With Monuments Men Screening, USUNESCO Highlights Importance of Protecting Cultural Property

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Monuments Men highlights the role of an international unit of museum directors, curators, art historians, artists, architects, and educators, who recovered and restituted nearly 5 million art works confiscated by the Nazis during World War II.

The U.S. Mission to UNESCO organized a screening at UNESCO Headquarters of Monuments Men, the George Clooney-directed film which highlights the role of an international unit of museum directors, curators, art historians, artists, architects, and educators from thirteen countries, who recovered and restituted nearly 5 million art works and historical objects that were confiscated and stolen by the Nazis during World War II.

Chargé d’Affaires Beth Poisson introduced the film, stressing the U.S. and UNESCO’s continuing efforts to prevent the stealing of cultural property and restore it to its rightful owners, where possible.  She noted that the film “Monuments Men helps to bring to life for another generation the story of the epic struggle of a small group of dedicated individuals to preserve and protect our common cultural heritage.  It also reminds us of the critical role UNESCO continues to play in highlighting cases of destruction and in providing emergency assistance and capacity building to help restore and preserve cultural property that has suffered attack.”

The screening was preceded by an expert panel that discussed looting and illicit trafficking of cultural property.  Monica Hanna, an Egyptian archeologist, drew gasps from the audience of 200 with her shocking pictures of cultural desecration at sites in Egypt, including empty graves, smashed sarcophagi and thousands-of-years-old mummies ripped to pieces.  She spoke of the need to link local communities with their cultural heritage through economic benefit and education.

Mexican Ambassador to UNESCO, H. E. Mr Porfirio Thierry Muñoz-Ledo told the audience that “cultural property cannot be considered a commercial good.”

UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova spoke highlighted UNESCO’s new campaign, “Travel, Don’t Traffic,” aiming to educate tourists and prevent illicit trading in cultural goods.