Friday, February 1, 2013

The 1970 Rule and the AAMD Guidelines

The Revisions to the 2008 Guidelines on the Acquisition of Archaeological Material and Ancient Art issued this week by the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) requires study. Lee Rosenbaum's blog post titled "AAMD’s “Strengthened” Antiquities-Collecting Guidelines Boost the Loopholes" offers keen analysis at this early stage.

An additional observation worth highlighting is the AAMD's request for others--besides museums--to follow the 1970 rule.  The 1970 rule is described in the latest Revisions this way:

"The AAMD, along with others in the international community, including source countries, recognizes the date of this Convention [1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import and Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property], November 17, 1970, as providing the most pertinent threshold for the application of more rigorous standards to the acquisition of archaeological materials and ancient art as well as for the development of a unified set of expectations for museums, sellers and donors."

Despite the AAMD's aspirations, the organization has not convinced many relevant governmental authorities to abide by the 1970 rule when cultural property forfeiture and repatriation claims are pursued. So it is not surprising to read the Revision's latest plea:
The AAMD was encouraged in 2008 to see that the date of adoption of the UNESCO Convention was recognized not only by museums as a threshold for more rigorous analysis of acquisitions, but also by some countries as a voluntary limitation for enforcement of their cultural patrimony laws that predate the UNESCO Convention. The AAMD hopes that other countries will follow this precedent of voluntary restraint as the AAMD continues to encourage its members to pursue voluntary standards for acquisitions that are stricter than the requirements of applicable law.
The 1970 rule is laudable and worth promoting.  But how does the AAMD intend to convince domestic and foreign governmental authorities to follow it when the latest Revisions do not appear to go far enough to prevent the accession by museums of post-1970 looted, smuggled, or fraudulently sold antiquities?

This post is researched, written, and published on the blog Cultural Heritage Lawyer Rick St. Hilaire at culturalheritagelawyer.blogspot.com. Text copyrighted 2012 by Ricardo A. St. Hilaire, Attorney & Counselor at Law, PLLC. Any unauthorized reproduction or retransmission of this post is prohibited. CONTACT: www.culturalheritagelawyer.com