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From iconic monuments to sites of social justice, the 2020 World Monuments Watch includes 25 sites that marry great historical significance with contemporary social impact.
Prof. Amareswar Galla is on jury for the 2020 World Monuments Watch. For details of the 25 sites, click here.
Telangana Bouddha Sangiti is organizing a International Seminar on Buddhist Archaeology from 15-17 November 2019, in Hyderabad, India. Professor Amareswar Galla, Ph.D. is an Invited speaker on UNESCO 1970 Convention and Prevention of Illicit Traffic in Cultural Property.
Click here for Full Schedule.
The Twelfth International Conference on the Inclusive Museum features research addressing the Special Focus—Museums, Heritage & Sustainable Tourism from 7 -9 November 2019 in Muntref, Museum of immigration, Buenos Aires, Argentina. Professor Amareswar Galla, Ph.D. is the Chairperson for the Inclusive Museum research network. Detailed program here.
The Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage is organizing a Working Conference on Critical Developments in Cultural Sustainability in Washington, DC, USA, from 23 – 25 October 2019. As part of the Sustaining Practice Track, Professor Amareswar Galla, PhD, an Invited expert on Intangible Heritage will talk about Village India: Safeguarding Contextual Intangible Heritage.
A Capacity Building Studio workshop on Curatorship: Concept, Design, and Practice, was organized from, 5-7 October 2019 in HCM City, Vietnam by the Department of Culture and Sport, Asia Europe Foundation and the International Institute for the Inclusive Museum. The workshop was facilitated by Prof Dr. Amareswar Galla.
The UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property was created in 1970.
We asked Professor Dr. Amareswar Galla, the Founding Executive Director of the International Institute for the Inclusive Museum (http://inclusivemuseums.org/) to share his views on its status and implementation in India. He has worked on the implementation of the UNESCO 1970 Convention in 49 countries including all the sub-regions of the Asia Pacific.
Question: The Member States of UNESCO adopted the Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, in November 1970. (Hereafter 1970 Convention) Do you think further efforts are needed to increase its acceptance as well as strengthen implementation by its States Parties?
It is a significant Convention that is often located on the access of the Global North and the South. Where there is a hand to buy there is a hand to sell. I have argued consistently that poverty is also one of the main factors that need to be addressed in relation to this Convention. It must also be addressed with in the UN Agenda 2030.
Illicit traffic of all kinds, especially cultural property is rarely bilateral and mostly multilateral. In order to minimize it we need every member of the UN to become a State Party and to have compatible national legislations and develop appropriate national policy frameworks that could be implemented with relevant capacities and capabilities.
Question: In view of the recent demand in cultural artefacts in India, has there been an increase in its illegal trade? Why do you think the issue is still not much talked about?
In July 2003 a historical joint Parliamentary Forum was convened in New Delhi at the Parliament House under the program – Parliamentarians for Human Development. I addressed it as a keynote speaker arguing that the commitment and actions of India as a State Party to the 1970 Convention were critical as the country’s cultural property is being looted. During the Forum one of our major concerns was the illicit traffic from Afghanistan and Iraq that was across the borders of the region. I held up major catalogues of auction houses which featured stolen and illegally acquired cultural property from India and the region.
The telling point was made by a major supplier from Mumbai when she said over lunch that the Parliament can do what it wants but they cannot stop the traffic. She underscored the point that Indians really did not care.
It was obvious compliance was only part of the implementation and that it was hard to monitor in a large country. Far more important is advocacy and awareness raising. Not just in the major cities, but most importantly at the state and local government levels. Media, especially social media needs to play a major role in India. India needs to participate proactively to affirm its commitment to the 1970 Convention and play a strategic role within the country, the region and beyond.
Question: India is a signatory to the 1970 UNESCO Convention, but how have the central laws helped to prevent loss and damage to arts and antiquities, in the country. What do you think are further urgent steps that the Government needs to take?
India has the requisite compliance measures to minimise illicit traffic in cultural property. However, the scope of cultural property needed to be broadened from the predominance of focus on ‘antiquities’ as understood from a bygone era. For instance, industrial and craft heritage is often looted in India for export – vintage cars to parts of locomotives and even significant parts of ginning mills and weaving looms. While working on the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway soon after its inscription on the World Heritage list, we found out that the DHR badge or insignia was a collectible that was often removed to the UK.
Temples and various places of worship are targets for the looters. But most of the items in such places is rarely inventoried and accounted for. Similarly, sacred objects stolen from tribal communities are recognised as being significant for rituals, initiation ceremonies and spiritual well-being among indigenous communities, especially for intergenerational education and immersion of children and youth.
In the past two years India has been receiving artefacts that were illicitly removed in the past, often voluntarily returned by Heads of Government as good will gestures. This is within the context of bilateral, a kind of soft power approach in global geopolitics and improving trade relations. But this is only the tip of the iceberg. For every return there are thousands that are stolen through various channels.
India is spending considerable resources on digitisation of collections in national heritage institutions. This is different from inventorying. Digitisation is a means to and not an end in itself. inventorying and preventive measures are needed at the site and local institutional levels.
