Showing posts with label UNESCO. Show all posts
Showing posts with label UNESCO. Show all posts

December 15, 2016

Meeting ARCA's Alumni: Samer Abdel Ghafour - Class of 2015

Samer Abdel Ghafour is a Syrian cultural heritage specialist and founder of ArchaeologyIN, an organization dedicated to raising awareness of the importance of archaeological preservation world-wide. His professional experience includes working both as a museum curator and a field director and chief conservator for archaeological missions in Syria. 

What were your motivations behind enrolling in the ARCA post-graduate program? What did you value about the program as a whole? 

Each course offered by the ARCA program expands academic knowledge by tackling topics from different angles, while the experience as a whole opens gates and provides networking opportunities. Through the program, I was introduced to a community of specialists whose work is interrelated with ARCA, its mission, program, academic publications, and journal of art crime. The specialized courses offered develop a platform for engagement that addresses ten different elements, ten domains, ten fields. The specificity of the program supports research and engagement with varied topics that otherwise receive little academic attention and range from sites management, to the conservation of mosaics. 

How does your academic and professional background correlate with the work you did in the program?

In 2011, Syria experienced a whirlwind of lawlessness on all levels, including irreversible damage to cultural heritage. Following the looting of open archaeological sites, the illicit trafficking of looted objects, and the destruction of historic monuments and museums, both Syrian and international experts organized several initiatives to mitigate damage to the best of our ability. Improving academic knowledge through participation in this and other programs is an essential part of our commitment to save and protect.

In Dick Ellis’ course on Policing, I studied art in the black market and in organized crime, researching methods of tracing illicit trafficking. In Art and Heritage Law with Duncan Chappell, we became better equipped to apply both national and international law, and following Marc Balcells’ Criminology course, I now feel more comfortable addressing organised crime. As crime itself is getting stronger, it is important that we too strengthen ourselves and our knowledge. Amidst the chaos in Syria, we are preparing for the aftermath, trying to maintain stability through networking, documenting damage, and collecting data for analysis.

Networking is a vital component in your current work, correct?

Yes, I use social media as a platform that provides information for the public, not just academics. In July 2011, I attended an international symposium in Berlin in which archaeologists digging in Syria wanted to know whether or not they could continue their work.  Relationships can be ruined by the current inability to excavate in Syria, but the loss of these connections can be avoided by communication through a free platform in which awareness is raised and accumulated knowledge is disseminated to whoever is interested.

Founding the ArchaeologyIN, the Archaeology Information Network has not only provided an opportunity to raise cultural heritage awareness, in Syria, but also in Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Turkey and Italy.   In the conflict-plagued countries it has also served to create a space for the collection of data about current damage and has highlighted the good work of others who are invested in cultural heritage protection. I also maintain a Twitter account for those that want to follow me at: @SamAbdelGhafour

Some of the principle pages of the Archaeologyin Network are:

Facebook: ArchaeologyinSyria  Twitter: @AinSyria
Facebook: ArchaeologyinIraq  Twitter: @AinIraq
Facebook: ArchaeologyinYemen  Twitter: @AinYemen1
Facebook: ArchaeologyinLibya  Twitter: @AinLibya
Facebook: ArchaeologyinTurkey  Twitter: @AinTurkey
Facebook: ArchaeologyinItaly  Twitter: @AinItaly

and our Mother page
Facebook: ArchaeologyIN  Twitter: @Archaeology_IN

What has been your favorite thing about the program? About living in Amelia?

I valued the conference itself being held in the middle of the program- it was like a shot of espresso in the middle of the day. The experience solidified and contextualized a lot of the work we had been doing in the classroom, and provided ARCA students with the opportunity to take the next steps in our respective fields, to network, and to build solid connections and foundations.

As far as Amelia goes, hosting the program in Amelia is like combining American academia with an Italian spirit. If our work here is the body and Amelia contributes to the spirit, the two form a living entity, imbued with a depth of historical value from the surrounding environment. The walls of Amelia do not separate it from the natural landscape and cultural heritage surrounding it. These walls, which historically served as means of defence for Amelia, now play the role of  connecting the program to the city and its vivid history. It is a striking example and experience of intercultural engagement. 

Since completing the ARCA summer coursework, what have you been doing?

I have been solidifying the research for my PhD on "Ideologies of the Destruction of Cultural Heritage in the Ancient and Modern Near East" at La Sapienza - Università di Roma with the Facoltà: Dipartimento di Scienze dell'antichità.

I also served as Rapporteur for the Capacity Building Activities and Future Needs workgroup at the UNESCO 2016 Emergency Safeguarding of Syria’s Cultural Heritage meetings in 2016.

