Atle Omland start page Buddhist manuscripts from Afghanistan in The Schøyen Collection  



Some time after Taliban came into power a collection of Buddhist manuscripts from Afghanistan were acquired by The Schøyen Collection, Oslo, Norway. The manuscripts are often referred to as the "Dead Sea scrolls of Buddhism". This web page presents the current debate concerning the ownership of these and other manuscripts in The Schøyen Collection, as well as more general information about cultural property issues.
  Editor Atle Omland and Christopher Prescott.

Launched August 2002

Last update: December 15, 2005

Currently, the page is not updated


Major updates:
 


Contents:


Top of page

Presentation of The Schøyen Collection and the Buddhist manuscripts from Afghanistan

The debate in foreign media (2000-2005)

The debate in Norwegian media (2002-2003)

Claims for restitution (2003)

TV documentary on The Schøyen Collection (September 2004-)

Organizations working for protecting the cultural heritage of Afghanistan

Organizations working on cultural property issues

Legal tools for protecting cultural property

Links to this web page


The Schøyen Collection is allegedly the largest private manuscript collection formed in the 20th century, comprising about 13500 manuscripts and inscribed objects. The single largest group of manuscripts in the collection are thousands of fragments of possibly 1400 Buddhist manuscripts reported in 2000 and 2001 to have been taken out of Afghanistan after Taliban came to power. The manuscripts were said to have been found in a cave close to Bamiyan, and that they might stem from a library that was damaged in the late 7th or 8th century. The manuscripts were made available for researchers after the purchase, and an international research group, directed from the University of Oslo, Norway, investigates and publishes them.

The owner of The Schøyen Collection, Mr. Martin Schøyen, announced in 2000 that he intended to sell the entire Schøyen Collection at an assumed market price later estimated to about 110 million USD/850 million Norwegian crowns. The proceeds are to be donated or bequeathed to a humanitarian fund named in his honour. Scholars and officials in Norway then argued that the Norwegian state should buy the entire collection, including the Buddhist manuscripts, at market price. The Norwegian government has refused to make such a purchase, but the collection is still on offer to other Norwegian or foreign institutions.

The position taken by the owner of this web page is that the Buddhist manuscripts from Afghanistan should be returned to Afghanistan when conditions permit. It should also be emphasized that care should be taken not to stimulate or support the illicit trade in cultural property. These issues have since 2002 been the attention of a heated debate in Norway. Some of the discussed manuscripts were in 2005 returned to Afghanistan and Pakistan, but most of the manuscripts are still in the possession of The Schøyen Collection.

This web site provides detailed information about the debate concerning The Schøyen Collection, especially the Buddhist manuscripts from Afghanistan, but also objects from Iraq, Pakistan and Ethiopia held in the collection, and in addition general information concerning cultural property issues.

Unfortunately, not all of the articles referred to are available on the Internet, but these can be acquired through a library, from the newspapers' digital archive or in A-tekst.

– Kulturplyndring finansierer krig, UNIFORUM, December 15, 2005

Lundén, Staffan 2005: TV review NRK (Norway) Skriftsamleren [The Manuscript Collector]. Culture Without Context (16): 3-11

The Schøyen Collection returns manuscripts to Afghanistan, September 5, 2005

Resolution concerning the scholarly study of manuscripts, inscriptions, etc. of uncertain provenance and/or title of ownership, IABS, August 29, 2005

Professor renvasket, Morgenbladet, August 19, 2005

UiO burde ikkje ha stansa forsking, Uniforum, August 8, 2005

Oldtidsskrifter blir på nett, Aftenposten, July 9, 2005

Anker, Leif: Forskningsetisk utvalg går god for forskningen på Schøyen-samlingen, Museumsnytt, no 4 2005, pp. 10, 31

Burde ikke stoppet forskningen, NRK, July 5, 2005

Uttalelse fra Den nasjonale forskningsetiske komité for samfunnsvitenskap og humaniora (NESH) til rektor ved Universitetet i Oslo, NESH, June 30, 2005

Vil granske magiske krukker , VG, May 23, 2005

UK university reviews artefact loan, Aljazeera.Net, May 20, 2005

UCL establishes committee of enquiry into provenance of incantation bowls, UCL, May 16, 2005

Museum inquiry into 'smuggling' of ancient bowls, The Times, April 22, 2005

Brennpunkt vant SKUP, NRK, April 17, 2005

Flyum, Ola 2005: SKUP-rapport for NRK Brennpunkts prosjekter ("Skriftsamleren", "De magiske krukker"). SKUP

Anker, Leif: Schøyen-samlingen: Forskningsleder trekker seg, Museumsnytt, no 2 2005, p. 29

 

Presentation of The Schøyen Collection and the Buddhist manuscripts from Afghanistan  

Contents:

Top of page

Presentation of The Schøyen Collection and the Buddhist manuscripts from Afghanistan

The debate in foreign media (2000-2005)

The debate in Norwegian media (2002-2003)

Claims for restitution (2003)

TV documentary on The Schøyen Collection (September 2004-)

Organizations working for protecting the cultural heritage of Afghanistan

Organizations working on cultural property issues

Legal tools for protecting cultural property

Links to this web page
The Schøyen Collection and the Buddhist manuscripts from Afghanistan are known for the public through the official web-page of the collection, research on the collecton and general media coverages. Some of these presentations are referred to below.
  • The Schøyen Collection

    The official web-page of The Schøyen Collection, developed by the Norwegian National Library, presents about 650 of the magnificent manuscripts held in the collection.

    The Buddhist manuscripts from Afghanistan are presented under 22. Buddhism, giving an account of the purchases and the future of the manuscripts. The following version is published in the February 2005 19th edition, but rewritten ca. October 2005 to inform about an agreement with The Schøyen Collection and Afghan authorities on return of some of the manuscripts. Earlier versions are available here.

    The Buddhist collection comprises most Asian countries. Foremost is a collection of the earliest Buddhist scriptures known, spanning 2nd - 7th c., written on palm leaf in India, birch bark in Afghanistan, and vellum and copper.

    The about 5000 leaves and fragments with ca. 7000 micro-fragments from a library of originally up to 1000 manuscripts, together with 60 in British Library, have been called the "Dead Sea Scrolls of Buddhism". The manuscripts were found in caves in Bamiyan in Afghanistan 1993-95. They mostly avoided destruction during the civil war among several warlords and Taliban by being taken out of the war zones. The significant parts that remained in Afghanistan when Taliban took power in most of the country in 1996, were specifically targeted for destruction together with other Buddhist objects and monuments, but were saved under partly dramatic circumstances. The first few fragments were acquired by The Schøyen Collection in the summer 1996, while the bulk of the material was acquired in London 1997-2000. At that time they were increasingly being spread on a great number of hands in several countries. Many of the micro-fragments were either discarded or used for amulets. The greatest challenge of the rescue operation turned out to be getting these materials together again. For the greater part this turned out successfully. As the last part of the rescue operation they will now be made available to everyone, by being published by the world's leading scholars, see publication project no. 5.