India has been spending resources on cultural mapping. But at a national seminar I convened last year in Amaravathi, it was obvious that the majority of the funded organizations and project consultants are not heritage or collection conscious of the tangibles. Cultural mapping needs to be better understood and used as a tool for safeguarding heritage of all kinds. Mapping should lead to strategic planning. One of the outcomes could be the protection of the movable heritage of India.
Question: What are your recommendations for enhancing the understanding and international cooperation to combat the illicit traffic of cultural property, especially among the countries with shared borders with India, such as Bhutan, Nepal and Pakistan?
Prevention of illicit traffic of all kinds is multilateral. It is rarely bilateral. Borders are porous. Third country transit from the source to destination is common and difficult to prevent without multilateral cooperation. In this context regional collaborations are critical. At the turn of the century, I ran a series of workshops for the ten countries of Southeast Asia in partnership with ASEANPOL and Customs and UNESCO to develop a strong regional network. ASEAN Heritage Charter Provided a useful framework in Southeast Asia. A similar approach should be undertaken through SAARC Collaboration as a starting point, but we must be conscious that illicit traffic is far more global.
The Dhaka and Kandy Declarations on Culture by SAARC provide the broader framework. A regional workshop I conducted in Sri Lanka with SIDA funding emphasised the need for a regional thesaurus of heritage terminology that could be provide a shared understanding of object nomenclature between heritage agencies and police and customs. OBJECT ID training is needed at all levels using such tools. Even though OBJECT ID not a substitute for inventorying, it could be a starting point. UNESCO could play a very important role in the subcontinent. But it is up to the State Parties to the 1970 Convention to mobilise to safeguard their heritage assets.
I strongly recommend that India could take a three-pronged approach.
Given the vast extent of the country’s heritage, it would help if there is a national, state, territory and local government cooperation and coordination through a taskforce to establish a distributed national collections system. It could have portals at the national and regional levels that are integrated. These need to be secured from use in illicit trafficking.
Secondly, greater collaboration is needed with Interpol, WCO, ICOM and UNESCO through appropriate capacity building. This should include not only the ability to inventorise but also communicate. I have advocated for years that the information about stolen objects should travel faster than the objects so that they could be intercepted closer to the source or provenance. I recently looked at the INTERPOL database and found out that several stolen objects that are registered at the local police stations rarely reach the INTERPOL.
Thirdly, a massive awareness campaign is needed in the country. It needs to be strategic and informed. Media has an important role to play. To date, not a single law faculty in India teaches International Heritage Law. This is no different from the specialised museum and heritage studies courses. There is no facility for building the capacity of administrators or police and customs personnel. The 1970 Convention along with the 1995 UNIDROIT Convention as well as return, repatriation, restitution and due diligence need to be grounded in all curricula.
Capacity building at all levels, rethinking and adding depth and substance to cultural mapping, launching an informed national awareness campaign and reinforcing compliance measures are possible within the envisaged cultural budget for the next five years.
The stories sites tell are universal. The dangers they face are immense. The cultural treasures that have been entrusted to us are under constant attack by time, neglect, natural forces, and human actions. Preserving this heritage has—from the beginning—been the overriding mission of World Monuments Fund, as they work with local partners around the globe to provide financial and technical support for preservation, restoration, and long-term stewardship. The Review meeting will be held from 18 – 20 August in USA. Prof. Galla is in attendance as an External Selection Panel expert member for the final stage in the review and selection process for the 2020 cycle of the program.
Ecomuseums and Regional Museums
Regional museums strive to serve their regional/local communities. How can regional museums be active as responsible partners in respecting, preserving and interpreting traditions of cultural and natural heritage? Regional museums can be responsive and collaborate with experts across different fields, collecting both intangible and tangible heritage – to represent people whose voices have not always been heard, especially in preserving customs and traditional practices related to natural resources. Regional museums should expand the field of museum studies to cover ecological issues of the past, present and future, building on traditions of planting, harvesting, fishing, animal husbandry etc. and effective management of the cultural and/or natural environment for a sustainable future. Prof. Galla is the Rapporteur on 5th September for the daylong session on Ecomuseums and Regional Museums Seminar Day.
Museums as Cultural Hubs: The Future of Tradition
During the week of 1–7 September 2019, the city of Kyoto will welcome some 3,000 participants to the ICOM General Conference. This triennial gathering promises to inspire a range of discussions and exchanges on museum-related issues. Through sessions, excursions, workshops, and more, participants will be able to engage with other museum professionals and enthusiasts to broaden their experience and understanding of museums around the world. In attendance will be Prof. Amareswar Galla, Former Vice President, Former President of the Asia Pacific Alliance and Chair of the ICOM CrossCultural Taskforce that drafted the Shanghai Charter 2010. Full conference details here.
Professor Galla is facilitating a two-day module for Anant Fellows, 6-7 August, 2019, at Anant National University, on Cultural Rights and Public Spaces. The Focus of this module is on the four pillars of Empathy, Leadership, Collaboration and Problem Solving.