Thirdly I have been working with IIMAS – The International Institute for Mesopotamian Area Studies as an Associate Director for Institutional Communications.

ARCA is accepting applications for the 2017 Postgraduate Certificate Program in Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection.  For more information on how to apply, please click here.

For information on who is teaching this year, please see our earlier blog post. 

October 8, 2016

UNESCO issues report on Freeports


The Intergovernmental Committee for Promoting the Return of Cultural Property to its Countries of Origin or its Restitution in case of Illicit Appropriation (ICPRCP) promotes practical tools and communication to raise public awareness about trafficking in and return of stolen objects.

With its work closely tied to the 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, the Committee met at UNESCO's Headquarters in Paris, on September 29-30, 2016 to discus the need for better prevention, increased cooperation and awareness raising of illicit trafficking in cultural property.

As an outcome of that meeting, UNESCO issued a document which highlights the phenomenon of free ports and their implications on the illicit art market. A copy of their report, it its entirety, can be referenced directly on the UNESCO website here:

Freeport concerns are a subject that ARCA has blogged about with regularity as has Professor David Gill on the blog Looting Matters as they have long been havens for high value artwork in general and illicit art work in particular.  More recently Free ports have been springing up around the world with increasing regularity as more investors begin to store and trade physical assets at locations which provide taxation incentives.

With their state of the art security, enormous potential for tax savings and less than transparent ownership record keeping which varies from country to country and freeport to freeport, these massive storage facilities may well continue to be a convenient and secure weigh station for traffickers to park hot goods until the world gets distracted elsewhere.  










March 14, 2016

Another War's Cultural Cleansing and Rebuilding: Bosnia and the Destruction of Cultural Heritage

By Guest Author, Helen Walasek

With the deliberate attacks on historic monuments, archaeological sites and religious structures from mosques to monasteries now being enacted across Syria and Iraq, we should not forget the premeditated assaults on cultural and religious heritage in Bosnia-Herzegovina during the war of the 1990s, one of the most reported aspects of the conflict. 

Twenty years have passed since the end of the bitter 1992–1995 Bosnian War and the signing of the Dayton Peace Agreement. In The Hague two of the principal architects of the conflict, former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadžić, and his military commander, Ratko Mladić, await judgement on war crimes charges at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). 

Among those charges are the intentional destruction of cultural and religious heritage, a central element of the aggressive campaigns of ethnic cleansing that sought to create mono-ethnic / mono-religious territories within Bosnia-Herzegovina where once there had been diversity and coexistence. The destruction (usually far from the front-lines) was one of the defining features of a conflict that shocked the world. 

Smoke pours from the Vijećnica, the National Library of Bosnia Herzegovina
in Sarajevo after the shelling on the night of  25-26 August 1992. The photograph was a
prosecution exhibit at the ICTY. © ICTY

While the devastation provoked global condemnation, particularly attacks on iconic structures in cosmopolitan urban settings like the National Library (known also as the Vijećnica) in Sarajevo and Mostar’s Old Bridge (Stari Most), it was in towns and villages across wide swathes of ethnically-cleansed countryside where the destruction was worst, particularly of Bosnia’s Ottoman and Islamic heritage. Here some of the country’s most beautiful historic mosques, like the domed sixteenth-century Aladža Mosque in Foča and the the Ferhadija Mosque in Banja Luka were razed to the ground. 

Aladža Mosque See
Image Caption details
2a, 2b and 3 are found
at end ofthis article.

Orthodox and Catholic churches and monasteries were assaulted, too. The magnificent neo-Baroque Orthodox Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in Mostar was dynamited to rubble, the Franciscan Monastery at Plehan shelled, then blown up by a truck carrying two tons of explosives.

However, early hypotheses of an equivalent and mutual destruction of religious and cultural heritage by all three principal warring parties in the conflict (breakaway nationalist Bosnian Serbs and Bosnian Croats and the Bosnian government – usually labelled ‘Muslim’) have not been supported by later assessments.  These identify Bosnian Serb forces and their allies (which controlled 70% of the territory of Bosnia-Herzegovina), and on a lesser scale Bosnian Croat forces, as the principal perpetrators of ethnic cleansing – and thus of the destruction of cultural and religious property. 

The Dayton Peace Agreement ended the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina. One overarching aim was to attempt to reverse the effects of ethnic cleansing and restore the country to its prewar diversity. To those drafting the treaty, addressing the devastation to Bosnia’s cultural heritage was considered so essential to the peace process that Annex 8 of the eleven annexes to the Dayton Agreement provided for the formation of a Commission to Preserve National Monuments – a unique feature in any peace agreement.