    These Buddhist MSS are the only section in the collection that is not coming from old collections, but were acquired to prevent destruction, after requests from Buddhists and scholars. The question can be raised whether these MSS should be returned to Afghanistan after they have been published, and if peace, order, religious tolerance, and safe conditions can be established in that country.

    When the MSS were written, this was the Kushan Indo-Scythian Empire, later conquered by the Huns; modern Afghanistan did not exist. The area has since changed religion from Buddhism to Islam, changed language from Sanskrit and Gandhari to Arabic, Dari and Pashtu, and most of the descendants of the original Buddhists are living outside present Afghanistan. More than half of the MSS were actually written in present Pakistan and India. The Buddhist monasteries and their MSS were mostly destroyed in the 8th c. by Muslims, and the remaining to a greater part destroyed by Taliban recently, including the 2 giant statues of Buddha that were blown up in 2001. The last 2000 years the area has been regularly conquered, torn and shaken between its strong neighbours to the East, North, and West, and internally torn apart by civil wars. There is sadly enough a considerable probability that history will repeat itself in the far future as well. One has to draw the conclusion that Afghanistan is not the right and safe home for these MSS in the future, even if UNESCO's conventions directs such MSS to be returned to the National state. As mentioned in the introduction part 2, consideration and clarification about a possible future return of these manuscripts is an ongoing process.

    However, a friendly dialogue has evolved between Afghanistan, represented by the embassies in Oslo and Paris, and The Schøyen Collection, the present owner of the manuscripts. As a result of this, 7 fragments that were published in 1932 by Sylvain Levi as part of the Hackin collection which later came to The National Museum of Afghanistan, were given to the Museum 5 September 2005. These fragments had so far been held by The Schøyen Collection for security and preservation reasons.

    This has further been agreed:
    "The Hackin collection in The National Museum of Afghanistan comprised originally app. 50 Buddhist manuscript fragments from the 4th to the 7th century. The Schøyen Collection has generously offered to present to The Afghan National Museum 43-44 further original Buddhist manuscript fragments of similar type that were in the Hackin collection, in order to bring the Museum's holdings up to its pre-war level of app. 50 fragments. The Afghan authorities have accepted the gift, which will be presented to Afghanistan within the end of 2007 after research and publication.

    The Afghan authorities also appreciate the research over many years and publication of the Buddhist manuscript fragments by Professor Jens Braarvig and the international group of scholars, and will also express their support of the scholars' future work."

    The Schøyen Collection has a responsibility for the safekeeping of MSS that have survived up to 5000 years, and wishes these MSS at least an equally long life in the future, with full access for scholars and the public, irrespectively of nationality, race or religion. National states, that come and go over the centuries, is not the only criterion for where MSS should be kept. Religion, cultural context, long-term safety and public access should be equally important. (after 22. Buddhism, February 2005 19th edition, accessed October 30, 2005)

  • Braarvig, Jens (ed.) 2000 and 2002: Buddhist Manuscripts. Volume I and II. Manuscripts in The Schøyen Collection. Hermes, Oslo

    Professor Jens Braarvig gives in the introductory of volume I one version how the manuscripts were found:

    "Recently, to the great surprise and joy of the scholarly community of Buddhist studies, a sizeable collection of Buddhist manuscripts appeared, with new and important material for the study of Indian Buddhist history, religion and culture. According to scanty and partly confirmed information from the local dealers, most of these mainly Buddhist Sanskrit manuscripts were found quite recently in Afghanistan by local people taking refuge from the Taliban forces in caves near the Bamiyan valley, where an old library may have been situated, or possibly hidden. There are certain indications, however, that some of the material comes from other places. The manuscripts, which are mostly in fragments, were probably damaged already in the late 7th or the early 8th century, since the latest examples of scripts in the collection are from the 7th century. According to information passed on by the manuscript dealers, many manuscripts were further damaged when Taliban forces blew up a stone statue of the Buddha in one of the caves. Local people trying to save the manuscripts from the Taliban were chased by them when carrying the manuscripts through passes in the Hindu Kush to the north of the Khyber Pass. Further damage was incurred in this period, but the rescue operation was for the most part a success." (Braarvig 2000: xiii)


    Professor Braarvig defends in volume II Schøyen's title to the manuscripts:

    "Since the publication of the first volume in this series in 2000, Afghanistan, the source of the manuscripts which that volume presented to the scholarly public, has become the focus of world attention in ways entirely unforeseeable at the time. The events of September 11, 2001 and the ensuing war in Afghanistan-in which the last shot has not yet been fired-have made a household word of Bamiyan, a name long familiar to scholars of Buddhism but otherwise generally unknown. Indeed, earlier last year Bamiyan had already been in the news, when the Taliban demolished the giant Buddhas there despite the international outcry which the announcement of their plan to do so evoked. When one considers the grievous misery and massive loss of human life endured by the Afghani people in recent years, the destruction of archeological remains may seem far less serious, but the irreparable damage to the cultural heritage of Afghanistan wrought by the Taliban and by the subsequent struggle to remove them is still a matter of deep regret.

    It is against such a backdrop of national and global political conflict that the project to edit the Buddhist manuscripts in the Schøyen Collection has continued. Indeed, it is more than a backdrop, since the political course of events itself has inevitably accelerated the arrival of these manuscripts and others on the international market. Amid the political and military turmoil in this region, not only in Afghanistan but also in Pakistan and India, new finds continue to be made and fresh manuscripts continue to arrive in the West, along with other artifacts like jars and copper-plate inscriptions. From a scientific point of view the fact that the exact find-spots of these items are unknown and that proper excavations have not been carried out is deplorable, since the artifacts are shorn of context. Even so, when we reflect on the fate of the Bamiyan Buddhas, we have to be thankful that the artifacts have survived at all, and in such numbers, with the result that within the last decade a great deal of the Buddhist heritage of the region known as Greater Gandhara has been brought to light. Thus we have not only the Schøyen Collection, which has continued to grow since the publication of the first volume, but also the British Library collection of Kharosthi documents currently being studied in Seattle, the Hirayama Collection in Japan, the Senior Collection in the United Kingdom, and the very important Dirghagama manuscript of which different parts are now in private ownership in the United States and in Japan.

