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4 Cardozo J. Int'l & Comp. L. 23 (1996)
The Future of the Past: Recovering Cultural Property

handle is hein.journals/cjic4 and id is 29 raw text is: THE FUTURE OF THE PAST: RECOVERING
Lawrence M. Kaye*
The topic of this paper addresses national and international
responses to the illicit trade in stolen cultural property. At the out-
set, it is important to clear up some confusion about this subject.
There are those who would urge that when the topic at hand is the
recovery of cultural property, we are not really dealing with a legal
issue at all, but rather engaging in a debate framed only by moral
arguments; that is, a debate that is solely a function of policy, with-
out regard to fundamental legal principles. But, as I hope to make
quite clear, when we talk about the return of cultural property, we
are dealing with a growing and distinct body of national and inter-
national law informed in part, as many of our legal principles are,
by important policy considerations.
First, a bit of history and definition of terms are in order. As
Professor John Merryman has pointed out, while the term cultural
property embraces many objects (including paintings and other
art objects, ethnographic objects, manuscripts, books, and most
anything else that can be collected and displayed) when one thinks
of the past, one most often thinks of antiquities.' While antiquities
are as old as mankind itself, the development of a body of law con-
cerning antiquities began relatively late, principally in the last cen-
tury. Such law developed as the governments of what have
become known as art-rich or source nations recognized that
without national systems protecting and preserving their cultural
property, it would be impossible to maintain such property-and
thus impossible to record and preserve the cultural history of these
* Member of the law firm of Herrick, Feinstein in New York. On April 11, 1995 the
Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law was pleased to present a lecture by the author. This
article is adapted from that lecture. Mr. Kaye expresses his appreciation to Lucille A.
Roussin, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law class of 1996, for her assistance in the prepa-
ration of this article.
I See remarks of John Henry Merryman in Daniel Shapiro, Opinion, Legal Issues in
the Trade of Antiquities, 3 INT'L J. CuLTURAL PRop. 365, 367 (1994).

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