But the post-conflict restoration of important historic monuments, particularly of iconic sites, were to become settings for the often competing agendas of both international and domestic actors. Meanwhile, surviving refugees and displaced people returning to reconstruct their communities in the places from which they had been violently expelled worked to a different dynamic. Here post-conflict restoration became closely bound up with ‘restoring’ feelings of security, a psychological yet literal ‘rebuilding’ of communities, yet which also came to encompass ‘hard law’ issues as obstacles to the right to reconstruct were challenged through legal remedies. 

Residents of Banja Luka stare at the remains of the 16th century Ferhadija Mosque
eliberately dynamited by the Bosnian Serb authorities in May 1993, more than a
year after the Bosnian War began. There had been no fighting in Banja Luka.
© Estate of Aleksander Aco Ravlić

The case of post-conflict Bosnia shows how, regardless of the aims of the peace process and the framework of the Dayton Peace Agreement (and the reasons that lay behind the destruction of cultural and religious property), when it came to reconstruction, the international community focused its attention almost entirely on restoring iconic sites like the Old Bridge at Mostar, predictably linking ‘restoration’ and ‘reconciliation’. Meanwhile, while in another domain, with frequently no help from international actors, returning communities attempting to rebuild and restore focused rather on human rights and freedom of religion.

What happened in Bosnia was to become a seminal marker and a paradigm of intentional cultural property destruction, not only among heritage professionals, but across disciplines from the military to humanitarian aid organisations in the years following the end of the war as they struggled to find answers to the questions raised by the inability of the international community in all its varied embodiments to prevent the destruction and where its representatives were frequently left as passive onlookers. 

The destruction in Bosnia-Herzegovina was to have a major impact in many spheres of heritage protection, not least the drafting and adoption of the Second Protocol to The Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, and was the prompt for the formation of the Blue Shield movement.

At the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, the court’s prosecutions led to groundbreaking judgements that crystallized a more definitive recognition in international humanitarian law that intentional destruction of cultural property was not only a war crime in itself, but a manifestation of persecution and – crucially – that destruction of a people’s cultural heritage was an aspect of genocide.

Typical uses for the levelled site of a destroyed mosque: as a parking lot and space
for communal garbage containers and small kiosks. This site of the now
reconstructed Krpića Mosque in Bijeljina in 2001. © Richard Carlton

Yet despite all this, the literature on the destruction of cultural and religious property in Bosnia-Herzegovina and its worldwide impact has been remarkably slight. An exception is the glut of publications on Mostar and the reconstruction of the Old Bridge – itself symptomatic of the focus of the international community post-conflict restoration efforts. 

Bosnia and the Destruction of Cultural Heritage gives the first comprehensive overview and analysis of the destruction of the cultural heritage in Bosnia-Herzegovina during the 1992–1995 war. A case study and source book on the first significant destruction of European cultural heritage during conflict since World War Two, it seeks to assess questions which have moved to the foreground with the inclusion of cultural heritage preservation and protection as an important aspect of international post-conflict and development aid.

Examining responses to the destruction (including from bodies like UNESCO and the Council of Europe), the book discusses what intervention the international community took (if any) to protect Bosnia’s heritage during the war, as well as surveying the post-conflict scene. Assessing implementation of Annex 8 of the Dayton Peace Agreement and the use of other legal remedies, it looks also at the treatment of war crimes involving cultural property at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. 

Author: 

With contributions by: 

Publisher: 
Routledge (Ashgate), 17 April 2015, 
hardback, 430 pages, 
126 black and white illustrations and 1 map

============================

Image Captions:
2.a The 16th century Aladža Mosque in Foča, one of the most important Ottoman monuments in South East Europe, pictured before its destruction in 1992.

2.b Site of the Aladža Mosque in 1996. Both photographs were used as prosecution evidence of war crimes at the ICTY. © ICTY

3. Satellite images of the Aladža Mosque, Foča, taken in October 1991 where its minaret and dome can be clearly seen and the same site in August 1992 showing a rubble strewn space where the mosque had once stood. The pictures were used as prosecution evidence in war crimes trials at the ICTY. © ICTY

______________


1] Final report of the United Nations Commission of Experts, Annex IV The policy of ethnic cleansing. S/1994/674/Add.2 (Vol. I), 28 December 1994, Introduction; Sanitized [   ] Version of Ethnic Cleansing Paper, dated 5 January 1995. See also Ethnic Cleansing and Atrocities in Bosnia, Statement by CIA Deputy Director for Intelligence John Gannon, Joint SSCI SFRC Open Hearing, 9 August 1995, and numerous ICTY prosecutions www.icty.org/. While Bosnian government forces did commit grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions, these assessments found that they had no policy of ethnic cleansing and did not engage in such operations.