    This entire process raises complex economic and political issues, to say nothing of its moral dimensions. Indeed, since the first volume of this series appeared, the Schøyen Collection as a whole has become the focus of a certain public interest in Norway, which is only natural given the recent course of events. The collection remains in the possession of Martin Schøyen himself, having been acquired by him, but some have questioned his ownership on the grounds that the states in which the materials were originally found may have a moral if not a legal claim on such private collections as this one. These are frequently rehearsed arguments, in which the so-called Elgin Marbles remain emblematic. Our project group believes that scholars have the duty to work on and publish any such important historical materials, and that the owners, be they private persons or state institutions, should actively make these materials freely available to researchers and to the public rather than conceal them. In this regard the handling of the Schøyen Collection has, fortunately, set a most encouraging example, and it is gratifying to note that in all the cases mentioned above - and there are more besides - the manuscripts in question have rapidly been made available to interested scholars for the purposes of conservation, study and publication." (Braarvig 2002: xiii)
  • Braarvig, Jens 2004: The case of ancient Buddhist manuscripts from Afghanistan. In Not for sale. A Swiss-British conference on the traffic in artefacts from Iraq, Afghanistan and beyond, pp. 35-38. Edited by Matt Kimmich. British Council, Geneva.

    Braarvig now states the following on the Buddhist manuscripts:

    (...) the Norwegian state should buy the collection and use it for a cultural dialogue with Afghanistan, to build up institutions in Afghanistan which could take care of such cultural heritage, as well as helping to educate Afghan specialists in the field. Thus Norway could contribute towards the preservation of global heritage in its right geographical context and at the same time help to build a new cultural identity in Afghanistan - once the area becomes a hub of world culture again (Braarvig 2004: 37-38).
 

The debate in foreign media (2000-2005)  

Contents:

Top of page

Presentation of The Schøyen Collection and the Buddhist manuscripts from Afghanistan

The debate in foreign media (2000-2005)

The debate in Norwegian media (2002-2003)

Claims for restitution (2003)

TV documentary on The Schøyen Collection (September 2004-)

Organizations working for protecting the cultural heritage of Afghanistan

Organizations working on cultural property issues

Legal tools for protecting cultural property

Links to this web page
The Norwegian ownership of Buddhist manuscripts from Afghanistan, taken out from a country submerged in war, is controversial. The ownership of the manuscripts is now internationally discussed, from fall 2004 also the provenance and purchase of the British Library Kharosthi fragments.
  • Krieken, Juliette van 2000: The Buddhas of Bamiyan: Challenged witnesses of Afghanistan's forgotten past. Newsletter of the International Institute for Asian Studies, IIAS, no 23 (published with pictures in Punjabilok).

    Ms. van Krieken writes of the shock she experienced when she first heard of the Buddhist manuscripts in The Schøyen Collection. She continues her presentation with the sad story of the Afghan cultural heritage and efforts to save it.

    Ms. van Krieken is an art historian and lawyer who lived close to the Afghan border 1993-1995. She is also a founding member of the Society for the Preservation of Afghanistan's Cultural Heritage (SPACH) (more about SPACH below).
  • Yamada, Meiji 2002: Buddhism of Bamiyan. Pacific World. Journal of the Institute of Buddhist Studies, Third Series, Number 4: 109-122.

    Professor Yamada casts doubt on Mr. Schøyen's origin story of the Buddhist manuscripts; note especially his important remarks on pp. 111-114. Yamada's information was central to the TV documentary about The Schøyen Collection that was aired in September 2004 (see below). Interestingly, Mr. Schøyen and the Norwegian researchers on the Buddhist manuscripts chose not to communicate this important information, despite its relevance to the Norwegian debate about the manuscripts (see below for this debate).
 

The debate in Norwegian media (2002-2003)  

Contents:

Top of page

Presentation of The Schøyen Collection and the Buddhist manuscripts from Afghanistan

The debate in foreign media (2000-2005)

The debate in Norwegian media (2002-2003)

Claims for restitution (2003)

TV documentary on The Schøyen Collection (September 2004-)

Organizations working for protecting the cultural heritage of Afghanistan

Organizations working on cultural property issues

Legal tools for protecting cultural property

Links to this web page
Most media references in Norway up to January 2002 were positive to the collection, and they supported a policy of government purchase of the entire Schøyen Collection. The media emphasized the national prestige that would fall on a small country like Norway - with few significant cultural attractions of its own - if it could own and display such a great collection. An important new cultural attraction would literally put Norway on the map of world culture.

One exception, however, is the Internet newspaper Nettavisen that in November 2001 asked if the readers thought it was defensible to buy The Schøyen Collection for the Norwegian "oil-money". Many of the readers were, for various reasons, negative.

The director of the National Archives of Norway, Mr. John Herstad, likewise took a clear and critical stance on national television, and he made an appeal for a display of the same generosity towards Afghanistan that the young Norwegian state itself has so often benefited from.

However, several scholars where not content with this national debate about the manuscripts. In January 2002 the editors of this web-page co-authored an article raising critical, if in retrospect mild, questions concerning the ownership of the Buddhist manuscripts. Afterwards, the debate shifted towards a discussion of the ethics of collecting cultural property from Afghanistan.
  • Omland, Atle and Christopher Prescott 2002: Afghansk kulturarv - fortsatt i norsk eie? Aftenposten, January 17, 2002

    In a feature article in the daily newspaper Aftenposten Omland and Prescott argue that the Buddhist manuscripts from Afghanistan should be returned to Afghanistan when conditions allow.

    The destruction of cultural heritage in Afghanistan is presented, and gratitude is expressed to Schøyen for any positive role he might have had in salvaging the manuscripts and for making his collection publicly accessible. However, the article expresses deep concern over the removal of cultural heritage from a country submerged in war, and that such objects should ever be considered the property of anyone except the Afghan authorities. The article suggested that the manuscripts for a period could be cared for and researched on in Norwegian collections (or collections in other countries), but any caretaker should be obliged to return them when conditions permit - whether this takes one year or one hundred years. The Norwegian state is also urged to ratify the UNESCO 1970 Convention.
  • Omland, Atle and Christopher Prescott 2003: Arkeologi og krig. Buddhismens dødehavsruller setter Norge på prøve. Levende Historie 2003 (5): 42-47.

    The article discusses the ownership debate in Norway 2002-2003 concerning the Buddhist manuscripts. Comments on the article:
    - Skaar, Ulv Tore 2003: Propagande om kulturarv? Levende Historie 2003 (6): 10 (reader's letter)
    - Omland, Atle and Christopher Prescott 2003: Reply to Skaar. Levende Historie 2003 (6): 10

    An update of the article was published on the Internet after the Afghan claim for return in September 2003:
  • Who owns culture? Seminar at the University of Oslo, March 2002

    The historian Professor Hans Fredrik Dahl invited to a seminar on March 22, 2002 at the University of Oslo to discuss The Schøyen Collection. Dahl raised the question "Who owns culture?".

