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Penn Law’s CERL joins with Penn Museum to host a panel discussion on preservation of cultural heritage during armed conflict

April 03, 2017

Cultural property and heritage has become a target in modern warfare. In 2001, the Taliban provoked international outrage when it destroyed two ancient statues of the Buddha carved into a hillside in the Bamiyan valley in Afghanistan. And, over the past several years, the Islamic State has destroyed a number of important ancient sites, museums, and cultural heritage sites in Syria and Iraq.

In light of these attacks, the Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, and the Penn Cultural Heritage Center will host a panel discussion, New Frontiers in the Protection of Cultural Property, on Tuesday, April 4, at 5:00 p.m. in the Penn Museum (University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology). Taking into account diverse perspectives of art, archaeology, history, law, and the military, the panel is challenged to consider, how must preservation efforts change in response to armed conflict in the twenty-first century?

Professor Richard M. Leventhal, Executive Director of the Penn Museum’s Penn Center for Cultural Heritage, moderates a wide-ranging discussion with panelists including:

  • Director-General Irina Bokova, Director-General, UNESCO;
  • Professor Karima Bennoune, United Nations Special Rapporteur, Cultural Rights; 
  • Professor Derek Gillman, Distinguished Teaching Professor, Westphal College of Media Arts & Design, Drexel University; 
  • Hon. Richard Goldstone, Retired Justice, Constitutional Court of South Africa; and 
  • Ms. Shamila Batohi, Senior Legal Advisor, International Criminal Court.

A cocktail reception follows the panel discussion. Admission: $20 (free for PennCard holders and college students with current full-time college ID). Pre-registration is required. Guests are also invited to preview the exhibition, Cultures in the Crossfire: Stories from Syria and Iraq. Created in conjunction with the Museum’s Penn Cultural Heritage Center, this new Penn Museum display sheds light on the ongoing destruction of cultural heritage in the Middle East by showing what’s at stake — the rich history of the region and the diversity of its people — and what’s being done to prevent the loss of this history and cultural identity. Cultures in the Crossfire opens to the public Saturday April 8.

The public panel discussion on April 4 is part of an international, by-invitation-only conference, The Preservation of Art and Culture in Times of War, which continues April 5 and 6, 2017. More than 40 international experts gather to share ideas and experiences, gain a better understanding of the damage inflicted by attacks on cultural property, and develop ideas on how to prevent such attacks from occurring in the future. The conference is co-sponsored by the Middle East Center at Penn. A complete schedule of the closed-door sessions, and participants, is available online.