February 16, 2016

Tutta italiana la prima task force a protezione del patrimonio culturale mondiale

Unite for heritage (#Unite4Heritage) 


La prima task force a protezione del patrimonio culturale del mondo, i Caschi Blu della Cultura con i Carabinieri Tpc, nati oggi firmando l'accordo con l'Unesco e presentati a Roma nel complesso delle Terme di Diocleziano. Firmata anche la nascita dell'International Training and Research Center of Economies of Culture and World Heritage, centro di formazione che sarà a Torino, dedicato al nuovo gruppo d'azione.


By:  Giuseppe Grifeo Di Partanna

Originally published in its entirety, with permission from Di Roma here. 

(a fine testo, prima un video sulla nuova task force e poi una galleria immagini sulla distruzione dell'antica e celebre città di Palmyra, demolizione voluta dall'Isis)


"Una nazione è viva quando è viva la sua cultura". Con queste parole scritte in inglese e in antico persiano si è dato il via alla presentazione della prima task force operativa a protezione del patrimonio culturale mondiale, i Caschi Blu della Cultura "Unite for heritage" che vede impegnati per primi al mondo i Carabinieri Tutela Patrimonio Culturale.

La frase fu scritta per la prima volta nel 2002 su un pezzo di stoffa appeso all'ingresso del Museo Nazionale dell'Afghanistan a Kabul, struttura salvata da saccheggi e distruzione, avviata alla sua ristrutturazione e restauro delle opere d'arte lì custodite.  Un simbolo chiaro come risposta inequivocabile e ferma, è la nascita di questo gruppo che vede i militari dell'Arma appartenenti al suo nucleo specializzato, insieme a esperti del settore, studiosi e professionisti, pronti a operare in tutto il globo.

Ne dà notizia la stampa di tutto il mondo, tanti i giornalisti non solo italiani alla presentazione. Ne scrive l'organizzazione internazionale ARCA (Association for Research into Crimes against Art) in un suo articolo dettagliato. 


Una presentazione, quella avvenuta oggi nell'aula X delle Terme di Diocleziano – Museo Nazionale Romano, che ha visto la presenza di ben quattro titolari di dicasteri, del direttore generale dell'Unesco, del Comandante dell'Arma dei Carainieri, del sindaco di Torino: i ministri Dario Franceschini (Beni e attività culturali e del Turismo), Roberta Pinotti (Difesa), Stefania Giannini (Istruzione, Università e Ricerca), Paolo Gentiloni (Affari esteri e Cooperazione internazionale), la direttrice Unesco Irina Bokova, il generale Tullio Del Sette e il primo cittadino del capoluogo piemontese, Piero Fassino.

«Il patrimonio culturale è di tutti e tutti abbiamo il dovere di proteggerlo e difenderlo - ha detto il ministro Franceschini - La comunità internazionale protegga patrimonio culturale umanità. Siamo il primo Paese che mette a disposizione dell'Unesco una task force completamente dedicata alla difesa del patrimonio culturale mondiale e già operativa. Spero siano molti i paesi a seguire questa strada».

Il tutto fa seguito all'accordo firmato a ottobre 2015 e con l'approvazione di una risoluzione all'Unesco presentata dall'Italia e firmata da altre 53 nazioni.

«Il patrimonio del mondo non è più minacciato nel corso di un conflitto dalle azioni di guerra, come avveniva nella Seconda Guerra Mondiale - ha sottolineato Franceschini - Ora la distruzione viene filmata e usata come propaganda, a simbolo dell'eliminazione di una cultura diversa, per cancellarla. L'importanza dell'atto firmato oggi non è solo simbolica ma ben concreta».

Il generale Tullio Del Sette ha ribadito la lunga storia operativa del nucleo Tutela Patrimonio Culturale del carabinieri, «nato 47 anni fa (ndR: 3 maggio 1969), primo reparto al mondo dedicato a questo tipo di attività operativa».

I carabinieri Tpc sono stati messi a disposizione anche di diverse nazioni che ne hanno avuto bisogno a seguito di situazioni di grandi crisi», momenti che hanno messo in pericolo il loro patrimonio culturale e tanto per fare un solo esempio numerico, questo Nucleo dell'Arma ha recuperato fino a oggi circa 750mila beni culturali fra opere e reperti.

«Questa Task force contrasta la strategia del terrore seguendo un'azione tipicamente italiana che viene della strategia anti-terrorismo - ha sottolineato il ministro Gentiloni che riferendosi all'Isis ha continuato - Va contro quelle azioni che colpiscono luoghi-simbolo per eliminare la cultura di nazioni e, obiettivo ancora più insidioso, per cancellare la diversità e la pluralità che hanno caratterizzato e caratterizzano le civiltà e i popoli o la "pulizia culturale" dell'Isis in Medio Oriente, con le persecuzioni delle minoranze cristiane e yazide».

