This paper will analyse the key role played by the State in the preservation, management and valorisation of archaeological heritage in Italy. First, it will reconstruct the main points of the debate raging in Parliament and academia after the unification of Italy over how to control the loss of archaeological objects. It will show how the Italian State wished to exercise control over excavation, circulation and exportation of archaeological objects and to create catalogues of public and private objects of supreme historical value while, at the same time, limiting the alienability of private property and declaring that any property found underground belong to the State. Second, it will analyse a series of case studies in which archaeological objects’ life and ‘afterlife’ challenge the Italian State’s control over and valorisation of these objects. The paper explores how events surrounding archaeological objects after their discovery, including their reuse, collecting, importation, looting, and return, at successive stages in their history affect the very identity of these archaeological objects and, by extension, the identity of the Italian State. For example, how does the 19th-20th century importation and current display of Egyptian archaeological objects in the Museo Egizio in Torino inform the Italian identity? Does the looting and later repatriation of the Euphronios Krater compromise the Italian narrative surrounding this archaeological object? The paper will ask whether archaeological relics which are understood as State property are indeed ‘national(istic)’ vestiges, legacies of one national past, and if they can coincide with a ‘democratic’ preservation, management and valorisation of ‘pluralistic’ identities in the era of the globalisation of culture.
This paper analyses the historic archive as a tool for the preservation of memory. Beyond the idea of the archive as a fixed and immovable space, the paper wishes to consider the archive in its dynamism, chronological evolution, and in its changing relations with both the State and the private individual. Starting from a historical perspective, the paper retraces the archive’s strong link with the nation-state and investigates its role in the identity-building process and in the legitimization of an official public historiography. In doing so, the paper underlines the elements of control and social construction behind the archive as an institution. This leads first to a critical analysis of the complex relationship between preserving, remembering and forgetting. It is then possible to analyse the origin and development of the notion of historic archive as a cultural asset and to see how this classification affects the general discipline of cultural heritage. The paper uses examples from both national legislations and international bodies in order to see how countries at different levels interpret and appropriate this idea of the archive as a cultural asset and how the establishment of dedicated institutions, guidelines and constraints shape the process of document preservation. Fruition is another central issue: the paper considers if and how allowing citizens to interact with and to access documents would permit the archive to become a space for the sharing and the negotiation of memories and cultural identities.
The increasing illicit trade in cultural property is a global problem in need of a global response. Accession to the international treaty system designed to tackle this trade and protect heritage more broadly has, however, been slow among many States, some of whom nevertheless regard cultural heritage as an important defining characteristic of their nationhood and identity. Spotlighting Ireland, this paper examines the role of international organisations and national cultural institutions in protecting cultural heritage within the context of the individual cultural priorities of nation states, examining how Ireland and its national cultural institutions attempt to protect its own heritage nationally in a globalised climate and how the specific legal protections it affords to cultural heritage are used, more broadly.
In 1969 Italy became the first nation to found a special police force unit, the Carabinieri Force for the Protection of Cultural Heritage, dedicated to combatting the theft and illegal excavation of archaeological sites, the trafficking and counterfeiting of stolen goods, including cultural property, and to ensuring the confiscation of stolen or illegally exported cultural objects sold on the art market. In addition, this special unit has provided specialized support to peace-keeping operations in war zones, including in Iraq from 2003 to 2006. While active on the national territory of Italy, the Carabinieri Force has an international reach and acts as an example to the rest of the world of how to successfully address security issues surrounding cultural heritage. This presentation details the work of the Carabinieri Force for the Protection of Cultural Heritage and the important role it plays in mediating and resolving threats to cultural heritage sites in war and peace.