    Professor Jens Braarvig gave a general introduction and an invited panel discussed the collection, e.g.:

    Mr. Bendik Rugaas, former head of the National Library and a former Labour minister, insisted that the Norwegian state should buy the entire Schøyen Collection. In several interviews Rugaas argues for a Norwegian ownership, e.g.:
    - Bruk oljepengene på Buddha-skriftene, TV 2, November 12, 2001
    - Rugaas ønsker Schøyen-samling, NRK, March 18, 2002
    - Vil Norge skal kjøpe unik skriftsamling, Aftenposten, March 18, 2002
    - Bendik Rugaas vil ha Schøyen-samlingen i Norge - Regjeringen må sikre kulturskattene, Aftenposten, March 19, 2002
    - Schøyen selger til utlandet, Dagens Næringsliv, March 19, 2002


    Professor Egil Mikkelsen, director of the University Museum of Cultural Heritage, University of Oslo, expressed a generally positive attitude to a Norwegian ownership of the collection. He said the collection would be a welcomed addition to his museum.

    Mr. John Herstad, director of the National Archives of Norway, did not support Norwegian ownership of the manuscripts.

    See also these sources for references to the seminar:

    - The Schøyen Collection: A cultural and political challenge. Newsletter 2002 no 1, p. 8. The ownership of the Buddhist manuscripts is defended after the seminar and against the criticim raised against the collection.

    - Herstad, John: Afghansk kulturarv og norsk kulturimperialisme. Museumsnytt, no 2 2002, p 12. Mr. Herstad, director of the National Archives of Norway, argues that the Norwegian state should buy the manuscripts and give them as a gift to UNESCO. Herstad recalls that the Norwegian state herself has claimed the return of several manuscripts and archives from Denmark and Sweden, and Norway should also be generous towards other countries.

    - Rekdal, Per B.: Uskyld til salgs? Museumsnytt, no 2 2002, p 13. Mr. Rekdal asks how it is possible to declare after six-seven years that the manuscripts aren't owned by Afghanistan. He also argues that the return of a cultural property is more a question of ethics than law.
  • Museumsnytt, 2002-2003

    Museumsnytt (The Norwegian museums journal, published by the Norwegian Museum Association) continues the debate after the January 2002 article published by Omland and Prescott and the seminar in March 2002. Several articles in Museumsnytt take a critical stance to a Norwegian ownership of the collection:

    - Etikk, jus og samlerglede (editorial by Leif Anker). Museumsnytt, no 1 2002, p. 3. The editor, Mr. Leif Anker, is shocked by the reluctance displayed by Norwegian authorities to accept the international conventions on cultural property and the ICOM code of professional ethics. Mr. Anker asks how it is possible that Norway, presently at war in Afghanistan, can accept that cultural property from Afghanistan is kept in Norway and later will be sold on the open marked. After 30 years, Norway should also ratify the UNESCO 1970 Convention.

    - Norge smutthull for afghansk kulturskatt? Museumsnytt, no 1 2002, pp. 28-31. Mr. Anker interviews Mr. Martin Schøyen (owner of the collection), professor Jens Braarvig (researcher on the Buddhist manuscripts), Ms. Sissel Nilsen (The National Library of Norway), Mr. Knut Wik (ICOM Norway), Ms. Ågot Gammersvik (Norwegian Museum Association) and Mr. Magne Velure (the UNESCO National Commission, Norway). The interviewees have conflicting views about the ownership of the manuscripts, and only Wik and Gammersvik strongly argue that the manuscripts should be returned.

    - Herstad, John: Afghansk kulturarv og norsk kulturimperialisme. Museumsnytt, no 2 2002, p 12. Mr. Herstad, director of the National Archives of Norway, argues that the Norwegian state should buy the manuscripts and give them as a gift to UNESCO. Herstad recalls that the Norwegian state herself has claimed the return of several manuscripts and archives from Denmark and Sweden, and Norway should also be generous towards other countries.

    - Rekdal, Per B.: Uskyld til salgs? Museumsnytt, no 2 2002, p 13. Mr. Rekdal asks how it is possible to declare after six-seven years that the manuscripts aren't owned by Afghanistan. He also argues that the return of a cultural property is more a question of ethics than law.

    - Schøyensamlingen nok en gang. Museumsnytt, no 4 2002, p. 3. Museumsnytt advices Schøyen to give an account of the provenance and ownership history of artifacts in his collection.

    - Lurt å være tålmodig. Intervju med kulturministeren. Museumsnytt, no 4 2002, pp. 10-13. The Minister of Culture, Ms. Valgerd Svarstad Haugland, is among other things asked about The Schøyen Collection. Ms. Haugland says she does not know how the Buddhist manuscripts came to Norway, but it is too simple to say that the collection should continue to be in Norway, and her ministry can not afford to pay 100 million USD for the entire Schøyen Collection. According to Haugland, her ministry plans to ratify the UNESCO 1970 Convention.

    - Plyndring i Irak (editorial) and - Også kulturskatter på krigens alter. Museumsnytt, no 2 2003, pp. 3 and 21.
    - Schøyensamlingen: Fra Irak i strid med FN-forbud? (with an English translation: From Iraq contrary to the UN prohibition?) Museumsnytt, no 5/6 2003, pp. 4-5.

    Leif Anker questions if objects from Iraq in The Schøyen Collection were taken out after 1990 and the UN embargo of Iraq.
  • Minister of Fisheries argues for a Norwegian purchase, March 2002

    Dagens Næringsliv, the foremost Norwegian financial newspaper, published an interview with the Norwegian Minister of Fisheries, Mr. Svein Ludvigsen, on March 18 2002. Mr. Ludvigsen argues for a purchase of The Schøyen Collection with permanent Norwegian government ownership in mind.

    Mr. Ludvigsen describes his visit to Mr. Schøyen at his home outside of Oslo. Here, Mr Ludvigsen turned the leaves of a copy of Magna Carta and tried on a ring that allegedly belonged to Tutankhamen. In awe he urges the Minister of Culture to buy the collection.

    Associate professor Christopher Prescott was also interviewed, but said that some of the objects in The Schøyen Collection might have been plundered from various monuments and sites, and that ethical if not legal title was questionable.

    The following day's media referred ironically to the Minister of Fisheries. The editor of Dagens Næringsliv criticized Mr. Ludvigsen on the editorial, and the editor emphasized that Mr. Ludvigsen is in charge of fisheries and not cultural policies.

    - Fiskeriministeren vil kjøpe buddhist-skrifter, Dagens Næringsliv, March 18, 2002

    - "En juvel vi burde beholde i Norge", Dagens Næringsliv, March 18, 2002
    - Vil Norge skal kjøpe unik skriftsamling, Aftenposten, March 18, 2002
    - Statsråd vil kjøpe Buddha-skrifter, TV 2, March 18, 2002
    - Kvart opera på kjøkkenbordet , Dagens Næringsliv, March 19, 2002 (editiorial)
  • Debate on the radio, March 2002

    The major evening news programme (Dagsnytt 18) on the radio (NRK P2) debated The Schøyen Collection on March 18, 2002, after the seminar at the University of Oslo and the headlines in Dagens Næringsliv. A representative from the Ministry of Culture said it was financially impossible for the ministry to buy the collection at market price.

