The protection of cultural property in the event of armed conflict

Lecture: The protection of cultural property in the event of armed conflict

Monday 25 January 2016

International Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works, at the Linean Society, Burlington House, London.

Lecture by Professor Peter Stone.

Cultural property always gets damaged and destroyed during conflict but such damage and destruction is frequently avoidable and has been seen as bad practice by military theorists for over 2,000 years.

The Allied Powers in the Second World War acknowledged the importance of protecting cultural property by creating the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives Sub-Commission (MFAA) – recently the focus of the film ‘The Monuments Men’. Unfortunately, the MFAA team was largely broken up at the end of the war and, apart from the production of the 1954 Hague Convention on the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and its two Protocols of 1954 and 1999, the military – and heritage community – essentially forgot the importance of trying to protect cultural property during conflict. It was only following the disastrous destruction and looting that followed the war in the former Yugoslavia and the 2003 invasion of Iraq that the issue returned to the agenda.

The Blue Shield organisation was created in 1996 in an attempt to raise the profile of cultural property protection. Since then it has worked with the military and other relevant organisations to flag the importance of this work. Progress has been slow but recently significant steps have been taken.