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Conference to focus on issues affecting claims to heritage items


Andrea Lynn, News Editor

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — A group of international scholars will gather at the University of Illinois for a conference to discuss how forces of religion and nationalism may act to heighten intergroup tension around heritage claims – even to the point of causing the destruction of ancient and historic sites.

The conference on “Contested Cultural Heritage in a Global World” will take place April 24-25 at the Spurlock Museum, 600 S. Gregory St., Urbana.

The keynote speaker is Donny George Youkhanna, the former director of the Iraq Museum, president of the Iraq State Board of Antiquities and Heritage, and visiting professor at the State University of New York at Stonybrook.

Youkhanna’s talk, which begins at 7:30 p.m. on April 24 at the museum, is titled “Mayhem in Mesopotamia: The Interplay of Religion, Nationalism and Global Politics in Iraq’s Cultural Heritage.” His talk is free and open to the public. It is supported by the Center for Advanced Study and other U. of I. units.

Conference topics on April 25 include the “spoils” of Machu Picchu; the ”looting” of the Parthenon Marbles; using the past to promote Egyptian economy and nationalism; the “split personality” of American Indian museum collections; and heritage conflicts in the Balkans.

A roundtable discussion will follow the presentation of papers. The conference runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The conference organizer is Helaine Silverman, a U. of I. professor of anthropology. Conference sponsors are the Spurlock Museum, Office of the Provost and the Collaborative for Cultural Heritage and Museum Practice (CHAMP), also at Illinois. Many other U. of I. units are co-sponsors.

CHAMP is an interdisciplinary collaborative at the U. of I. for the critical study of cultural heritage and museums in the global context.

According to CHAMP’s Web site, the unit’s principal goal is to “critically examine the articulation and representation of cultural identity on local and worldwide scales and to interrogate theories of heritage and museum practice that emerge from them.”

CHAMP co-directors are D. Fairchild Ruggles, landscape architecture, and Silverman.