Protecting Cultural Objects: Before and After 1970.

Author:Yunxia, Wang
 
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Protecting Cultural Objects: Before and After 1970

Patrick J. O'Keefe

(304 pp. Institute of Art and Law, 2017)

This book is a completely revised and expanded edition of Patrick O'Keefe's Commentary on the 1970 UNESCO Convention. (1) Professor O'Keefe, is a world-renowned legal expert and scholar in the field of cultural heritage protection, who has published extensively in this area (2) and this book is far more than a commentary on the provisions of the Convention: the historical background is essential to a proper understanding of the Convention.

The value of the 'historical' is particularly evident from the first chapter of this book, and the grand concept of the author's time as a law professor is impressive. Taking time as a theme, the author has integrated the development of concepts and beliefs in the field of cultural heritage protection. Speaking first from the perspective of war and the international order, it shows great concern about the looting of cultural objects in armed conflicts and war time, underlining the author's basic position that cultural relics should be returned to their country of origin. At the beginning, he quotes the assertion of the famous Spanish theologian and jurist Francisco de Vitoria, considered by many to be the founder of modern international law, to indicate this position:... it is not justifiable to take anything that they possess from Saracens or Jews, or other unbelievers, as such, that is, because they are unbelievers; but the act would be theft or robbery no less than if it were done to Christians. The author then quotes Hugo Grotius's classic discourse in The Law of War and Peace to outline the international origin of cultural heritage law. The basic cultural heritage protection principles based on the subsequent Treaty of Osnabruck, the Treaty of Westphalia, the Hague Convention and the Treaty of Versailles are presented in chronological order. The author then introduces, again in chronological order, three draft Conventions on cultural heritage protection drafted by the OIM (Office International des Musees) in the 1930s before the founding of the United Nations. The author also analyses the London Declaration of 1943 (3) issued by the governments of seventeen countries during the Second World War and which directly promoted the protection or return of cultural property It is also an international legal document which served as a link between the past and the future on the protection of important cultural heritage. After examining a large number of UNESCO archives, the author analyses in some detail the events which led to the birth of the 1970 Convention, from the proposals of Latin American countries to the conflicts of all parties in the formulation process, which were rationally and objectively presented. The author discusses topics such as the use of 'Cultural Heritage' in the 1970 Convention to describe the early origins of this concept. Discussing the significance of the Convention, the author believes that the far-reaching effects of the 1970 Convention come not only from the Convention itself, but also from the international and domestic policies adopted by different countries. The author uses the expression "but...

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