Today’s middlemen for the antiquities market are as charming and knowl-edgeable as Belzoni or Lord Elgin’s middlemen were in the 18
and politicians do not necessarily see the long-term implica-tions of what is presented as an exciting cultural adventure. Taking a shortterm perspective and inspired by the economy of the day, they easily for-get that it is both economically and culturally stupid to sell off your herit-age when you can have it all.
To cite the example of Lord Elgin again:they take the disinterested standpoint of the 17 governor of Athens, theVoivode, regarding the integrity of the Parthenon, rather than the positionthat Melina Mercouri so fervently took and defended 180 years later.
Disinterest all too often leads to denial of the issues, to denial
of harm and loss as compared to the supposed (nancial) gain. Should
we bother at all? It is evident that not every shipwreck-site is as iconicas Athens’ Parthenon and its marbles. Nevertheless, I am convinced weshould be concerned, and the more so because of disinterest and denial.After all, the reversed argument is just as powerful: isn’t the invisibleand vulnerable, but potentially valuable at least as worthy of our concernas the very obvious?
In fact, there are more reasons why I am glad to present this paper to a Nordic maritime museum audience. Nordic operators citingmuseum interests are active all over the world, notably in Asia. Are theythe ambassadors of the way in which Nordic maritime museums wantto operate? They convince economically more strained and more naïvegovernments than that of the Faroe Islands that with exclusive rights theywill produce wonderful things….. for the world antiquities market, pro-
ducing nice presents for museums (or ofcials) on the way. They cite mu
seum curators who are specialized in (oriental) ceramics as their scientic
backing and forget to mention that this specialization is not necessarily
the same as a specialization in archaeological eld research.
The naivetyand vanity with which such specialists get involved beyond their com- petences eclipses the naivety and vanity of the implicated politicians.
Alast reason why it is useful to summarize and contextualize developmentshere is that Norway took a very special and exceptional position in thenegotiations on the Convention as well as in the subsequent vote.
In this presentation, the Convention and the way it cameabout will be put in the perspective of other instruments developed byUNESCO, as well as by the Council of Europe. Their activities are evi-
dently informed by afliate NGO’s, such as ICOM and ICOMOS, whose
role will also be dealt with.