanding buildings, churches, rock formations, urban layouts, railway viaducts or anything else. These are of course covered by other international documents. "Measures consistent with the Convention" in CCPIA means those laid down in articles 2-22 of the 1970 UNESCO Convention. The matters to which Welsh and all those like-minded collectors and dealers refer are therefore completely extraneous to the matters considered by the CPAC working in terms of the CCPIA. The US legislation is called the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act" not the "Protection of the World's Whole Historical Heritage Convention Implementation Act" (or, Mr Witschonke, "Whole World Archaeological Find Documentation Convention Implementation Act"). Are things like this so difficult for antiquity collectors to comprehend?

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