    - Skeptisk til å kjøpe historisk samling, NRK, March 18, 2002
    - Vil ikke kjøpe kulturskatt, Nettavisen, March 19, 2002


    In the course of the following days, the collection was discussed in several TV and radio programmes on NRK:

    - Gi kulturskattene tilbake, March 20, 2002. Ms. Ingeborg Breines, director of UNESCO in Islamabad, says the manuscripts should be returned to Afghanistan

    - Fraråder kjøp av Schøyen-samlingen, March 21, 2002. The National Library in Oslo advises the Norwegian state not to buy the collection. The library is afraid that The Schøyen Collection will be mismanaged if owned by a Norwegian state that is incapable of taking care of its existing collections and responsibilities.

    - Leter etter buddhismens opprinnelse. The television science-program Schrødingers-katt discusses the manuscripts and their future, April 11 and 25, 2002.

    - Skriftene unike kulturbærere, April 18 2002. A commentator in the cultural radio programme Kulturbeitet, NRK P2, argues that the manuscripts should be kept in Norway because the manuscripts transcend national borders. Norway is a rich country that can afford to buy them, but Norway can also afford to loose the money if the manuscripts must be returned.
  • Schøyen refuses to sell to an Islamic state, March 2003

    An Islamic state is reported to have offered Schøyen 110 million USD for his collection. Schøyen turns down the offer because he is afraid that an Islamic state cannot care for a collection with manuscripts with texts from several religions. Schøyen says he intends to sell to a country in a stable region. Schøyen also says he intends to stop collecting because of the UNESCO 1970 Convention, and he will dedicate himself to aid and human rights.

    - Sier nei til muslimske millioner, Dagens Næringsliv, March 29, 2003
    - Nekter å selge til muslimer, Dagens Næringsliv, March 29, 2003
 

Claims for restitution (2003)  

Contents:

Top of page

Presentation of The Schøyen Collection and the Buddhist manuscripts from Afghanistan

The debate in foreign media (2000-2005)

The debate in Norwegian media (2002-2003)

Claims for restitution (2003)

TV documentary on The Schøyen Collection (September 2004-)

Organizations working for protecting the cultural heritage of Afghanistan

Organizations working on cultural property issues

Legal tools for protecting cultural property

Links to this web page

Several international claims for restitution have now been raised against The Schøyen Collection
  • Afghanistan claims restitution of the Buddhist manuscripts, September 2003

    The Afghan Minister of Information and Culture informs the Norwegian Minister of Culture in a letter dated September 18, 2003 that the Buddhist manuscripts in The Schøyen Collection belong to the people of Afghanistan. The Afghan Minister calls on the Norwegian authorities to initiate a dialogue with Mr. Martin Schøyen to facilitate the return of the manuscripts to Afghanistan.

    Read the Afghan claim.


    The Afghan claim for restitution was made known for the public on October 15, 2003 when the newspaper Dagens Næringsliv wrote about the case:

    - Afghanistan krever kulturskatter tilbake, Dagens Næringsliv, October 15, 2003
    - "Forandrer ingenting", Dagens Næringsliv, October 15, 2003
    - Tror neppe staten kan hjelpe, Dagens Næringsliv, October 15, 2003

    Mr. Martin Schøyen is interviewed about the Afghan claim. Schøyen says that the manuscripts are owned by him and they have nearly no connection to Afghanistan except that they were found there.

    Mr. Yngve Slettholm from the Norwegian Ministry of Culture says that his ministry will look into the request from Afghanistan. However, Mr. Slettholm admits that his ministry probably can not do anything with the request because The Schøyen Collection is private and Norway has not yet ratified the UNESCO 1970 Convention that regulates these matters. Further, when Norway ratifies the UNESCO 1970 Convention it will not have retrospective force.


    - Anbefaler Schøyen å vente og se, Dagens Næringsliv, October 16, 2003

    The Norwegian anthropologist Professor Fredrik Barth, who has conducted extensive field-work in Afghanistan, is interviewed about the case. Barth says that the manuscripts are taken out of Afghanistan illegally, but due to the current situation in Afghanistan he advices Schøyen to await more favorable conditions for a possible return of the manuscripts.

    The Afghan claim and the comments by Mr. Schøyen and the Norwegian Ministry of Culture are further discussed by:

    - Omland, Atle and Christopher Prescott 2003: Afghanistan krever kulturskattene tilbake. Levende Historie, October 20, 2003 (Internet only).
    - Prescott, Christopher and Atle Omland 2003: The Schøyen Collection in Norway: demand for the return of objects and questions about Iraq. Culture Without Context (13): 8-11.


    See also:
    - Kabul-operasjon mot Schøyen, Dagens Næringsliv, April 7, 2003

  • The Norwegian government does not support the Afghan claim for restitution, October 2003

    The Ministry of Culture writes in a letter dated October 29, 2003 that the Ministry will not put pressure on Mr. Schøyen to return the Buddhist manuscripts. The argument is that Norway has not ratified the UNESCO 1970 Convention and the manuscripts are in a private collection.

    Read the Norwegian rejection.


    The Afghan Minister of Culture, Mr. Raheen, was interviewed about the Norwegian standpoint. The Buddhist manuscripts have been debated in Norway for about two years, and this was the first time the Norwegian media presented views from Afghanistan. Mr. Raheen said that if Mr. Schøyen did not return the manuscripts he would come on the list of people who make a profit on Afghan misery.

    - Vil ha tilbake kulturskatter, NRK, November 18, 2003
    - Kan ikke gi dem tilbake, NRK, November 18, 2003
    - Et frihavn for kulturkriminalitet, NRK, November 18, 2003
    - Advarer mot kunstkjøp, NRK, November 19, 2003
 
TV documentary on The Schøyen Collection (September 2004-)  

Contents:

Top of page

Presentation of The Schøyen Collection and the Buddhist manuscripts from Afghanistan

The debate in foreign media (2000-2005)

The debate in Norwegian media (2002-2003)

Claims for restitution (2003)

TV documentary on The Schøyen Collection (September 2004-)

Organizations working for protecting the cultural heritage of Afghanistan

Organizations working on cultural property issues

Legal tools for protecting cultural property

Links to this web page

After three years of discussion about The Schøyen Collection in Norwegian and international media, a heated debate erupted in the wake of the documentary series Brennpunkt produced by the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK). The first of two programs entitled "Skriftsamleren" (The manuscript collector) was aired September 7th, the second on the 14th 2004.

