Handbook on the Law of Cultural Heritage and International Trade

Handbook on the Law of Cultural Heritage and International Trade

Research Handbooks on Globalisation and the Law series

Edited by James A.R. Nafziger and Robert Kirkwood Paterson

This Handbook offers a collection of original writings by leading scholars and practitioners in the exciting, rapidly developing field of cultural heritage law. The detailed essays are the product of a multi-year project of the Committee on Cultural Heritage Law of the International Law Association.

Chapter 1: Cultural heritage law

James A. R. Nafziger and Robert Kirkwood Paterson

Subjects: law - academic, cultural heritage and art law, international economic law, trade law


Broadly speaking, the term "cultural heritage" refers to the myriad manifestations of culture that human beings have inherited from their forebears. These manifestations include, for example: art, architecture, rural and urban landscapes, crafts, music, language, literature, film, documentary and digital records, folklore and oral history, culinary traditions, indigenous medicine, ceremonies and rituals, religion, sports and games, dance and other performing arts, and recreational practices such as those involving hunting and fishing. In the narrower sense in which the term generally will be used in this book, however, "cultural heritage" is limited to tangible artifacts of cultural significance - that is, "cultural material," "cultural objects" or the European term "cultural goods" - as well as cultural sites, and intangible ideas and knowledge related to such objects. We commonly associate this narrower definition with the legal concept of property whether we are referring to physical or intellectual property. Accordingly, the terms "cultural property" and "cultural heritage" sometimes are used interchangeably. Strictly speaking, however, the term "property" connotes ownership and imputes rights to owners and possessors of objects and intangibles under national property law whereas "heritage" does not imply such ownership and concomitant rights. Of course, the term "cultural" is itself subject to various interpretations. A particularly important aspect of international cultural heritage lawis the concept of "cultural patrimony." It refers to that part of a culture that is so fundamental to the identity and character of a nation, tribe, or other ethnic group that its members deem it inalienable.