There is a core of agreement even among the most diametrically opposed heritage advocates.
For example on Wednesday of this week the BBC program Today featured a brief piece with James Cuno and Colin Renfrew debating some of the foundational issues of heritage policy. What I find striking, is how to the casual observer much of what Cuno and Renfrew are discussing would appear to not be too far apart. They’ll both agree I think that the looting of sites is a problem, and museums should not acquire stolen or looted antiquities and works of art. They will disagree vigorously on what exactly constitutes ‘stolen’ or ‘looted’.
I’d argue that the disagreement, and much of the petty argument which takes place on the nets and at conferences actually makes the task of all sides more difficult, and is counterproductive. I’d like to see some real meaningful discourse, and a lot less sniping and unproductive exaggerations on both sides. Sadly all too often the disagreements make the american electoral process look sane and measured in comparison, not an easy task. The end result is a situation where the public often does not know how or why these issues matter.
Take for example the recent Interpol Symposium on the Theft of and Illicit Traffic in Works of Art,Cultural Property and Antiques in which a “lack of awareness among the general public of the importance of cultural heritage and the need for it to be protected,” and recommend that “INTERPOL, UNESCO and ICOM: Jointly seek ways of raising awareness among law-enforcement services, those responsible for safeguarding religious heritage, the major players in the art market and the conservation world, and the general public, with regard to protecting cultural property and combating illegal trafficking.” (via).