  • See also:
    - Yamada, Meiji 2002: Buddhism of Bamiyan. Pacific World. Journal of the Institute of Buddhist Studies, Third Series, Number 4: 109-122.

    Professor Yamada airs doubt about Mr. Schøyen's version of the provenance and ownership history of the Buddhist manuscripts. Read his interesting remarks on pp. 111-114. Interestingly, Mr. Schøyen and the Norwegian researchers on the Buddhist manuscripts chose not to communicate, over a period of two years, this important information during the Norwegian debate about the manuscripts (see above for this debate).
 
Organizations working for protecting the cultural heritage of Afghanistan  


Contents:

Top of page

Presentation of The Schøyen Collection and the Buddhist manuscripts from Afghanistan

The debate in foreign media (2000-2005)

The debate in Norwegian media (2002-2003)

Claims for restitution (2003)

TV documentary on The Schøyen Collection (September 2004-)

Organizations working for protecting the cultural heritage of Afghanistan

Organizations working on cultural property issues

Legal tools for protecting cultural property

Links to this web page
The cultural heritage of Afghanistan is devastated after years with war. Several organizations and individuals try to protect monuments and sites threatened by war and looting. Some of these efforts are presented here.
  • UNESCO

    UNESCO has compiled a web-page to inform about the cultural heritage of Afghanistan and the efforts of UNESCO to preserve it.

    In May 2002 UNESCO and the Afghan Ministry of Information and Culture organized an international seminar on Afghanistan's cultural heritage. Concerning the traffic of cultural property the recommendations from the seminar states:

    "VI. ILLICIT TRAFFIC OF CULTURAL PROPERTY

    VI.1. The Seminar participants expressed deep concern over the continued and systematic illegal looting of cultural heritage properties in Afghanistan, in particular in well known archaeological sites which have been researched in the past by national and international scholars. It was noted that the Government of Afghanistan has the first and foremost duty to ban all illegal excavations within Afghanistan and to control strictly its borders to prevent smuggling of illicitly acquired movable cultural resources.

    VI.2. The Seminar participants requested that neighboring countries of Afghanistan co-operate in controlling their national borders to prevent further illicit traffic of Afghan cultural heritage.

    VI.3. Noting the significant constraints faced by the Afghan authorities to control illegal excavations within the country and transport of cultural heritage, the Seminar participants requested UNESCO to appeal to the international community, in particular to those countries where Afghan cultural heritage material is sold, to provide co-operation to prevent illicit traffic of such property.

    VI.4. The Afghan Government was urged to become signatory to the 1954 UNESCO Hague Convention on the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, its Protocols, the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, the 1995 UNIDROIT Convention, and other international legal instruments protecting cultural heritage.

    VI.5. The Seminar participants were informed that UNESCO is ready to undertake, in co-operation with the International Council of Museums (ICOM), similar actions that have been effective in similar situations (Angkor World Heritage site, Cambodia)."


  • Association for the Protection of Afghan Archaeology (APAA)

    Created in 2002, the "Association for the Protection of Afghan Archaeology, Inc. is dedicated to the Archaeology and Cultural Heritage of Afghanistan. APAA’s goal is to bring understanding and raise awareness thus ensuring the promotion of the Afghan Archaeological and Cultural Heritage through its teaching in schools and public venues across the world including in Afghanistan, in the Afghan and multi-cultural Bay Area community, as well as promote and assist in the education of the international public about the inherent value of archaeological treasures to cultural identity, and to specifically focus on the plight of Afghan people regarding the loss of their cultural heritage. Finally, APAA is concerned with the lack of professional training in the sciences of archaeology, restoration and conservation and aims at providing thorough assistance in these areas."
  • Kabul Museum presented by the Qazi brothers

    From the introduction of the web page:

    "For thousands of years, Afghanistan was a crossroad for trade from India, Iran, and Central Asia. As a result, many treasures and artifacts have been discovered and collected. The Kabul Museum, housed the most comprehensive record of Central Asian history. Many of its pieces have been dated as far back as pre-historic times. One of the museum's largest displays, was the magnificient Bagram Collection. Discovered in 1939, by archaeologists excavating a Kushan fort. It contained an amazing 1,800 pieces from India, Rome, Greece, Egypt, and Central Asia. The Kabul Museum also had one of the largest displays of Greek and Roman coins found near Kabul. This collection was a historical treasure, as it contained coins from numerous civilizations dating from the 8th century B.C. to the late 19th century.

    These treasures and many other were tragically lost when the Kabul Museum was bombed in 1993. At first, only the upper galleries suffered losses and looting. The remaining artifacts, were transfered to lower leveled, steel doored vaults. In 1994, the United Nations attempted to stop the looting by repairing the doors, and bricking up the windows. Dissapointingly, these attempts failed, and looters continued to plunder 90% of the museum's collections.

    Both private collectors and antique dealers from as far away as Tokyo, have purchased stolen museum pieces. Looted artifacts have shown up all over the world, and they bring in large sums of money to the criminals. Despite President Rabbani's attempts to retrieve the stolen artifacts, only 52 pieces have been recovered. Sadly, with the current war between Rabbani's government and the Taliban, the recovery of these pieces has taken a back seat.

    The Purpose of this page, is to help others enjoy the contents of the Kabul Museum prior to its destruction. It is important to remember our rich cultural heritage. We feel that Afghans need to have a link to their past. It is our deepest hope that the beautiful treasures of our country can one day be found and returned to their rightful home."

  • The Virtual Kabul Museum

    The Virtual Kabul Museum gives visual access to artifacts from Afghanistan safeguarded by the Japanese Committee for the Protection of Displaced Cultural Property.

    Mr. Ikuo Hirayama, the chairman of this committee and a UNESCO goodwill ambassador, calls in his message on the web-site for a return of the cultural heritage to Afghanistan:

    "I would like to promote our activities to return these safeguarded Afghan cultural properties to the Afghan people when lasting peace has been established in the country and the National Museum rebuilt in Kabul. It is truly ironic that the illegally trafficked cultural properties have survived destruction. To secure the return of these cultural properties to Afghanistan in the future, I would like to define them as "cultural property refugees", and step up efforts to save and protect them."
 

Organizations working on cultural property issues  

Contents:

Top of page

Presentation of The Schøyen Collection and the Buddhist manuscripts from Afghanistan

The debate in foreign media (2000-2005)

The debate in Norwegian media (2002-2003)

Claims for restitution (2003)

TV documentary on The Schøyen Collection (September 2004-)

Organizations working for protecting the cultural heritage of Afghanistan

Organizations working on cultural property issues

Legal tools for protecting cultural property

Links to this web page
Several organizations and institutions work with problems regarding the ownership of cultural property. This is a list of some organizations involved in these matters.
  • UNESCO

    UNESCO is the organization that works on the global scale for preventing the illicit trade in cultural property. UNESCO is responsible for several legal tools regarding these matters.

