Friday, March 18, 2011

Egypt, Libya and Tunisia: UNESCO to the Rescue?

UNESCO is belatedly celebrating the 40th Anniversary of the 1970 UNESCO Convention with a conference in the City of Lights, Paris. See And what better way to show UNESCO is still relevant than to address the crisis in the Middle East?

The cultural bureaucrats are rightly concerned about the effect of unrest in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya on those nations' cultural patrimony, but one can only hope there is more emphasis on nipping the problem at the source rather than on taking advantage of situation to further an anti-collecting agenda. "Emergency import restrictions" that effectively shift the burden of proof onto the holder virtually guarantee seizures of perfectly legitimate artifacts that don't have detailed collection histories. Good police work combined with more effective efforts to record what is missing is a better, far less controversial approach.

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