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Art Crime & Cultural Heritage Protection

Instructor: Prof. Crispin Corrado [see profile]
Disciplines: Archaeology, Art History, Legal Studies

With an emphasis on Italy, this course will focus on the looting, destruction and reselling of antiquities, from classical antiquity to today. Together we will consider issues such as what constitutes an art/cultural heritage crime, how ideas of value (both real and symbolic) have emerged historically and how have they changed over time, what constitutes "ownership" in the eyes of different entities, and how this has changed over the past 50 years, resulting in the current difficult and controversial issue of the repatriation of cultural artifacts which have crossed international borders. Themes considered will be the history of collecting, illegal excavation and the illicit trade in antiquities, the role of auction houses, the Church, museums and galleries, ownership and patrimony issues, international laws and agreements (in particular the Hague Convention of 1954, the 1970 UNESCO Convention, and the 1995 UNIDROIT Convention), recovery and repatriation, and ongoing problems with the protection and conservation of antiquities. As a class we will debate, for example, the benefits of repatriation vs. object care and viewership, and the issue of ownership in cases in which all parties involved had, at some time, "legal" rights to the artifact(s) in question. We will end this section of the course with a review of cultural heritage laws and the current international situation, as well as a discussion identifying challenges and providing suggestions for regulating the market of antiquities in the future. The last portion of the course will focus on the way that the physical city today is the result of decisions over the years to destroy, alter, or completely preserve Rome's ancient monuments. We will closely examine the buildings and areas, and eras, in question, in an effort to understand the ways that Rome deals with, and has dealt with, its issues of cultural heritage preservation. This course will include visits to relevant sites and museums in and around Rome, and will include the close investigation of actual case studies throughout.


  • a midterm
  • a case presentation
  • a research paper (12 pages)
  • a final exam