    In 1980 the Intergovernmental Committee for Promoting the Return of Cultural Property to its Countries of Origin or its Restitution in Case of Illicit Appropriation met for the first time, and the 11th session was held in 2001 in Cambodia. This web-page of the committee contains information about cultural property issues.
  • The International Council of Museums (ICOM)

    "ICOM 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."

    More information on the ICOM web-page Fighting the Illicit Traffic of Cultural Property.
  • Saving Antiquities for Everyone (SAFE)

    "Our mission is to increase public awareness of the importance of preserving cultural heritage worldwide. SAFE was founded in response to the ransacking of the National Museum of Iraq in Baghdad. But our effort is global.

    SAFE has no political or commercial affiliations. We are a nonprofit volunteer organization. Our agenda is simple: to address the ongoing worldwide problem of vandals and looters robbing us of our collective heritage."
  • Interpol

    "Interpol exists to help create a safer world. Our aim is to provide a unique range of essential services for the law enforcement community to optimise the international effort to combat crime."

    "Since 1947, Interpol has been particularly involved in the fight against the illicit trade in cultural objects and the first international notice on stolen works of art was published in that year. Since then the techniques have greatly evolved and our Organization has developed a highly efficient information system for circulating information in the form of a database accessible to all Interpol Member Countries, and the Interpol Stolen Works of Art CD-Rom."
  • The Art Loss Register (ALR)

    "The Art Loss Register (ALR) is the world's largest private international database of lost and stolen art, antiques and collectibles that provides recovery and search services to collectors, the art trade, insurers and law enforcement through technology and a professionally trained staff of art historians."
  • The Institute of Art and Law

    "The Institute of Art and Law is a small independent research and educational organisation, founded in 1995, which analyses the interface between the world of art and antiquities and that of law. Our main objective is to increase public knowledge concerning the contribution of law to the development of cultural tradition. We organise seminars and distance learning courses and publish a quarterly periodical, Art Antiquity and Law, together with a number of specialist books."
Other links concerning cultural property issues:
  • The Art Newspaper "looted art page"
    "The Art Newspaper takes a special interest in reporting the lasting repercussions of the Second World War as they relate to the art trade. As the recent Schiele case demonstrates, this will be an issue in the art world for some time to come. Here is a selection of recently published articles on this subject."
 

Legal tools for protecting cultural property  

Contents:

Top of page

Presentation of The Schøyen Collection and the Buddhist manuscripts from Afghanistan

The debate in foreign media (2000-2005)

The debate in Norwegian media (2002-2003)

Claims for restitution (2003)

TV documentary on The Schøyen Collection (September 2004-)

Organizations working for protecting the cultural heritage of Afghanistan

Organizations working on cultural property issues

Legal tools for protecting cultural property

Links to this web page
A number of legal tools at the national, regional and global levels aims at preventing the trade of cultural property. A list of the most important global tools follows here.
  • The 1954 Hague Convention

    Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict. Hague, 14 May 1954 (UNESCO)

    Of special importance is the Protocol that provides for the return of cultural property illegally exported from an occupied territory
  • The 1970 UNESCO Convention

    Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. Paris, 14 November 1970 (UNESCO)

    Creates co-operation strategies between States to prevent illicit traffic and co-operate on the return of cultural property.
  • The 1995 UNIDROIT Convention

    UNIDROIT Convention on Stolen or Illegally Exported Cultural Objects. Rome, 24 June 1995.

    This convention ensures that private owners have direct access to the courts of another country where cultural property stolen from their owners is found. It also allows States to sue in the courts of such a country for important cultural property belonging to certain categories which has been illegally exported.
  • The 1999 International Code of Ethics for Dealers

    International Code of Ethics for Dealers in Cultural Property. UNESCO 1999.

    Article 1 of the Code says:

    "Professional traders in cultural property will not import, export or transfer the ownership of this property when they have reasonable cause to believe it has been stolen, illegally alienated, clandestinely excavated or illegally exported."
  • The ICOM Code of Ethics for Museums

    The Code of Ethics for Museums (ICOM 2001/1986) is the cornerstone of the International Council of Museums (ICOM). The Code sets minimum standards of professional practice for museums and their staff. ICOM members undertake to abide this Code.

    These articles are of special importance:

    3.2 Acquisition of Illicit Material

    The illicit trade in objects and specimens encourages the destruction of historic sites, ethnic cultures and biological habitats and promotes theft at local, national and international levels. It places at risk endangered species of flora and fauna, violates the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (1992) and contravenes the spirit of national and international patrimony. Museums should recognise the destruction of human and natural environments and loss of knowledge that results from the illicit servicing of the market place. The museum professional must warrant that it is highly unethical for a museum to support the illicit market in any way, directly or indirectly.

    A museum should not acquire any object or specimen by purchase, gift, loan, bequest or exchange unless the governing body and responsible officer are satisfied that a valid title to it can be obtained. Every effort must be made to ensure that it has not been illegally acquired in, or exported from, its country of origin or any intermediate country in which it may have been owned legally (including the museum's own country). Due diligence in this regard should establish the full history of the item from discovery or production, before acquisition is considered.

    In addition to the safeguards set out above, a museum should not acquire objects by any means where the governing body or responsible officer has reasonable cause to believe that their recovery involved the unauthorised, unscientific or intentional destruction or damage of ancient monuments, archaeological or geological sites, or natural habitats, or involved a failure to disclose the finds to the owner or occupier of the land, or to the proper legal or governmental authorities. Nor should a museum acquire, directly or indirectly, biological or geological material that has been collected, sold or otherwise transferred in contravention of any local, national, regional or international wildlife protection or natural history conservation law, or treaty, of the museum's own country or any other country.

    A professional conflict can exist when an acquisition, highly desired by a museum, lacks provenance. However, the ability to establish legal title to the item must be an overriding factor when considering acquisition. In very rare cases an item without provenance may have an inherently outstanding contribution to knowledge that it would be in the public interest to preserve. Such discovery is likely to be of international significance and should be the subject of a decision by specialists in the discipline concerned. The basis of the decision should be without national or institutional prejudice, based on the best interests of the subject discipline and be clearly stated.


    4.4 Return and Restitution of Cultural Property

    The UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property (1970) and the UNIDROIT Convention on Stolen and Illegally Exported Cultural Objects (1995) provide the principles on which museums should approach the return and restitution of cultural property. If a country or people of origin seek the return of an object or specimen that can be demonstrated to have been exported or otherwise transferred in violation of the principles of these conventions and shown to be part of that country's or people's cultural or natural heritage, the museum concerned should, if legally free to do so, take prompt and responsible steps to co-operate in its return.