L'Unite for heritage può contare su circa 30 carabinieri specializzati e altri 30 tra storici dell’arte, studiosi, restauratori dell’Istituto Centrale del Restauro e dell’Opificio delle Pietre Dure di Firenze. Presto anche anche professori universitari che vogliono partecipare all'azione del gruppo. Da qui la scuola di formazione a Torino, anche questa nata oggi con la sigla del sindaco della città, Fassino.

Il capoluogo piemontese ospita già lo Staff College delle Nazioni Unite. Il nuovo centro di formazione dedicato ai Caschi Blu della Cultura si chiamerà Itrech (International Training and Research Center of Economies of Culture and World Heritage), fondato anche dall’Università degli Studi, il Politecnico, l’ILO/OIT, il Consorzio Venaria Reale e il Centro Studi Santagata che è storico collaboratore dell'Unesco. L’Itrech avrà come base il Campus delle Nazioni Unite che oggi dà sede anche al Centro Internazionale di Formazione dell’Organizzazione Internazionale del Lavoro, allo Staff College e all’Unicri, agenzia Onu per la lotta alla criminalità (United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute).

«Siamo testimoni oggi di un dramma a livello mondiale – ha detto Irina Bokova, direttore generale dell'Unesco nonché possibile nuovo segretario generale Onu – la distruzione del patrimonio culturale, il dramma della pulizia culturale delle minoranze etniche e di ciò che le caratterizza. L'entusiasmo nei confronti dell'Italia è grande perché questo Paese si è reso protagonista di questa nuova iniziativa che contrasterà la depredazione e la perdita del patrimonio mondiale, un'Italia che ha già 54 siti patrimonio dell'umanità, grandi ricercatori, studiosi e i carabinieri che tanto ci assistono con la loro opera».

«Avverto oggi un grande senso di responsabilità per l'apertura di un nuovo capitolo per la protezione del patrimonio culturale - ha concluso la Bokova - Stiamo lanciando oggi un grande messaggio. Ecco le nostre risposte contro l'estremismo, risposte che devono essere la ricostruzione di un mausoleo, il restauro degli scritti della sapienza islamica, dalla matematica all'astronomia, la ricostruzione del ponte di Mostar».


Come specificato anche dal ministero, l'Unite For Heritage non agirà sui fronti di guerra perché la gestione dei conflitti non rientra nel campo operativo del gruppo. I Caschi Blu della cultura non saranno schierati, per esempio, a difesa dell'antica città di Palmira difendendola dall’Isis ma, su specifica richiesta dell’Onu, interverranno in momenti di gravi crisi civili, come durante un terremoto, ad esempio quello del Nepal, per porre riparo a emergenze legate al Patrimonio, oppure verificheranno i danni a opere e siti archeologici dopo un conflitto e dopo il ritiro delle truppe coinvolte. Potranno predisporre il trasferimento in luoghi di sicurezza di opere che potrebbero essere in pericolo e, naturalmente, contrastare i depredatori e trafficanti di reperti utilizzando ogni strumento, compreso il vastissimo database dei Carabinieri TPC che sta alla base di un vasto programma Interpol per la protezione del patrimonio culturale.










The UN's Blue Helmets for Culture Initiative Has Been Signed in Rome


During the joint UNESCO - Italy press conference in Rome this morning a new task force has been formalized to create an international training center for the Blue Helmets for Culture (Italian: 'Caschi Blu' della Cultura).  This body of officers will be tasked with the protections of the world's cultural patrimony.   The agreement was signed at the city of Rome's Baths of Diocletian in the presence of the Mayor of Turin, Piero Fassino, Italy's Foreign Minister, Paolo Gentiloni, Italy's Minister of Culture, Dario Franceschini and the director general of UNESCO, Irina Bokova.

 Director General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova
Image Credit: Giuseppe Grifeo Di Partanna,
Journalist, Il Tempo and www.di-roma.com
Working with a mixed composition of specialized personnel including approximately 30 civilian experts (historians, scholars, restorers of the Central Institute of Restoration in Rome and the Opificio delle Pietre Dure in Florence) and 30 officers from Italy's art crime squad, the Carabinieri per la Tutela del Patrimonio Culturale the training center will be based in Turin and called "ITRECH" (International Training and Research Center of Economies of Culture and World Heritage).  

Earlier this week Bokova stated that “the establishment of a Task Force bringing together cultural heritage experts and the Italian Carabinieri force specialized in the fight against the illicit trafficking in cultural property will enhance our capacity to respond to future emergencies.”

