Should we equate preservation of cultural heritage with human rights?

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Michele Cloonan, Dean Emirata and Professor at the Graduate School of Library & Information Science, Simmons College and editor of Preserving our Heritage :  Perspective from antiquity to the digital age, writes about the destruction of cultural heritage in a new blog for CILIP. An extract is below:

While most of us don’t equate preservation with human rights, the relationship has been touched on at least as early as the nineteenth century —although the destruction of cultural heritage has taken place for as long as there has been heritage. In the nineteenth century the concept of human rights was considered in the context of war. Swiss businessman and reformer Henri Dunant was an organiser of the First Geneva Conference for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded Armies in the Field (1863-64) and a founder of the Red Cross (see his Memory of Solferino [Geneva, Switzerland: International Committee of the Red Cross, 1986]).

At just about the same time as these activities were taking place in Europe, Francis Lieber, a German jurist who settled in the United States, prepared for the Union Army General Orders No. 100: Instructions for the Government of the Armies of the United States in the Field, better known as the Lieber Code; it established rules for the humane treatment of civilians in areas of conflict and forbade the execution of prisoners of war. Further it sought the protection of works of art, scientific collections, and hospitals in war-torn areas. These ideas were further developed in the Hague Peace Conferences that were held from 1899-1907 and in the later Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict (1954 and the 1999 Second Protocol). Excerpts of these codes, conventions, and protocols are included in chapter 9 of my books Preserving Our Heritage: Perspectives from antiquity to the digital age (London: Facet, 2015).

Read the full blog on the CILIP website.

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