Tuesday, 9 November 2010

UNESCO 1970 Article 1

The "Article 1 lie" is used by activists to alarm collectors of all types into thinking that the Convention is out to get all collectors to surrender all their property, and therefore those who are arguing for the preservation of the archaeological record from looting must be opposed. Hopes for the success of that argument seem to me to rely on hopes that its audience is either completely thick or permanently blind drunk or on crystal meth. The text of course actually says:
For the purposes of this Convention, the term `cultural property' means property which, on religious or secular grounds, is specifically designated by each State as being of importance for archaeology, prehistory, history, literature, art or science and which belongs to the following categories: [...]
What does this mean? Well, it probably seems pretty clear to most of us who can read English, but obviously is problematic for the mind of a collector to grasp. Down on the list of things that can be "specifically designated by each state as being of importance" is "(i) postage, revenue and similar stamps, singly or in collections". "See? See?" Shout the collectors' rights activists, "they ("the radical archaeologists") are planning to take even your stamp collections away!! They must be stopped!! Join us!!". So far the stamp collectors of the world seem not to have been roused into a flaring-torches-and-pitchfork-wielding mob of luddites, but that clearly is the aim of the activists.

What actually is meant of course is that Wongawongaland can, if it wants, designate as part of the nation's cultural property the Royal Stamp Collection created by King Mustahafit III containing some rare first-day covers unique in the world. This does not mean that the collection made by the six year old grandson of his cup-bearer is also Wongawongan cultural property, or any of the Wongawongan stamps in little Tommy Tompa's album in Tampa are either. It says "specifically designated". If a state so wishes, says the UNESCO Convention, any state COULD declare, for example, all of the postage stamps it has issued before 1st March 1967 surviving in the country as cultural property, or even state property (like the US government attempted to do with a rare coin issue), there is nothing (except perhaps in this case common sense) to prevent it. Or it could designate specific collections, or even specific items of postal history as nationally important cultural property. Article 1 of course does not mean that states party have to include all the artefact types in their own definition of cultural property (its not an "all or nothing" list), and various cultures place different emphasis on different elements of their cultural heritage. So what the list says is that if its on the list and you want to include it in your definition of the state's cultural heritage, then it is covered by the Convention. If however you fail to specifically designate a particular class of artefacts in the cultural preservation legislation, you can't expect the Convention to help you get it back until you do. What a state party CANNOT do is declare song and dance to be the type of cultural property which the Convention covers. This is important as the legislation of some states (Japan for example) include non-material ("intangible") cultural phenomena like song and dance as cultural property (in Poland the Polish language itself is one, but can be neither stolen nor illicitly exported in the understanding of the 1970 UNESCO Convention). Neither can the Convention be evoked to get back a stolen production line Raleigh bicycle, even if it was made in 1968 (unless, of course, the cultural property legislation included them at the time it was taken out of the country illegally).

What the dullards who follow the Pied Pipers of carefree (no-questions-asked) antiquitism do not see is that the function of this list is exclusive and not inclusive.

The propagators of the "Article 1 lie" hope that their readers cannot see the words "specifically designated" or at least, poor saps, not understand their polysyllabism. Are collectors really so stupid as to be misled by this? Well yes, it seems every time. They are not very good at this kind of analytical thinking it seems.

Please read UNESCO 1970 Article 1 and then turn to any forum where collectors of portable antiquities are gathered and read what they say these "radicals" are up to based on their misreading of the same Article 1 and draw your own conclusions.

Vignette: Pied Piper of Hamlyn, this book can only be treated under the 1970 UNESCO Convention as part of England's cultural property if specifically designated as such.

No comments:

Creative Commons License
Ten utwór jest dostępny na licencji Creative Commons Uznanie autorstwa-Bez utworów zależnych 3.0 Unported.