    In response to requests for the return of cultural property to the country or people of origin, museums should be prepared to initiate dialogues with an open-minded attitude based on scientific and professional principles (in preference to action at a governmental or political level). In addition the possibility of developing bilateral or multilateral partnerships with museums in countries that have lost a significant part of their cultural or natural heritage should be explored.

    Museums should also respect fully the terms of the Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict (The Hague Convention, First Protocol, 1954 and Second Protocol, 1999). In support of this Convention, museums should abstain from purchasing, appropriating or acquiring cultural objects from any occupied country.

    8.6 Authentication and Valuation (Appraisal)

    Sharing knowledge and expertise with professional colleagues and the public is fundamental to the purpose of museums and should be conducted to the highest scholarly standards (see 7.2). However, conflicts of interest can arise in the authentication and valuation or appraisal of objects. Opinions on the monetary value of objects should be given only if permitted and on official request from other museums or competent legal, governmental or other responsible public authorities. Where the employing museum may be the beneficiary for financial or legal reasons, appraisal must be undertaken independently.

    Members of the museum profession should not identify or otherwise authenticate objects that they believe, or suspect, have been illegally or illicitly acquired, transferred, imported or exported. They should not act in any way that could be regarded as benefiting such activity, directly or indirectly. Where there is reason to believe, or suspect, illegal or illicit conduct, the appropriate authorities should be notified.



    The ICOM Code of Ethics was revised in october 2004 in Seoul (Republic of Korea), of which these articles have special relevance:

    Glossary:
    Appraisal: The authentication and valuation of an object or specimen. In certain countries the term is used for an independent assessment of a proposed gift for tax benefit purposes.
    Dealing: Buying and selling items for personal or institutional gain.
    Due diligence: The requirement that every endeavour is made to establish the facts of a case before deciding a course of action, particularly in identifying the source and history of an item offered for acquisition or use before accepting it.
    Provenance: The full history and ownership of an item from the time of its discovery or creation to the present day, from which authenticity and ownership is determined.
    Valid title: Indisputable right to ownership of property, supported by full provenance of the item from discovery or production.

    2.2 Valid Title

    No object or specimen should be acquired by purchase, gift, loan, bequest, or exchange unless the acquiring museum is satisfied that a valid title is held. Evidence of lawful ownership in a country is not necessarily valid title.

    2.3 Provenance and Due Diligence

    Every effort must be made before acquisition to ensure that any object or specimen offered for purchase, gift, loan, bequest, or exchange has not been illegally obtained in or exported from, its country of origin or any intermediate country in which it might have been owned legally (including the museum's own country). Due diligence in this regard should establish the full history of the item from discovery or production.

    2.4 Objects and Specimens from Unauthorised or Unscientific Fieldwork

    Museums should not acquire objects where there is reasonable cause to believe their recovery involved the unauthorised, unscientific, or intentional destruction or damage of monuments, archaeological or geological sites, or species and natural habitats. In the same way, acquisition should not occur if there has been a failure to disclose the finds to the owner or occupier of the land, or to the proper legal or governmental authorities.

    2.11 Repositories of Last Resort

    Nothing in this Code of Ethics should prevent a museum from acting as an authorised repository for unprovenanced, illicitly collected or recovered specimens and objects from the territory over which it has lawful responsibility.

    4.5 Display of Unprovenanced Material

    Museums should avoid displaying or otherwise using material of questionable origin or lacking provenance. They should be aware that such displays or usage can be seen to condone and contribute to the illicit trade in cultural property.

    5.1 Identification of Illegally or Illicitly Acquired Objects

    Where museums provide an identification service, they should not act in any way that could be regarded as benefiting from such activity, directly or indirectly. The identification and authentication of objects that are believed or suspected to have been illegally or illicitly acquired, transferred, imported or exported should not be made public until the appropriate authorities have been notified.

    6.1 Co-operation

    Museums should promote the sharing of knowledge, documentation and collections with museums and cultural organisations in the countries and communities of origin. The possibility of developing partnerships with museums in countries or areas that have lost a significant part of their heritage should be explored.

    6.2 Return of Cultural Property

    Museums should be prepared to initiate dialogues for the return of cultural property to a country or people of origin. This should be undertaken in an impartial manner, based on scientific, professional and humanitarian principles as well as applicable local, national and international legislation, in preference to action at a governmental or political level.

    6.3 Restitution of Cultural Property

    When a country or people of origin seek the restitution of an object or specimen that can be demonstrated to have been exported or otherwise transferred in violation of the principles of international and national conventions, and shown to be part of that country's or people's cultural or natural heritage, the museum concerned should, if legally free to do so, take prompt and responsible steps to co-operate in its return.

    6.4 Cultural Objects From an Occupied Country

    Museums should abstain from purchasing or acquiring cultural objects from an occupied territory and respect fully all laws and conventions that regulate the import, export and transfer of cultural or natural materials.

    7.1 National and Local Legislation.

    Museums should conform to all national and local laws and respect the legislation of other states as they affect their operation.

    7.2 International Legislation

    Museum policy should acknowledge the following international legislation which is taken as a standard in interpreting the ICOM Code of Ethics:

    - UNESCO Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict (The Hague Convention, First Protocol, 1954 and Second Protocol, 1999);
    - UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property (1970);
    - Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (1973);
    - UN Convention on Biological Diversity (1992);
    - Unidroit Convention on Stolen and Illegally Exported Cultural Objects (1995);
    - UNESCO Convention on the protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage (2001);
    - UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (2003).

    8.5 The Illicit Market

    Members of the museum profession should not support the illicit traffic or market in natural and cultural property, directly or indirectly.
  • The EAA code and principles

    The European Association of Archaeologists, established in 1994, has a Code of Practice, but also Principles of Conduct, pertinent to the Schøyen case.

    According to the Code of Practice:

    1.6 Archaeologists will not engage in, or allow their names to be associated with, any form of activity relating to the illicit trade in antiquities and works of art, covered by the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the means of prohibiting and preventing the illicit import, export, and transfer of ownership of cultural property.

    1.7 Archaeologists will not engage in, or allow their names to be associated with, any activity that impacts the archaeological heritage which is carried out for commercial profit which derives directly from or exploits the archaeological heritage itself.

    1.8 It is the responsibility of archaeologists to draw the attention of the competent authorities to threats to the archaeological heritage, including the plundering of sites and monuments and illicit trade in antiquities, and to use all the means at their disposal to ensure that action is taken in such cases by the competent authorities.

 

Some links to this web page  

Contents:

Top of page

Presentation of The Schøyen Collection and the Buddhist manuscripts from Afghanistan

The debate in foreign media (2000-2005)

The debate in Norwegian media (2002-2003)

Claims for restitution (2003)

TV documentary on The Schøyen Collection (September 2004-)

Organizations working for protecting the cultural heritage of Afghanistan

Organizations working on cultural property issues

Legal tools for protecting cultural property

Links to this web page