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USCBS Annual Meeting Explores Recent Developments in Cultural Patrimony Protection in Combat Zones

October 11, 2018

On September 26, 2018, the U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield held its annual meeting at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. Speakers included Nancy Wilkie and Colonel Richard Jackson (USCBS), Amir Gamliel (U.S. Southern Command), Beatriz Haspo and Alan Haley (Library of Congress), Doug Comer (US/ICOMOS), Trudy Huskamp Peterson (archivist), and Lieutenant Colonel Tim Purbrick (UKCBS).

Speakers engaged in a thought-provoking conversation analyzing a range of topics, including the strengths and weaknesses of 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and its two Protocols, USSOUTHCOM efforts in Central America, the challenges of implementing the World Heritage Site program in Central America and beyond, the CPIA MOU process, and the UK’s recent ratification of the Hague Convention. Archivists spoke of risk-management and disaster-preparedness in museums and libraries, with special attention paid to the tragic destruction of the National Museum of Brazil in early September, and the politicization of archival material in Guatemala. The discussion reiterated concerns raised by the Antiquities Coalition Task Force Report, particularly those related to the Armed Forces and Department of Defense, and further drew attention to the importance of digitization of cultural patrimony, such as that conducted by the Digital Library of the Middle East (DLME).

USCBS playing cards specifically developed for USSOUTHCOM were also debuted. Appearing for the first time in both Spanish and English, the cards feature Central and South American artifacts, and focus on site looting and inadvertent purchase of conflict antiquities.  These unique playing cards provide both entertainment and subtle education about the significance of protecting culturally rich sites and historic artifacts in combat zones. Funding for the project was provided by the Smithsonian Institution and facilitated by the Foundation of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works.