Museums and the destruction of heritage

Author(s): Richard Leventhal; Brian Daniels

Year: 2015


What are museums to do during times of war and with the destruction of cultural heritage in conflict zones? This is a question that came into focus during World War II, and more recently in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and other parts of the Middle East. What are the professional and ethical responsibilities of museums in the United States, in western Europe, or in other parts of the world when destruction of cultural heritage is planned or occurring? Do museums in the West have additional responsibilities if museums in these conflict zones are being destroyed? In this paper, we argue that possible actions by museums and professional museum organizations, such as the AAM, AAMD, ICOM, include: 1) providing personnel and financial resources to provide training and help preserve the heritage in situ; 2) providing a safe haven for artifacts and movable heritage during times of conflict – with assurances that these artifacts are returned to the country of origin after the conflict; 3) making sure that artifacts and material from the conflict zone are not available for sale; and 4) working to create an international task force to implement these activities on a broad scale.

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Cite this Record

Museums and the destruction of heritage. Richard Leventhal, Brian Daniels. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 397272)