I'm delighted to report that the UK goverment issued a press release today announcing its intention to ratify the 1954 Hague Convention on the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict.
So many people have been involved in UK Blue Shield and BISI's campaign to bring this about — not least every single person who has written to their MP expressing their concern. Thank you everyone!
It's been a long slog: every government agrees in principle but none gets around to putting it into practice. Let's make it happen now!
Please get involved by writing to your recently (re-)elected MP asking them to take up ratification at the earliest possible opportunity.
Here is a draft letter that you can simply send to your MP, or that can be adapted as necessary, and a list of bullet points if you would prefer to write your own letter. They were drafted by Professor Peter Stone, the Chair of UK Blue Shield.
If you do not know the name of your MP or how to contact them, you can find their details on the UK Parliament website. If you would like to write to your local newspaper that would be wonderful as well.
To help us keep track of the campaign, please tell us when you write to your MP, or your local press, by:
#Hague1954— and tweet to your followers too!
Please also encourage anyone you know to write to their MP. Use Twitter (
#Hague1954), Facebook, email, good old-fashioned letters — whatever it it takes to tell our elected representatives why this matters so much.
Dear [MP'S NAME]
1954 Hague Convention on the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and its two Protocols of 1954 and 1999
May I congratulate you on your recent election and ask that you take action on a very topical and urgent matter.
The Hague Convention is the primary piece of International Humanitarian Law concerning the protection of cultural heritage during conflict. While the world reacts in horror to the appalling destruction of ancient sites, libraries, archives, and museums in the Middle East and Africa the UK remains the only Permanent Member of the United Nations Security Council, and arguably the most significant military power (and the only one with extensive military involvements abroad), not to have ratified the 1954 Hague Convention.
Following the catastrophic damage to libraries, archives, museums, and archaeological sites in Iraq after the 2003 US/UK led invasion the then Minister for Heritage, Andrew McIntosh, announced in 2004 the Government’s intention to ratify the 1954 Hague Convention as soon as Parliamentary business allowed. This claim has been repeated by every relevant Minister since. In November 2011, Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP, then Secretary of State at DCMS, made a joint UK Government and British Red Cross Society pledge “to make every effort to facilitate the UK’s ratification… and to promote understanding of the principles and rules of the Convention within the UK”.
Ratification has cross-Party support and the support of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport; the Foreign and Commonwealth Office; the Department for Overseas Development; and the Ministry of Defence.
In order to ratify the Convention national legislation has to be passed. A Draft Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Bill was scrutinised by DCMS Select Committee in the summer of 2008. The draft Bill required only minor modifications but no time was found for it in the next session. Despite constant requests, no time has been found since.
I ask you to urge the Government to take prompt and urgent action to ratify the Convention within the first session of this new Parliament.
[Your name and address]
|Photo: Dr Claudia Glatz|
|Photo: Dr Claudia Glatz|
As I mentioned in January, BISI is a project partner in an AHRC-funded research project that I'm currently working on with Ruth Horry, Jon Taylor, and Steve Tinney. It's got the possibly over-long title, "Materialities of Assyrian Knowledge Production: Object Biographies of Inscribed Artefacts from Nimrud for Museums and Mobiles" and its basic aim is this:
How do archaeological artefacts find their way into gallery cases and museum websites? How do objects found in the ground get transformed into specimens for scientific and historical study? How have the processes of making archaeological knowledge changed over the past two centuries? This project tackles those questions using objects excavated from the ancient city of Nimrud (Kalhu), capital of the Assyrian empire in the early first millennium BC.
The project aims to bring together as many as possible existing online resources on Nimrud, as well as creating substantial new interpretative content, designed and licensed for re-use by museums in mobile gallery guides. We're also hosting several related events throughout 2013.
The first of these was held yesterday at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. "Nimrud, from Mound to Museum: Making Knowledge from Archaeological Objects" brought together a range of academic experts who have been involved in this process, to give their personal stories of making knowledge from objects excavated from the city from the 1850s onwards. I have just finished putting together my live-tweets from the event on Storify to make a short summary of the five talks.
We made some great contacts for future Nimrud-related work, and collected a plethora of brilliant raw material for the Nimrud-related resources we're going to be developing on the project website over the coming months.
Thanks to everyone involved in the day: our six uniformly excellent speakers—Joan Oates, Julian Reade, Denise Ling, Kathleen Swales, Paul Collins, and Lamia Al-Gailani—and the engaged and thoughtful audience; Paul Collins (again) for organising the Ashmolean end, Lauren Mulvee for BISI, and fellow-project members Jon, Ruth and Steve.
The next Nimrud-related event we have planned is a free gallery talk I'll be giving on Wednesday 19 June 2013, 1.15-2.00 pm, at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge: "The Genies on the Stairs: who are they and how did they get here?" Not telling you now, you'll have to come along and find out!
I'm back home in Cambridgeshire now, filling the washing machine and petting the cat. There are still more Iraq posts to come over the next few days, but meanwhile you can read about what I got up to on Monday and Tuesday this week thanks to Jane Moon, blogging about the Ur Region Archaeological Project, which she co-directs. You'll have to read her if you want to make sense of the title of this post!