True Protection of Cultural Property Is Evolving

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by Ursula Kampmann

March 1, 2012 – On January 19, 2012 the official gazette published the proposition to change statutory amendments made by The Turkish Board of Protection of Cultural and Natural Assets. This text reports that artifacts being hold senselessly in archives of museums shall be valued by a commission that will be created to this purpose. According to the valuation these objects might be sold later on.

This proposition is completely new and pioneering leading to an evolution of the discussion about true cultural property protection. Instead of stocking everything without disposing of sufficient economic means to conserve all cultural property, selling unimportant objects is considered to be a possibility of gaining money to protect efficiently really important artifacts and providing them with the necessary conservation care.

According to this proposition all objects brought into museums must be used in the course of one year as long as there is no legal impediment by a valid owner. Otherwise the state can sell them to collectors after a valuation by an experts’ commission. Naturally archaeologists and affiliated groups have expressed their frustration. They say it is impossible to sell culturally and historically important objects because they are simply priceless.

One might understand the horror of certain archaeologists who take their time for publishing important objects or presenting them to the public – sometimes it takes them a couple of decades. This law not only forces them to publish promptly but it also dictates a differentiation between important und unimportant objects – and this seems impossible to many specialists.

However, this is the first time that a state organization is searching for a really innovative solution to the problem that no state in the world disposes of sufficient financial means to store and present appropriately all cultural objects coming continuously into its possession.

No doubt, the new law is not perfect. Security checks must be integrated to ensure that the gained means will be used to protect other cultural property – and not dissipate in the daily issues of politics. In particular it may make sense to let the museums themselves choose the objects they want to sell – and concede to them as well a share of the gained means which will certainly improve the cooperation.
Anyway this is a step to acknowledge reality, it is pragmatic and without prejudices.

If you want to read an article on the new law and the first reactions, please click here.

For those who are able to read it – unlike us: The website of the Official Gazette.