‘Documentation can combat illicit trafficking of cultural heritage’

New Delhi, Sep 7 (IANS) Right documentation of heritage and artifacts is the key to combatting illicit trafficking of cultural heritage, which is enmeshed with international crime and terrorism, an International Council of Museums (ICOM) official said on Monday.

“Combating illicit trafficking of cultural heritage is one of the major problems of the world. It is completely in mesh with international crime and terrorism. Documentation is one of the key ways to combat this crime,” said Nicholas Crofts, the chairperson of the International Committee for Documentation (CIDOC) of ICOM.

Speaking to reporters after the inauguration of CIDOC’s annual conference here, Crofts said good documentation could help in identifying the cultural artifacts so that trafficking could be stopped.

Interpol, which has a database of Stolen Works of Art, has been able to recover more than 2,800 artworks since 1995 through ‘Object ID’, a standard documentation for artifacts.

The week-long annual conference here titled ‘Documenting Diversity – Collections, Catalogues and Context’, inaugurated on Monday by Ministry of Culture’s secretary Narendra Kumar Sinha, will look at ways to document diverse cultural heritage.

“While museums in India have a colonial construct, there is a growing realisation among people about the importance of museums and the need to preserve cultural heritage alongside balancing modernities,” Sinha said in his address at the conference.

He said through the conference, issues and challenges of documentation of cultural property in India would be discussed along with representatives from museums from across the world.

Crofts later said the way the National Museum of Delhi is preserving cultural heritage is very close to the Greek museums, where the idea of museums evolved.

“The idea of museum is the concept from ancient Greece. The very first museum in ancient Greece is very close in its ways to the National Museum in Delhi – these places use their collections as teaching aids for people,” Crofts added.

He said the ways being used in India to preserve cultural heritage are unlike those in many western countries, where collections are merely a part of the display.

Being hosted in India for the first time, the conference is being organised by CIDOC and the National Museum Institute of History of Art. It will have over 150 participants associated with museums across the world.

The participants would present over 125 abstracts on topics ranging from documenting tangible and intangible heritage like music, beliefs, ways of cooking, standardisation of museum documentation methods, digitisation of documentation techniques among others.

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