The Ethics of Cultural Heritage

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The Open University





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This course provides the basic theory behind the protection of cultural property in war zones. It is offered by the Open University through its online education platform called OpenLearn.

It is structured in three parts: the protection of cultural property; the legal basis for that protection; and accounts of proportionality (that is, on deciding whether or not there is a feasible alternative to damaging cultural property).

Some of the learning outcomes of the course are:

  • Understanding the role which cultural heritage plays in the society
  • Examining and apply the rules of the Hague Convention of 1954 (on protecting heritage in war) in both real and hypothetical examples
  • Recognizing occasions where there might be a dilemma between preventing damage to heritage and preventing harm to human beings
  • Analyzing some of the key arguments given for and against heritage protection in such circumstances
  • Connecting these arguments to case studies, such as the Notre-Dame fire in 2019, the destruction of Palmyra in 2015, and the bombing of Monte Cassino in the Second World War.