Cultural Heritage News

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  • 01 Apr 2015 1:37 PM | Gary Nurkin (Administrator)

    Syria Has Reputedly Hidden Away 99% of Its Cultural Heritage Artifacts 


    It’s rare to hear any positive news associated with cultural heritage and Syria these days, but Maamoun Abdulkarim, director of the Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums in Syria, recently told the AFP that 99% of objects in the country’s 34 museums have been secretly hidden away to save them from looting and destruction. That’s about 300,000 artifacts and thousands of manuscripts — 80,000 items in Damascus alone.

    Other nations have similarly hidden art in times of conflict. The Museo del Prado in Madrid packed away hundreds of its artworks in Valencia and Geneva during the Spanish Civil War, including Velásquez’s “Las Meninas” and Goya’s “Black” paintings. During World War II, the entire collection of Britain’s National Gallery was also transferred to an old slate mine in Wales. And during the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the National Museum evacuated many of its holdings to a vault.
  • 01 Apr 2015 1:34 PM | Gary Nurkin (Administrator)

    US Lawmakers Call for Fight Against Destruction of World Cultural Property

    Eileen Kinsella, Wednesday, April 1, 2015  


    Several US lawmakers have called for the protection and preservation of cultural property at risk of damage or destruction as a result of political instability, armed conflict, and other disasters. (See: Syria's Cultural Artifacts Are Blood Diamonds for ISIS and Nine Arrests As ISIS Claims Credit for Bardo Museum Attacks.)

    Destruction of cultural property "represents an irreparable loss of humanity's common cultural heritage and is therefore a loss for all Americans," according to the bill, as per a report by the blog of the Association of Research Into Crimes Against Art ("ARCA"). In support for the proposed legislation, which has the short title "Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act" and was referred on March 19 to the Committee on Foreign Affairs, lawmakers cite numerous incidences throughout history where important cultural property was lost forever.
  • 01 Apr 2015 10:17 AM | Gary Nurkin (Administrator)

    Court sits at British Museum for first time as judge studies looted Libyan sculpture

    Marble statue worth £2 million looted from a UNESCO world heritage site in war-torn country  

    A court convened at the British Museum on Monday for the first time to enable a judge to inspect a £2million sculpture looted from Libya.

    The "unique" four foot marble statue is said to have been illegally dug up in Cyrene, a UNESCO world heritage site, before being smuggled to the UK in 2011, via Dubai.

    It was uncovered in a west London warehouse by customs officials two years later and handed to the British Museum pending a court's decision over ownership.
  • 31 Mar 2015 8:55 AM | Gary Nurkin (Administrator)

    Islamic State Destruction Renews Debate Over Repatriation of Antiquities

    Assyrian relics that have stood for 3,000 years smashed and desecrated. Ruins from Babylonian times bombed and bulldozed. Scrolls and shrines ravaged from Somalia to Timbuktu.

    Museum directors, archaeologists, collectors and others with a fierce passion for safeguarding antiquities have been united in their disgust as Islamic militants make a show of ravaging artifacts from the ancient world
  • 30 Mar 2015 10:32 AM | Gary Nurkin (Administrator)
    United Nations cultural body chief Irina Bokova vows to step up Iraq heritage protection

    BAGHDAD (AFP).- The head of the United Nations cultural body vowed in Baghdad Saturday to step up measures aimed at protecting Iraq's heritage, which has been systematically targeted by jihadist militants.

    UNESCO chief Irina Bokova launched a Japanese-funded initiative to preserve Iraq's museum collections and threatened heritage, as well as a social media campaign under the hashtag #Unite4Heritage.

    "Today our pledge is we will never relent in safeguarding the great cultural heritage and diversity of Iraq," she said, speaking from the recently reopened national museum in Baghdad. 
  • 30 Mar 2015 10:30 AM | Gary Nurkin (Administrator)
    Greece condemns British refusal of mediation by UNESCO on Parthenon sculptures

    ATHENS (AFP).- Greece on Saturday criticised the "negativism" of the British Museum in rejecting mediation by UNESCO to help resolve the decades-old dispute over returning ancient Parthenon sculptures to Athens.

    The sculptures are part of the collection popularly known as the "Elgin Marbles" which were acquired by Lord Elgin in the early 1800s when he was ambassador to the Ottoman court. The British parliament purchased the art treasures in 1816 and gave them to the museum.

    For the past 30 years Athens has been demanding the return of the sculptures which had decorated the Parthenon temple on the Acropolis in Athens from ancient times. 
  • 30 Mar 2015 10:03 AM | Gary Nurkin (Administrator)

    UNESCO calls for the protection of cultural heritage in Yemen 


    27 March 2015 – The escalation of armed conflict in Yemen threatens the country’s cultural heritage, warned the head of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the world body’s agency responsible for protecting cultural property.

    In a statement, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova urged all parties involved in military operations to preserve the Yemeni cultural heritage. “Experience shows that cultural heritage is never more vulnerable than during times of conflict. It is crucial that all parties refrain from targeting, by shelling or by air strikes, or using for military purposes cultural heritage sites and buildings,” Ms. Bokova called.
  • 30 Mar 2015 7:24 AM | Gary Nurkin (Administrator)
    Interview: Cambodia shares successful story on repatriation of stolen antiquities   2015-03-28 22:47:56

    PHNOM PENH, March 28 (Xinhua) -- Cambodia successfully reclaimed five antiques that were looted by the United States during the country's civil war, after effective diplomatic and legal work, a senior government official told Xinhua in a recent interview, in which ways other countries may reclaim stolen artifacts was shared.

    The five ancient statues, which were looted from Cambodia during the time of the country's civil war in the 1970s, had been repatriated from the United States to Cambodia between June 2013 and June 2014.


  • 27 Mar 2015 11:25 AM | Gary Nurkin (Administrator)

    In Syria, National Museum of Damascus races to save antiquities from looting, damage 

    By: Sammy Ketz 

    DAMASCUS (AFP).- Workers at Syria's National Museum of Damascus carefully wrap statues and place them in boxes to be transported to a safe place, hoping to save the priceless pieces from theft or destruction.

    Since his 2012 appointment as head of antiquities in the midst of Syria's civil war, Maamoun Abdulkarim says just one thing has been on his mind -- avoiding a repeat of the kind of looting that ravaged Iraq's heritage after the 2003 invasion.

    "The images of the looting of the museum in Baghdad and other Iraqi sites are always on my mind, and I told myself that everything must be done to avoid a repeat of that here," he told AFP. 
  • 25 Mar 2015 8:40 AM | Gary Nurkin (Administrator)

    Why Italy should sell the 5,000 antiquities recovered by the police

    Improperly excavated artefacts could be auctioned to help cash-strapped museums
    prosecution (without verdict) of former Getty curator Marian True, and the items that have had to be restituted by museums to Italy because the case against them was embarrassingly secure, have led to a more civilised, ethical policy being adopted by most institutions, which will no longer buy or accept as gifts items that lack a documented provenance dating back before 1970 (the date of the Unesco Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property
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