A Commentary to International Conventions and European Union Law
IHC Series in Heritage Management
Chapter 1: Cultural Property and Restitution: The Theories of Cultural Nationalism and Cultural Internationalism
1.1 THE NOTION OF CULTURAL PROPERTY There is no internationally accepted definition of cultural property. Cultural property is a notion which differs according to the point of view taken, to the legal instrument applied and to the intended result. It is also a notion which is subject to evolution,1 whilst in bilateral or multilateral relations it forms the subject of mutual agreement or compromise respectively. Therefore the definition of a state’s cultural property varies according to whether it is the state itself which defines that property, or whether it is defined by another state involved in a claim for return or restitution. Does that mean that ‘cultural property’ is a term which is vague and flexible and cannot be subject to an objective definition?2 Not entirely. Although cultural property is a general notion familiar to the layperson, Especially after the growth of interest in anthropology and ethnography. Askerud P. & E. Clément (1997), Preventing the Illicit traffic in Cultural Property. A Resource Handbook for the implementation of the 1970 UNESCO Convention, Paris: UNESCO, 5. Indicative also is the fact that cultural objects are no longer approached on the basis of their aesthetic value but as evidence of particular cultures and times in history. This is also the reason why their preservation in their context carries so much weight. Preserving cultural objects in context allows one to use them as testimonies of particular habits of their time in order to advance research and contribute to the knowledge of our...
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