What Do You Think? – The Louvre as a Repository for Endangered Cultural Heritage?

Lillia McEnaneyWhat do you think?3 Comments

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Earlier this month, the French president, François Hollande, suggested that the Louvre Museum in Paris could possibly become a safe haven for at-risk international cultural heritage. In 2019, the museum will open a new €60m conservation facility in Lievin, France that, in addition to holding the collections of the museum, could also serve as a repository for endangered objects from the Middle East. In addition to acknowledging the destruction caused terrorist groups at sites such as Palmyra, President Hollande also stressed the importance of protecting what is still left against trafficking: “We must put the world’s heritage in a secure place.”

Hollande is going to propose the idea at the Conference on Terrorism and Culture next month in Abu Dhabi.

The proposal brings up many questions about imperialism, colonialism, and the role of the West in the conflicts in the Middle East. What do you think? Should the Louvre hold cultural heritage that is in the crosshairs of conflict? Or does the acquisition of these materials further cultural imperialism?

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Lillia McEnaney

Lillia McEnaney

Content Coordinator & Web Editor at SAFE
Lillia McEnaney is a senior at Hamilton College and is double majoring in Archaeology and Religious Studies. Lillia has worked as an intern for various museums and cultural institutions across the United States, as a teaching and research assistant, and on field projects in Greece and Macedonia. She is interested in North American archaeology and anthropology, the U.S. Southwest, museum anthropology, digital archaeology, and indigenous rights, sovereignty, and representation. In her role at SAFE, Lillia aims to raise awareness about the widespread and unpublicized looting, trafficking, and sale of American Indian cultural patrimony.

3 Comments on “What Do You Think? – The Louvre as a Repository for Endangered Cultural Heritage?”

  1. Dr.Kwame Opoku

    It is a continuing historic fact that France and other Western States have always, in the last 500 years, strived for an imperialist hegemony and that a remarkable aspect of this imperialism has been the carting away of thousands of the cultural artefacts of others in Africa, Asia, South America and Oceania for museums in London, Paris, Berlin, Brussels, New York and other Western cities. Our contemporary Westerners have not sufficiently distanced themselves from the violations and violence of past lootings. On the contrary they have sought to justify the violent conduct of their predecessors who looted and secured the artefacts for the major museums. Recent discussions on restitution of Benin Bronzes and other looted artefacts demonstrate such behaviour beyond all reasonable doubt.

    Against this background, it is logical that the rest of the world looks at the proposition to bring threatened cultural artefacts to the Louvre with great scepticism and suspicion. Nevertheless, we should welcome the French initiative to save antiquities from destruction.

    However, such a welcome should be subject to various conditions that would ensure that the Louvre does not mix its artefacts with the protected or saved objects. There would have to be an administration consisting of officials from several continents and the States directly affected. We should also have procedures which ensure a complete record of the artefacts as they arrive in France and as they are deposited in the Louvre facility, with exacts dates and photos of the objects, exact locations, all clearly stated in a web page that can be consulted by all. Procedures should also be in place for dispute settlement concerning such artefacts. UNESCO, United Nations and ICOM could assist in drafting the required procedures.

    We surely should learn from history

  2. Matt

    The idea is needed but shouldn’t be restricted to just the Louvre. UNESCO should be a vehicle for a “rescued artifacts” museum or preservation center where contracts are written up and timelines are made in order for artifacts to return to their places of origin after conflict has died down. The artifacts could then be loaned to other musems for exhibition and also to raise awareness for the specific conflict and looting in general. Create a “world museum” and thoughts of imperialism will diminish. This is all very idealistic, however.

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