considers combatting illicit trade in cultural goods to
be one of the core aims of its programme of action. The
museum professionals who belong to the organisation play
an active part in this campaign, focusing not only on preventive
measures such as promoting professional ethics and ensuring
the security of collections, but also on concrete initiatives
directly involving international networks of professionals.
a clear-cut set of professional ethics is absolutely central
to the work of ICOM. Museum professionals must play a leading
role in combatting illicit trade by observing strict rules
regarding the objects offered to them. ICOM began by publishing
a document entitled Ethics of Museum Acquisitions
in conjunction with UNESCO
in 1971. Then, at the 15th ICOM General Assembly in 1986,
Code of Professional Ethics was officially
approved. This Code lays down a set of principles governing
museums and the museum profession in general, and acquisitions
and transfers of ownership of collections in particular.
It has been revised and a new version was adopted by the
21st General Assembly, in Seoul (Repubblic of Korea) in
security of collections depends on all museum staff being
appropriately trained, and on inventories being kept up
to date. ICOM has encouraged greater professionalism amongst
staff responsible for safeguarding heritage items, via its
International Committee for the Training of Personnel (ICTOP).
Its International Documentation Committee (CIDOC)
helps museums draw up inventories - a vital factor in the
security of collections. This Committee and its working
groups also determine international standards, vocabulary
and suitable terms for managing, researching, exhibiting
and conserving objects.
museums made use of this work in preparing their Handbook
of Standards. Documenting African collections
which was published in 1996 as part of AFRICOM's
programme of action. This represents the first continent-wide
move to share cultural resources and provide a basis for
measures to improve security, whether or not these make
use of advanced technology, constitutes a useful precaution
against theft. The ICOM International Committee for Museum
Security (ICMS) publishes international directives on security,
and trains senior security staff. At its annual meetings,
the merits of different preventive measures and security
systems are discussed and experiences shared.
many countries, the cultural heritage often remains outside
museums, in the care of the communities which generated
it. Populations need to be made aware of the importance
of this heritage and of its vital role in preserving their
cultural identity. Professionals need to develop closer
links with these communities and set up collaborative projects.
This is one of the themes of ICOM's International Committee
for Education and Cultural Action (CECA), which is made
up of museum staff who specialise in presenting and explaining
artworks to the public.
ICOM's National Committees draw up national plans of action
to combat illicit trade in cultural goods.
TO RAISE AWARENESS AND HELP IDENTIFICATION
alert the general public as well as professionals to this
problem, ICOM decided to redouble its efforts in the fight
against illicit trade by publishing a series of volumes
entitled One Hundred Missing Objects. Four volumes
have been published. Devoted respectively to the Angkor
archaeological site (Looting in Angkor), African
heritage (Looting in Africa), Latin American heritage
(Looting in Latin America) and European religious
heritage (Looting in Europe) they have led to several
of the stolen or looted objects being identified and returned.
Press campaigns associated with each volume have contributed
to increasing awareness among professionals and the general
public regarding heritage protection.
also publishes a selection of objects reported stolen to
Interpol in its quarterly journal, ICOM
News, which is circulated free to ICOM's
17,000 members worldwide.
April 2000, a new means of raising awareness has come into
existence: the ICOM
Red List. The list can be modified and is
not exhaustive: its aim is to list the types of objects
most frequently removed from sites or stolen. The first
ICOM Red List is devoted to African archaeological
heritage, and was drawn up by African, European and North
American museum professionals. The second Red List is devoted
to the cultural heritage in Latin America and the third
one, entitled "Emergency Red List of Iraqi Antiquities
at Risk was published to help customs and officials to recognize
objects that could originate from Iraq. The objects on these
lists are extremely vulnerable to looting and theft. They
are protected by law; their export is prohibited; and they
can on no account be offered for sale. ICOM therefore appeals
to museums, dealers and collectors not to buy these objects.
1993, ICOM has held a number of workshops in conjunction
with Interpol and UNESCO on the subject of illicit trade
in cultural property. These workshops have brought together
museum professionals, police and customs officers with the
aim of deciding on effective regional measures against thefts
and looting. In Africa and Latin America and more recently
in Southeast Asia, they have resulted the setting-up of
operational teams of people directly involved in heritage
protection, and have facilitated regional and international
of Congo, 1996; Tunisia, 1998, Vietnam
2001; Colombia, 2002; Sri Lanka, 2003)
from museums and looting of archaeological sites provide
fodder for an international traffic in cultural goods. Museums
cannot act alone, so ICOM works closely with police and
customs authorities. 2000 has been a landmark year for heritage
protection: ICOM has signed agreements
with both the World Customs Organisation (WCO) and Interpol
on the role played by customs and police authorities in
the fight against illicit trade in cultural goods. This
increased awareness on the part of the international bodies
charged with monitoring the flow of goods should provide
museums with additional support in their efforts to stop
this iniquitous trade.
the same time, ICOM is working with UNESCO to promote the
Convention of 1970 and the 1995
Unidroit Convention, which are currently
the only international legal instruments in this area. Many
of the countries which import cultural goods have not yet
ratified these agreements. In these cases, ICOM communicates
with its National Committees to ask professionals to convey
its preoccupations and requests to their respective governments.
fight against illicit trade in cultural property is not
only a matter for museum professionals: the forces now ranged
alongside them demonstrate that the fight against this menace
to cultural heritage is a battle that concerns us all.