Art, War, and the Destruction of Cultural Property:

Over the course of history our world’s most significant treasures have been damaged, displaced, and virtually destroyed at the hands of wartime efforts. The question remains looming over the art world, who or what is best equipped to protect these irreplaceable objects? Recognizing that at the core of art and artifacts lies the purist form of a cultures identity, the loss of cultural property extends far beyond the walls of museums. In order to answer this question, it is imperative to identify the varying methods of looting and destruction, as well as understand that art possess dueling roles of expression and commodity. Based upon the historical patterns these methods reveal, what results is the use of systematic and unsystematic approaches to loot and destroy, not just art, but as it turns out, identity. Some examples include the Napoleonic Wars/French Revolution, WWII, the War in Iraq, and most recently, the attacks on Syria. As a means to destroy a people it is their memory, their self-expression, their imprint that is attacked first in each of these instances and countless more. Many institutions have intervened on behalf of cultural property around the world. These include, UNESCO Hague 1954 convention, UNESCO 1970 convention, museum associations such as, International Council of Museums (ICOM), American Alliance of Museums (AAM), Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD), and more recently numerous Non-Profit Organizations. Yet and still the problem persists even until this day. With global support and collaboration, what can be done within museum programming to stop this devastation? Is it simply providing in-house research and education tools, or is it something more superior? Seizing their position in the hearts and minds of the communities they serve, museums must extend the necessary knowledge to cause every individual to assume responsibility in the protection of cultural heritage. It is through this sense of ownership that the topic becomes personal and our senses are heightened. Insuring our prized institutions not only house the world’s greatest art, but also solves the world’s greatest problems.

The Culture Curator