Law and Cultural Property Seminar – 6828
What is cultural property, and what is our relationship to cultural property? As people, as collectors, as museums, as nations, as a religious group or a military organization, as an archaeologist or artist or artisan, or as a native culture, how are our interests in cultural property complimentary or antagonistic? What laws and ethical principles might guide us as we try to resolve disputes among competing interests or grapple with such questions as:
- who owns the past, e.g., where should the Elgin Marbles or the Rosetta Stone reside — in the British Museum or in Greece or Egypt?
- how do countries use their cultural property laws dealing with illicit trade in art and artifacts to take down, or erect, cultural barriers?
- should we protect cultural property during armed conflict and, if so, how? (Or is armed conflict, or even just violent demonstration, by definition an attack on culture?)
- was the Baghdad Museum looted?
- should museums acquire art or artifacts with dubious histories of ownership (i.e., do artifacts have independent artistic value or are they only worth what they are worth for scientific study while in the ground)?
- how should we resolve Holocaust-Era art claims?
We may be unlikely to agree with one another about the resolution of these and other issues, or perhaps even to convince ourselves what is right, but by the end of the semester we may have a real-world understanding of the parameters and complexity of these issues.