Lawrence Rothfield, director de la Cultura Policial de la Universidad de Chicago argumenta que los propios guardas de seguridad de los museos deberían ser capaces de defender sus colecciones para no dejarlo a manos de los militares o las autoridades locales. Se refiere en concreto a saqueos como los acontecidos en Iraq o Egipto, pero también apunta que así debería ser en países como los Estados Unidos que también pueden sufrir una alteración del orden social o político en cualquier momento.
Fuente: The Guardian
Museum guards and others tasked with protecting the world’s cultural treasures should be routinely armed to defend heritage sites from the depredations of conflict, according to a leading expert.
Professor Lawrence Rothfield, faculty director of the University of Chicago’s cultural policy centre, told the Guardian that ministries, foundations and local authorities “should not assume that the brutal policing job required to prevent looters and professional art thieves from carrying away items is just one for the national police or for other forces not under their direct control”.
He was speaking in advance of the annual conference of the Association for Research into Crimes Against Art (ARCA), held over the weekend in the central Italian town of Amelia. Rothfield said he would also like to see museum attendants, site wardens and others given thorough training in crowd control. And not just in the developing world.
“Even in the US and other very stable countries, disasters can occur that open the door to looting,” he said, citing New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina as an example of how quickly normality can disintegrate.
His controversial proposal follows a string of heritage disasters arising from the turmoil in the Middle East. In 2003, looters ransacked the Iraqi national museum. In January, as protests against the regime of President Hosni Mubarak gathered momentum, thieves broke into the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities in Cairo.
Most recently, there have been reports that the Libyan conflict has put some cultural treasures at risk. Another conference, held under the auspices of Unesco and the Italian government at Caserta near Naples this month, heard from representatives of the anti-Gaddafi rebels of a robbery at the Bank of Benghazi in May. One of those present reported that the treasures stolen included Greco-Roman gold and silver artefacts and coins.
Rothfield’s views hardened while conducting a study of the Cairo museum raid. Much remains unclear about the incident, including whether “the whole thing was a well-controlled gambit to persuade the international community that the country was descending into chaos and that the revolt needed to be crushed”, he said.
But two key points had emerged. One was that the museum authorities were unable to count on the police when they needed them most. The second was that no amount of education on the value and importance of cultural heritage would prevent a disaster.
Egyptians have long been schooled to treasure the evidence of their past. But, said Rothfield, “even if you have 90% of the people on your side, it doesn’t take many others to do the damage”.
That, of course, does not mean education is dispensable. One of Rothfield’s fellow speakers at ARCA’s conference was Laurie Rush, an archaeologist attached to the US army’s 10th Mountain Division.
Her mission is to help soldiers identify cultural property in their forward deployments and keep damage to a minimum. Five years ago, her unit produced a pack of cards, each with a different message about heritage protection.
The nine of spades, for example, has a picture of a Chinook helicopter and the message: “Rotor rush can damage archaeological sites. Locate your landing zones a safe distance away from known sites.” Rush said she had secured changes to army regulations, and these had saved a Mesopotamian settlement, several thousand years old, near forward operating base Hammer, east of Baghdad.
“A young soldier contacted us having seen military contractors scooping up dirt to make an earthen wall. He realised it was archaeological material and, because of our project, there were military regulations that empowered the base commander to give orders for the protection of the site.”
Many other sites in Iraq have been less fortunate. The invasion was the prelude to a calamity for Iraq’s cultural heritage. Rothfield said it was estimated that looters had dug up three times the area excavated before the invasion.
“The Baghdad museum lost around 15,000 items, half of which were recovered. But the country has lost several hundred thousand items, and they will probably never come back,” he said.