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Cultural Heritage Ethics

Constantine Sandis

Preface and Acknowledgments

Constantine Sandis

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1This is neither a textbook nor a manifesto for any particular approach to heritage ethics. I invited the contributors to speak about issues they deeply care about, using the volume as a platform from which to argue for their own points of view. Their focus is sometimes general, and at other times takes the form of case studies. Our collective aim was not to present an overview of the field, but to showcase the value of promoting awareness of difficult questions through debate which bridges the gap between theory and practice. For ease of reference the Appendix to the volume contains links to selected international charters and conventions on cultural heritage mentioned in the essays.

2It would be ungracious to not mention here three obvious predecessors to this volume. One is Elazar Barkan and Ronald Bush’s Claiming the Stones/Naming the Bones: Cultural Property and the Negotiation of National and Ethnic Identity (Getty Research Institute, 2002). This excellent volume contains fourteen essays addressing a variety of controversies from across numerous academic and vocational perspectives including anthropology, archaeology, ethnobiology, law, and literary studies. Another, which shares two contributors with this volume, is John Henry Merryman’s more specialised volume, Imperialism, Art and Restitution (Cambridge University Press, 2006). Finally, there is Astrid Swenson and Peter Mandler’s recent book From Plunder to Preservation: Britain and the Heritage of Empire, c. 1800-1940 (Oxford University Press, 2013).

3One of the issues surrounding cultural heritage is that of access and it has been hugely important to me that everyone has free unrestricted access to the essays in this book. I am extremely grateful to William St Clair for proposing Open Book Publishers as a possibility, to Alessandra Tosi for all her work, help, and advice from submission to production, and to Bianca Gualandi for her invaluable assistance with the inclusion of images. Fellow philosopher Jonathan Webber came up with the suggestion of Banksy’s Paint Pot Angel for the cover of this volume. I’m very grateful to Diane Potter for permission to reuse her photograph of it.

4I also wish to thank the anonymous referees for their incredibly astute comments and constructive suggestions and, of course, all of the contributors for their stellar work. A generous Visiting Fellowship at the Helsinki Collegium of Advanced Studies has given me the time to put the final version of the manuscript together in the most pleasant of academic environments.

5Over a decade ago Eleni Cubitt sparked my interest in cultural heritage ethics and this volume was her idea. Like her namesake of Troy, Eleni has launched a thousand ships in her time. But it is equally fitting that she was named after St Helena, mother of Constantine and patron saint of archaeologists. Though she will not necessarily agree with all the ideas within this volume, I trust that she will find them thoroughly engaging. I dedicate the book to her, with much love.

6Helsinki, May 2014


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