The project will be located at the city of Turin's Campus of the United Nations and will serve to build capacity by assessing cultural heritage risks and quantifying damage.  It will also work to develop action plans as well as towards providing technical supervision and training to local national staff of countries in conflict. 

The Blue Helmets for Culture Unit will also assist in the transfer of movable heritage to safe zones  when and where possible and will work to strengthen the fight against looting and illicit trafficking of antiquities. The overarching goal of the initiative is to protect cultural and religious pluralism within a framework of international action to combat terrorism.

Carabinieri per la Tutela del Patrimonio Culturale Task Force
Image Credit: Giuseppe Grifeo Di Partanna 
Journalist, Il Tempo and www.di-roma.com
The Turin training site, located at Viale dei Maestri del Lavoro 10, in Turin, Italy is already an international training campus for other International and UN groups such as UNICRI - United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute, the ITCILO, the Italian training arm of the International Labour Organization (ILO),  and the UNSSC – United Nations System Staff College.

By:  Lynda Albertson, CEO, ARCA

"ITRECH"
(International Training and Research Center of Economies of Culture and World Heritage) 
Italy's Minister of Culture, Dario Franceschini
Image Credit: Giuseppe Grifeo Di Partanna 
Journalist, Il Tempo and www.di-roma.com
Celebrating the signing of the Blue Helmets for Culture Accord
Image Credit: Giuseppe Grifeo Di Partanna 
Journalist, Il Tempo and www.di-roma.com

October 28, 2015

Wednesday, October 28, 2015 - ,,, No comments

Reporting from UNESCO ICOM COMCOL 2015 Annual Conference in Soul, Korea

COMCOL is the International Committee for Collecting of the International Council of Museums (ICOM) which aims to deepen discussions, and share knowledge on the practice, theory and ethics of collecting and collections development.


This year ICOM Council on Museum Collecting (COMCOL) is hosted by the National Folk Museum in Seoul, Korea.  


Speakers participating in this conference have gathered from as far away as the Netherlands, Zambia, Brazil, England and myself, from the United States.

On our first day of this conference, we toured the Gyeongbokgung Palace, and were welcomed by an extremely knowledgeable docent at the National Folk Museum in the same complex as the Palace before beginning our conference schedule for the day.  The group also received the Gyeonggido Dodanggut, which is a shamanic ritual of community, designated as Korea’s Important Intangible Heritage #98, held in Suwon, Incheon and other areas of Gyeonggi provence to wish for the well-being and prosperity of a village.  This particular ritual consists of two parts: telling the origin and history of village guardians and praying for safety and longevity of the village and its residents.

The President of COMCOL, Léontine Meijer-van Mench (Germany) , Deputy Director at Museum Europäischer Kulturen (Museum of European Cultures) Staatliche Museen zu Berlin - Preußischer Kulturbesitz initiated session one with a presentation, “What does sustainability mean for institutional collecting?” 

Keynote speaker Kidong Bae (Korea), ICOM chair of the National Committee of Koreaand former President of the Korean Museum Association; now, Professor of Archaeology in the Department of Anthropology, Hanyang University and Director of the Jeongok Prehistory Museum, Gyounggy Province; Seoul spoke about the History of Collections and Museum Development in Korea.

In the afternoon session Yukiko Shirahara (Japan) Chief curator at the Nezu Museum presented a thought provoking paper on “Addressing the Dilemma of Sustaining Museums and Collections in an Economic Downturn”. The final paper presented by Ho Seon Riw (Korea) concerned the “Future-Oriented Collecting Policy of the National Hangeul Museum.  “Hangeoul” is the unique writing style of Korea.

In the closing of the first day of the conference, students of “Gayatori” performed Gayageum byeonchang, folk songs accompanied by the traditional Korean zither-like instrument the Gayageum.  These students are officially appointed to maintain this important intangible cultural property.  Maintenance of “intangible cultural property” is ICOM’s priority #23.  Gayatori plays Korean traditional musical instrument which includes both 12 stringed and 25 strings in performance, accompanied by flute and choral voices of the players.

This reporter will present in the next day’s session a paper titled, “Renaissance at the Academy: The Rebirth of Connoisseurship and the Examination of the Object”  

September 20, 2015

Sunday, September 20, 2015 - ,, No comments

Lest We Forget Yemen - Update on Airstrikes on UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Old City of Sana'a


Smoke billows following airstrikes in the capital of
Sana’a on August 20, 2015.
(Image Credit: AFP / Mohammed Huwais)
In one of the heaviest nights of bombardment in months, aid workers and witnesses report that air raids on Saturday, September 19 led by Saudi-led coalition warplanes,  killed at least 30 in Yemen's capital city of Sana’a.  Ten of the dead were members of the same family, killed in the Al-Falihi neighbourhood in the city's old town. 

