Wednesday 23 October 2013

Why we are "Better than the Americans"

The real Arthur Houghton III, from a well-connected New England and Upstate New York business family, writes (October 16, 2013) to Prof. Gerstenblith and Members of the Cultural Property Advisory Committee, and reminds them and us why we, citizens of fully signed-up states parties to the 1970 UNESCO Convention  are all better than the US. 

Imagine a set of documents referring to the early years of US statehood being illegally removed in 2009 from the United States by a Mexican cleaning lady's drug-running boyfriend. They turn up in a Ruritanian antiquarian bookseller and America realises that they had been illegally removed from the country and wants them back.  I think that like nearly all of the 124 countries signatory to that international agreement to honour the heritage legislation of the other states, Ruritania would honour their commitments under the 1970 UNESCO Convention and America would get its heritage back. Contrast that with Mr Houghton's attitude. The Cultural Property Advisory Committee should advise the US Government against agreeing to return any item illegally removed from another state party unless it  meets the definitions of "archaeological or ethnological" according to Section 2601 of the  Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act:
If it is to follow the law, CPAC must reject the request for the inclusion of non-archaeological and non-ethnological material in a renewed US-Honduran MOU.
even if it is judged to be in danger of pillage and being smuggled to US dealers and collectors. If Ruritania applied such a restriction on Arts 1-3 etc. of the Convention, then America can whistle for its lost George Washington letters. Perhaps it is time for the so-called Cultural Property Advisory Committee to advise US lawmakers and public opinion that the primitive and selective 1983 US law needs amending. That would be the honourable thing to do.

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