On cultural property and its protection: a law-and-economics comment
The term cultural property seems to have come into vogue after the Second World War as part of efforts to prevent the recurrence of the massive war-time destruction of objects of cultural significance to various groups and, in some cases, to all of humanity. The 1954 Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict symbolises those efforts. Destruction is not the only doomsday scenario for cultural property. Removal of objects from their owners or region of origin is another concern. This, too, had occurred during the Second World War with the nazis’ looting treasures of all kinds from occupied territories, not to mention the massive confiscation of the property of their Jewish victims everywhere. But the concern was older, as Merryman for one shows in the story of the Elgin marbles, brought from Greece to England during the 19th century. This concern has found expression in a 1970 UNESCO treaty and in a 1995 Unidroit Convention seeking to halt international traffic in cultural property.