“cultural heritage”

The Islamic State continues its destruction

According to Kristin Romey from National Geographic, the Islamic State has destroyed two ancient urban bridges, the Mashki and the Nergal in the city of Nineveh in Iraq. These monuments, thought to have been built in around 700 B.C., were reconstructed in the 20th century. The destruction has been confirmed by Michael Danti, professor of archaeology at the University of Boston and academic director of Cultural Heritage Initiatives with the American Schools of Oriental Research. Investigations by the latter organisation are supported by the United States to document the destruction of religious and cultural sites in Iraq and Syria. Nineveh is close to the city of Mosul, still occupied by Daech, and is part of the city’s cultural heritage. The Iraqi army has announced its plans for reconquering Mosul while the Islamic State continues to destroy other bridges and walls in the city of Nineveh, notes Michael...

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Global warming threatens heritage

A report published by the United Nations on 27 May 2016 lists 31 natural and cultural sites in 29 countries as being threatened by global warming. Amongst the 1,031 World Heritage sites, around thirty are said to be directly threatened in the short term by global warming. The report World Heritage and Tourism in a Changing Climate, drafted by UNEP, UNESCO and UCS (Union of Concerned Scientists), takes into consideration the impact of a general rise in temperatures, the melting of glaciers, the increase in sea levels, and the recurrence of natural disasters in certain regions of the world. Some threatened sites include Venice, Stonehenge, the Galapagos Islands or the Statue of Liberty. The report aims at raising awareness on the weakening of our heritage and our responsibility towards it. The tourism sector is called to coordinate its efforts to reduce carbon emissions and the impact of its activity on fragile sites. Following the Paris agreements in the wake of the COP21, this study reminds of the urgency to raise international consciousness about the threats overhanging world...

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Assossiation of Art Museum Directors encourages US institutions to store Syrian artefacts

The Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) is encouraging US museums to act as safe havens for works of art in the collections of governments, museums and private individuals in conflict zones, threatened by ISIS. But there are concerns that looted artefacts could be among the works sent to the US. New guidelines published by the AAMD in October 2015 provide a framework for museums to house objects that are at risk due to conflict, terrorism or natural disasters at the owner’s request until it is safe to return them. The guidelines are “quite possibly one of the most important developments in the field of cultural heritage policy in recent years”, says Brian Daniels, the director of research at the Penn Cultural Heritage Center at the University of Pennsylvania. The objects are based firmly on the policy of return, temporary loans rather than permanent acquisitions. But Daniels and other heritage professionals worry that, as the protocols let institutions take loans from foreign individuals and organisations as well as from museums and governments, they might result in the unknowing acceptance of looted objects. The concern is that illicit artefacts with false provenances could enter museums via private owners, encouraging the illegal antiquities trade. A spokeswoman for the AAMD stresses that the protocols advise museums to “exercise caution” so as not to “violate the rights of lawful owners or cause the museum to be involved in any legal or unethical...

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German Cabinet Approves Controversial Amendment to Cultural Protection Law

On Wednesday 4 November 2015, the German federal cabinet approved a controversial amendment to the country’s cultural protection legislation, seeking to tighten the export regulations so that all artworks travelling within the EU require an export permit if the works are older than 70 years and valued over €300,000. Culture Minister Monika Grütters believes that “with the amendment of the cultural protection legislation we are adopting one of the most important pieces of cultural politics of this legislature,” protecting cultural artefacts from being exported out of the country. However, the amendment has faced fierce opposition from gallerists, collectors and artists who fear that it will add further obstacles to the advancement of the German art market, and some even compared it to expropriation. Gallerist Michael Werner accused the German state of using the law to profit from the cultural industry. German artist Georg Baselitz has also withdrawn all loans from German museums, and German billionaire and collector Hasso Plattner threatened to take back his pledge to bequeath his private collection to Potsdam’s Barberini Museum if the legislation is passed. However, Grütters has insisted that “Ultimately it comes down to very few unique, culturally self asserting and identity forming major artworks that are classified as nationally valuable…a negligibly small part of the overall artistic and cultural heritage in Germany.” The amendment now goes to the German parliament for approval, and pending that, the bill will be put into effect at the beginning of...

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Warzone or Political Pawn: The Fading Heritage of the Middle East

The Middle East is seeping with cultural treasures and prized artefacts, with the archeological site of Troy in Turkey, the ancient city of Damascus in Syria, and the Frankincense Trail in Oman, along with many other religious monuments and relics, all featuring on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites. However, as Islamic State continues to advance through Syria and maintains strongholds in Iraq, it is not only human lives that are being lost in the conflict, as many great cultural landmarks have been vandalized, bombarded, and some utterly effaced,  leaving only piles of dust and rubble in their wake. Ancient cities have become war-riddled wastelands, with monuments such as the 2000 year-old Arch of Triumph in Palmyra being decimated by the Islamic State militants controlling the city in October 2015. Rather than cultural conquest or appropriation, the radical Islamist faction pursues total annihilation of culture it deems “idolatrous”, that is anything representing a worldview other than their extremist Islamist beliefs. However, as the conflict rages on and more and more of this rich cultural tapestry is being unraveled, we see sites of cultural heritage not only being used as a devastating weapon but also as a potential political playground for global superpowers, who are keen to hold on to valuable assets in the Middle East. Yet, the cultural heritage of these countries does not remain a national issue, with many international efforts being made to counteract these atrocities and prevent these cultural treasures from being irretrievably lost in the melting pot of the conflict. World Heritage under threat Syria and Iraq are located in a region often referred to as the “cradle of our civilisation”, an area of Mesopotamia where the first alphabet, agricultural practices and cities were born. The rich cultural heritage of this region has thus been of global significance, with...

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