The Local Council of Sana’a called on all UN agencies and regional and Arab organizations, as well as UNESCO, to denounce Saudi-led airstrikes against the Old City of Sana’a and to work diligently to find a resolution, condemning the ongoing attacks against the city. 

Oman’s Sultanate, through the Foreign Ministry, also summoned Eid Mohammed Al Thaqafi, the ambassador of Saudi Arabia and handed him a written letter of protest demanding an explanation after an alliance’s air strike targeted the residence of the Omani ambassador yesterday in the southern neighbourhood of Hadda, a southwestern neighbourhood of Sana'a. 

Oman's objection memo read



According to Saudi-owned Asharq al-Awsat, military spokesman, Brigadier-General Ahmed al-Asiri, said the coalition had targeted the Yemeni Interior Ministry building and forces loyal to ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh, not the Omani ambassador's residence. In addition to the Omani residence and the Interior Ministry building, the overnight sorties struck a police station, the presidential complex of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, and a party building.  The presidential complex had already been damaged in 2011, injuring Saleh and killing several others.

Oman’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement strongly denouncing Saturday’s incident and requesting that the United Nations undertake measures for ending the war in Yemen before it becomes a serious threat to the security of the region. Oman is the singular Gulf state that does not belong to the Saudi-led coalition and has offered to host planned UN-mediated peace talks between the government and rebels.

Sana'a is the largest city in Yemen and the centre of Sana'a Governorate. Inhabited for more than 2,500 years, Sana'a old city is an UNESCO World Heritage Site noted for its many-storeyed tower-houses built using pisé de terre, an ancient rammed earth method of construction that dates back to at least 7000 BCE in Pakistan.    Prior to becoming the latest victim of unrest the city of Sana'a hosted 103 mosques, 14 hammams and over 6,000 houses, all built before the 11th century. 

Dr. Iris Gerlach, a specialist in the archaeology of southern Arabia and director of the Sana’a Branch of the German Archaeological Institute (DAI) has provided UNESCO with a “no-strike” list of all the important archaeological sites in Yemen to forward on to the Saudi government.  She conceded 


On September 01, 2015, The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) documented 6,631 civilian casualties, including 2,112 civilian deaths, and 4,519 wounded since the start of the conflict in Yemen escalated in March 2015.

Adama Dieng, UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide and Jennifer Welsh, UN Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect, issued a statement September 15th on the situation in Yemen expressing concern at the ever increasing impact on civilians of the ongoing conflict and the virtual silence of the international community about the threat to populations.

As we continue to destroy the past, we are losing the future. 

By: Lynda Albertson, 



December 5, 2014

Conference Diary: COMCOL's "Collections and Collecting in Times of War or Social and Political Change" Conference in Celje, Slovenia

By Virginia M. Curry

The Third Annual UNESCO ICOM Conference on Collecting (COMCOL) opened December 4 in the jewel-like Slovenian town of Celje.
 
This is the third conference on collecting held by UNESCO ICOM; the first was held in Capetown, and the second in Rio de Janiero. The theme of this year’s conference is “Collections and Collecting in Times of War or Social and Political Change”.

I am surprised to be the sole American participant in the program since it is UNESCO ICOM’s sole annual conference related to museums and their collections.  However, my fellow presenters from as far away as South Korea share a communal joy of museums and the exhibition of both “Tangible” and “Intangible” collections.  As you might have guessed, the “intangible” collections are those of music, such as the literal dumpster recovery of folk and classical recordings from the collection of Swiss broadcaster, Fritz Dur for the Swiss International Radio and an examination of the socio-political metamorphosis of the City of Birmingham in England in response to a changed demographic.

The organizers of this conference accepted my paper, “Re-Inventing the Museum in the Twenty-First Century” which focused on some of the major challenges to curators and some success stories, including but not limited to war loot; theft by organized criminal gangs who steal art from museums and private collections; internal thefts; and vandalism.

The conference meets again tomorrow to discuss: “Reflecting and Using Collections to Memorialize War”. There will also be sessions which focus on  confronting collections in the change of paradigm  from socialism and later in the afternoon a visit to the Museum of Recent History of Celje.

Ms. Curry is a retired FBI agent, a licensed private investigator, and an art historian.

November 13, 2014

Professor Duncan Chappell appointed to the National Cultural Heritage Committee in Australia

Professor Duncan Chappell at ARCA conference in Amelia
ARCA Lecturer Professor Duncan Chappell has been appointed to the National Cultural Heritage Committee which supports the operation of the Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act 1986 which gave UNESCO's 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property "force" in Australian law.

