Countless pieces of art have been destroyed or looted over history,especially during war times. Many political and religious artifacts have beentargeted victims for the careless destruction of art. This reckless disregardfor our art has greatly affected the efficiency at which we are able toproficiently learn and teach about past cultures and their rich history. Thedestruction of art from past cultures restricts us from learning about thehistory of not only ancient civilizations that still exist today butcivilizations such as Summer who have died off.
This makes it vital for us toprotect art despite the fact that it may belong to a certain religion orpolitical regime, especially during dangerous war times. War times have becomea yielding and attractive time for art to be not only looted but destroyed andvandalized. This art is not only vulnerable to hands-on vandalism but issusceptible to bombs and new warfare technology as well. This makes it anundemanding time as ever for art to be ravaged during war and times ofpolitical unrest. Thecopious loss of artifacts and history has taken a toll on the amount ofinformation we are able to adequately supply to our educators and studentsabout past eras in history.
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There have been conflicts in relatively recenttimes that have allowed for museums like the Iraq National Museum and the KabulMuseum to be looted and vandalized. This destruction is not only popular inphysical works of art, but literary works of art as well. This was observed in1922 when the Sarajevo national library was burnt down during a war by Serbshelling.
These are minuscule examples of the great loss of art we have lostover history. In light of this great loss, there has been a political movementin order to fuel the global protection of art during times of civil unrest. In1954 The Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the eventof Armed Conflict was held. As the name suggests, this convention was held inorder to assemble a protocol and awareness for the protection of culturalartifacts in times of conflict. Out of this convention came the symbol of theblue shield for the worldwide indicator of cultural artifacts and property whoare in need of protection. A committee called the “Blue Shield” or the USCBSwas formed in 2006 in response to the looting of the National Museum in Bagdad.
This committee formed a mission statement whose goal is to protect the heritagethat is tangible and may be immobile like monuments, libraries, and museumsduring times of conflict. Inorder to protect this art, the United States military and government havestarted to communicate during times of conflict. This push for communicationhas become not only local but a worldwide phenomenon. The government has even prepared and startedto maintain a list of volunteers that would be able to assist in providing aidto the protection of art during a conflict. These lists are similar to thelists that were started in the 1930s by European Museums that started to logthe artifacts they had in preparation to wartimes. These logs not onlycontained the artifacts but ways to transport the precious art and where theywould most likely be safe from the destruction of the war. Many museums, suchas the Louvre during world war two have had to evacuate their artifacts duringa war and have sent the art to remote and safer locations. Trainingfor troops to expand their knowledge of where art is located and how to protectit the best we can has become a priority across the globe in lure of saving thehistorical artifacts we have left.
During times of war, troops have also beenspecially assembled in order to salvage as much cultural heritage as possible.The Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives (MFAA) were comprised of the UnitedStates military as the Army Civil Affairs Division. The MFFA was comprised ofprofessionals who could identify and restore important cultural artifacts.These were people who were once museum professionals and often art historianswho had previously spent some amount of time in the United States military insome way. These officers were able to enter liberated towns and would aid inthe salvaging of cultural artifacts. After times of war, such as after WorldWar two, these officers were to research and send the artifacts back to theirplace of origin that they had originally belonged to. Oftenthe reason for the destruction of these artifacts is the patronage they pay toa religious or political subject.
There are ample examples of destruction ofreligious idols in every Country. Some of the world’s most well-known pieceshave been destroyed simply because of their religious or political background.For example, the world’s two largest Buddha statues stood over one hundredfifty feet tall when they were destroyed by the Taliban.
These monuments, likemany others, had survived over one thousand seven hundred years just to becarelessly destroyed. In 2015 videos of ISIL fighters were posted and depictedthe three-thousand-year-old statues of the Mosul Museum being destroyed byhammers. These fighters did not stop at the museum but also have inflictedmassive damage onto the very well-known Ziggurat of Ur in Iraq as well. Thedestruction of these religious and political artifacts and buildings affect oursociety today. These historical artifacts have been left behind and studied inorder to gain perspective and pay tribute to the past eras who came before us.
Through this knowledge, we can not only learn about our past but about ourfuture and the mistakes we should not make. For example, Hitler widely usedpropaganda to further his agenda and regime. In light of this, many people havegrown weary of political figures who extensively use propaganda to threaten andsymbolize their power over a group of people or territory. By studying theseartifacts of history we can not only learn from our mistakes but see how wehave improved and changed from generation to generation and gain a better andmore complex understanding of ourselves.
This destruction not only effects thepeople who see the artifacts every day and may have a personal or religiousconnection with them but affects all the future generations as well. They nowwill not get a chance to first hand further their knowledge of the artifactsand history more extensively than what has already been written. Thepolitical and religious beliefs of the time, although prevalent, may changeover time as we have seen throughout mankind’s whole history.
The destructionof past history portrays to future generations the idea that cultural artifactsare temporary and if the artifact is not prevalent or shows personal meaning ithas no meaning. Many would agree that it is important that artwork from thepresent time should not be destroyed because they share personal ties. Similarly,in this way, we should protect and preserve the art of past times because thosepeople had personal and prevalent ties to themselves as well. This will allowus to observe the cycles over history and how we as a people have evolved overtime with beliefs both politically and religiously. However, in many cases, this political or religious art may be destroyedbecause it is deemed offensive in today’s fast-changing society and culture. Inthis case, these artifacts should still be protected and preserved, but in aspace that respects the people and society. Putting offensive artifacts into amuseum cannot only preserve them but their history as well. By destroying theartifact, we destroy the memory and time that artifact represents and restrainourselves from further learning from the mistakes of the past.
This willpreserve our history from eras before us with dignity in a safe learningenvironment that will allow the society to feel both respected and open tolearn from the past. Thesetwo concepts of the protection of art and the conservation of past art go handin hand in society. In order to protect our artifacts, we must also be able tosee the importance and validity of them in our present day. This means that wemust not only protect our art during times of war but protect them on a day today basis in order to keep their meaning alive. Many pieces of art have beendestroyed due to the simple lack of restoration or care they need on a dailybasis. Earthquakes have taken countless monuments and artifacts due to theneglect that the structure has experienced over past years. An earthquake inNepal is said to account for thirty-five percent of missing monuments in Indiaalone. The lack of knowledge surrounding the care of artifacts has beendecreasing due to the Blue Shield and its goal to raise public awareness to theimportance of the cultural artifacts we still do have.
InConclusion, we have been making strides in the way of protecting art worldwideduring times of political unrest and preserving this art to benefit the latergenerations. This is crucial in order to keep our history from repeating thesame mistakes we may have made in the past and to see how to better evolve as asociety and civilization. This will not only allow us to better ourselves butto benefit the future generations as well so that they can learn the importanceof preserving their own history for generations that may come after them. Thegoal is to have the rich historical heritage for further generations to learnfrom and build on. This will allow progress for the human race as a whole as webetter ourselves from the mistakes that were made before us today.
We shouldcontinue to build on the work we have done with the Blue Shield and around theglobe to better preserve our history, despite its political or religious meritsthat it may have.