Proposal 2: UNESCO Policy


The UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property was intended to protect artifacts through control of their trade. The convention was held to develop international policy and encourage countries to cooperate. Under these policies, a country must list all the artifacts it considers to be of great importance. The polices do not apply automatically to all artifacts. In regard to unexcavated materials, a state is allowed declare certain areas or categories of objects as important. It prohibits the import and export of goods that are known to be stolen from another country. Also, a country may request an item that was found in it but it now being possessed by another country.

Written by UNESCO, these policies are not without critics.  One of the biggest issues it does not address is context.  This is the idea that artifacts should be studied and viewed not as fragments but as entire collections. Had the Rosetta stone been broken into bits and owned by different places all over the world, we might not ever have translated it. Also, whether the policies are actually followed is an issue that arises in understanding the state of current policies. Since this is a government document, those are things I noticed that may make the ideas expressed in this context different than those of museums, researchers, or educators.

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