The committee advises the Minister for the Arts on the maintenance of the National Cultural Heritage Control List and the operation of the National Cultural Heritage Account.

Professor Chappell is an Adjunct Professor in the Faculty of Law at the University of Sydney, and one of Australia's pre-eminent experts in the field of illicit trafficking in cultural property. A former Director of the Australian Institute of Criminology, he has published widely on art crime and the illicit trade in cultural property. In 2013, Professor Chappell was awarded the Eleanor and Anthony Vallombroso Award for Art Crime Scholarship by the Association for Research into Crimes against Art.

Dr. J. Patrick Greene OBE was appointed as chair of the committee. Other members appointed: Mr. Joseph Eisenberg, Professor Marett Lieboff, Ms. Tina Baum and Dr. Graeme Were.

February 21, 2014

Ukrainian National Committee of the International Council of Museums (ІСОМ) enters plea for international help in protecting Art and Heritage in Kiev

OPEN LETTER (English version)
Outgoing # 6 from February 20th, 2014, Kyiv

To: General Director of UNESCO
Mrs. Iryna Bokova

President of the International Council of Museums (ІСОМ)
Prof. Hans-Martin Hinz

President of the International Council of Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS)
Mr. Gustavo Araoz

Chair of ІСОМ Europe
Dr. Damodar Frlan

Head of the National Committee of Ukraine for UNESCO
Mr. Ruslan Demchenko

During December 2013 – February 2014 the National Art Museum of Ukraine and the Ukrainian House, where the depositories of the Museum of Kyiv History are located, were in the epicenter of confrontations in Kyiv.

Collective of the National Art Museum of Ukraine removed works from exposition to depositories; museum employees provide watch and control over museum collections on a twenty-four hour basis.  As for the Museum of Kyiv History, we know that during the stay of the law enforcement officers in the Ukrainian House, depositories and some drawers were opened (http://prostir.museum/ua/post/32017-currently this is the only material that was published.

During the protesters' stay in the Ukrainian House, no incidents were reported by the museum. From 19:00 on February 18th till the morning of February 20th, 2014 the officers of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine controlled the Ukrainian House. At night on February 19th publications and interviews with museum workers were published where it was declared about the heist in the depositories of the Museum of Kyiv History – at midnight, February 19th triggered a burglar alarm, however, security did not respond the call (http://www.artukraine.com.ua/articles/1874.html#.UwUnQfCXknM.facebook). No statements from the officials about the condition of depositories of the Museum of Kyiv History as of February 20th, 2014, 15:00 were published, despite the tense situation, the precedent of infringement of the inviolability of museum collections and another escalation of confrontations.

On the February 19 the Ukrainian Committee of ICOM sent open letter addressed to the Acting Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine Mr. V.Zakharchenko, the Acting Minister of Culture Mr. L.Novokhatko, the Head of Kyiv City State Administration Mr. V.Makeenko, and to the Head of Committee of Supreme Council of Ukraine with call to:-ensure maximum safety and inviolability of the Museum's of Kyiv History collections, stored in the Ukrainian House;
  • -immediately provide information about the state of museum collection in the Ukrainian House to the public;
  • -create the interdepartmental commission with the representatives of the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine, Department of Culture KCSA, museum representatives, Ukrainian National Committee of ІCOM and the Ukrainian Center for Museum Development to monitor the situation and revision of presence of the collection of the Museum of Kyiv History in the Ukrainian House, and involve members of the Commission to investigate the incident with the Museum of Kyiv History, which occurred in the Ukrainian House over the last few months.
In the morning of February 20th, 2014, law enforcement officers, for unknown reasons, left the Ukrainian House. Museum staff with assistance of NGOs and volunteers organized the evacuation of the museum depositories to another building, which belongs to the Museum of Kyiv History (Bohdan Khmelnytsky st. 7).

Due to the aggravation of conflict on 18th-20th of February 2014 with the use of a weapon, museums and sites of cultural heritage are jeopardized in Kyiv and other cities of Ukraine.
Ukraine House after 1/26 standoff between police and protesters

With regard to the Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict of May 14, 1954 and taking into consideration the complete absence of any official information from the government for nearly three months of confrontations and precedents of violation of the integrity of the State Museum Fund, Ukrainian National Committee of the International Council of Museums ICOM appeals to the International Council of Museums (ICOM), ICOMOS and UNESCO with the call to articulate their opinion about the situation where museums in Ukraine become hostage off confrontation and shall take all possible measures to prevent such situations.

Sincerely,
Board of Ukrainian National Committee of the International Council of Museums (ІСОМ) 

(Translated by Bing)