Category Archives: policy and legislation

Cultural Policy Research Institute

I’ve been trolling around the CPRI website today after reading about it on Looting Matters and I thought it was interesting to see the issues the CPRI has decided to focus on in 2009:

1. Determining the number of artistically and academically significant, privately-owned objects in the United States that are currently excluded from acquisition by US museums.

2. Developing different models for a registry that can be applied to privately-owned objects.

3. Exploring ways to harmonize US laws and regulations that apply to transfer and ownership of antiquities.

4. Exploring the effect of source country policies on damage to archaeological sites and objects.

I don’t know much about the institute but I’m looking forward to seeing more discussion on these issues

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Human Remains – Google Book Search

An edited collection of valuable and timely information concerning the care and conservation of human remains in museums and academic institutions. With a foreword by Brian Fagan.

More details

Human Remains: Guide for Museums and Academic Institutions

By Vicki Cassman

Edition: illustrated

Published by AltaMira Press, 2008

ISBN 0759109559, 9780759109551

308 pages

via Human Remains: Guide for Museums and … – Google Book Search.

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UNESCO’s 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage

UNESCO’s Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage, ratified by 111 states, seeks to protect intangible culture like song, dance and cultural events or festivals.

Article 1 – Purposes of the Convention

The purposes of this Convention are:

(a) to safeguard the intangible cultural heritage;

(b) to ensure respect for the intangible cultural heritage of the communities, groups and individuals concerned;

(c) to raise awareness at the local, national and international levels of the importance of the intangible cultural heritage, and of ensuring mutual appreciation thereof;

(d) to provide for international cooperation and assistance.

Article 2 – Definitions

For the purposes of this Convention,

1. The “intangible cultural heritage” means the practices, representations, expressions, knowledge, skills – as well as the instruments, objects, artefacts and cultural spaces associated therewith – that communities, groups and, in some cases, individuals recognize as part of their cultural heritage. This intangible cultural heritage, transmitted from generation to generation, is constantly recreated by communities and groups in response to their environment, their interaction with nature and their history, and provides them with a sense of identity and continuity, thus promoting respect for cultural diversity and human creativity. For the purposes of this Convention, consideration will be given solely to such intangible cultural heritage as is compatible with existing international human rights instruments, as well as with the requirements of mutual respect among communities, groups and individuals, and of sustainable development.

2. The “intangible cultural heritage”, as defined in paragraph 1 above, is manifested inter alia in the following domains:

(a) oral traditions and expressions, including language as a vehicle of the intangible cultural heritage;

(b) performing arts;

(c) social practices, rituals and festive events;

(d) knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe;

(e) traditional craftsmanship.

Along with the text of the Convention, UNESCO provides a list of masterpieces of intangible culture to be protected. One such item is the Carnaval de Oruro, the Bolivian cultural festival. This video includes some footage of dancing from the 2006 festival.

Youtuber TynansAnger, upset that UNESCO’s list included no material from the United States, made the following video suggesting the work of Andy Warhol belongs on the list.

I’d love to see some American Indian or First Nations material on the list, personally.

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James Cuno on UNESCO’s treaty on antiquities

In an interview in Science News, James Cuno speaks out about the 1970 “Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property” (text).  I hope to look more closely at the Convention in a future post, but for now I just want to focus on its definition and classification of “cultural property”, a sticky issue in repatriation cases.

For the purposes of this Convention, the term ‘cultural property’ means property which, on religious or secular grounds, is specifically designated by each State as being of importance for archaeology, prehistory, history, literature, art or science and which belongs to the following categories:
(a) Rare collections and specimens of fauna, flora, minerals and anatomy, and objects of palaeontological interest;
(b) property relating to history, including the history of science and technology and military and social history, to the life of national leaders, thinkers, scientists and artist and to events of national importance;
(c) products of archaeological excavations (including regular and clandestine)
or of archaeological discoveries ;
(d) elements of artistic or historical monuments or archaeological sites which have been dismembered;
(e) antiquities more than one hundred years old, such as inscriptions, coins and engraved seals;
(f) objects of ethnological interest;
(g) property of artistic interest, such as:
(i) pictures, paintings and drawings produced entirely by hand on any support and in any material (excluding industrial designs and manu-factured articles decorated by hand);
(ii) original works of statuary art and sculpture in any material;
(iii) original engravings, prints and lithographs ;
(iv) original artistic assemblages and montages in any material;
(h) rare manuscripts and incunabula, old books, documents and publications of special interest (historical, artistic, scientific, literary, etc.) singly or in collections ;
(i) postage, revenue and similar stamps, singly or in collections;
(j) archives, including sound, photographic and cinematographic archives;
(k) articles of furniture more than one hundred years old and old musical instruments.

The definition is incredibly thorough. I wonder about the 100 year mark included in (e) and (k), the time frame seems a little arbitrary. Are objects less than a century old somehow not cultural property?

The text of (j) is also quite interesting. Defining intangible cultural property always seems like a much more complicated issue than with physical objects, with valid reason. I’ll be taking a closer look at this treaty as well as at the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (text) sometime in the future.

(via Looting Matters)

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Endangered Languages

Check out UNESCO’s interactive world map of endangered languages. The site also includes safeguarding projects seeking to preserve linguistic diversity all over the world.

A quick search of Canada’s languages reveals two completely extinct languages, Tsetsaut and Pentlatch, both on the Northwest Coast. In all, according to the map, 88 of Canada’s native languages are in danger.

This week I had the great pleasure of listening to Herb Joe talk about how the repatriation of Stone T’xwelatse gave the youth of his community a renewed interest in their own history and culture. As I see it, keeping endangered languages alive doesn’t only consist of language programs. A big part of it is convincing new generations that these languages are worth learning, as well as putting the languages in a larger cultural context. Even more than the object, I think the process of repatriation connects a community with their cultural heritage.

(via TEDBlog)

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Blackfoot ‘almost feel helpless’ in struggle to recover artifacts

The cultural centre at Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park, outside of Calgary, are cataloguing Blackfoot objects in museums all over the world in hopes of claiming their repatriation in the future.

“In Canada, there would be no push for legislation because they felt museums would work on good will,”McMaster said.

The amiable approach has been relatively successful, he said.

“If legislation is not enacted to protect the rightful cultural owners of these things, they’ll continue to be exploited.”

“I think it’s a perfect example of how powerless First Nations people are in all this,” Young Man said.

Some facilities simply aren’t prepared to give up pieces of their “bread-and-butter” displays, he said.

Claims to ownership don’t always work, though, according to Alfred Young Man, department head of the Indian Fine Arts department at the First Nations University of Canada.

The article laments the fact that there is no federal legislation on repatriation in Canada, and seems to say that legislation is the best option and gives the most power to native communities. Indeed, federal legislation might make the process of making a claim more straightforward, but USA’s NAGPRA is not without fault. The problem with legislation is that someone will always be excluded. In the States, bands or tribe that are not federally recognized have to no power to claim an object in a museum’s collection under NAGPRA. By dealing with repatriation claims on a case-by-case basis, Canadian museums have more flexibility.

(via The Calgary Herald)

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