Curriculum Guide · Courses
Art and Cultural Property Law Seminar: Indiana Jones and the Elgin Marbles
Professor James Fitzpatrick
J.D. Seminar 047 (cross-listed) | 2 credit hours
This seminar will consider the law, public policy and proper practices in connection with the movements of antiquities around the world. U.S. museums are the best in the world at displaying, preserving and examining art objects. But many of those objects have been brought to the United States in the last two hundred years from foreign nations who now want them to be repatriated, claiming they are an essential part of their national heritage. This is precisely the situation in the well-publicized case of the Elgin Marbles, which were brought to England early in the 19th century from Athens pursuant to an agreement between Lord Elgin and the then-occupying Turkish military rulers of Greece. What legal and moral rights are possessed by the Greeks who want these objects back and the British who want to retain them? Broadly, who owns culture -- the world at large or the political state where an object might have been found? To what extent is looting an endemic problem simply because there is a market in the United States and other Western nations for cultural objects and antiquities? We will review many legal and policy aspects of these questions: international treaties, U.S. law establishing a broad public policy for the import of antiquities, the role of the U.S. criminal law, and foreign systems of controlling exports of antiquities. The seminar will include a careful analysis of the text and impact of international conventions, U.S. statutes, and key legal decisions bearing on these issues. We will get a first hand view of museums and foreign nations urging repatriation. The class discussion will kick off with a contemporary case study: the looting of the Baghdad Museum in the early days of the Iraqi War. We were involved in warning the Defense and State Departments of these risks before the invasion, but these warnings were disregarded. There will be no written exam; however, a thoughtful research paper will be required and students are expected to participate in class discussions and to give a presentation, which will have a bearing on the final grade.
Recommended: An undergraduate background in art history, museum studies, or archeology or anthropology would be relevant, but not essential.
Attendance at all class sessions is required, except with prior permission of the professor. All enrolled and waitlisted students must attend the first class to remain enrolled or to be enrolled.