The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 23, Number 3


1954 Hague Convention to Protect Cultural Property in Time of War is Strengthened

On March 26, a diplomatic conference at The Hague adopted far-reaching new measures to reinforce, complement and update the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, which is administered by UNESCO.

The document recording these measures, referred to as the "Second Protocol," is the first international instrument to define crimes against cultural property explicitly. Attacking cultural property, using it or its immediate surroundings to support military action, and destroying or misappropriating cultural property protected under the Hague Convention and the Second Protocol are defined as extraditable offences. The Second Protocol also qualifies theft, pillage and vandalism as criminal acts involving the personal responsibility of those who commission them or carry them out.

The convention, attended by 300 participants from 74 of the 95 State Parties to the Convention, set up an intergovernmental Committee to register cultural property to be protected, and to oversee the implementation of the Convention and Protocol. It reinforced individual criminal responsibility for violations of cultural property and tightened definitions of obligations for international cooperation in providing protection for cultural properties and the prosecution of those guilty of violations. In the past, no permanent body was charged with implementing the Convention. The absence of such an organ may have been partly responsible for the fact that only five cultural properties had been listed for special protection. (More information at (2F7)

AAAS Awards Relevant to Conservation Science

In August, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) sent out a flier describing its annual awards, among which were three that might recognize outstanding conservation scientists. Nominations were invited.

The AAAS Award for International Scientific Cooperation seeks to recognize an individual or small group working together in the scientific or engineering community for making outstanding contributions to furthering international cooperation in science or engineering.

The AAAS Award for Public Understanding of Science and Technology is intended to encourage and acknowledge talented scientists and engineers to popularize their work; to recognize and support scientists and engineers who do popularize in a responsive manner; and to emphasize that the scientific community regards communicating to the public as a valuable and prestigious activity.

The AAAS Science Journalism Award recognizes outstanding reporting for a general audience on the natural sciences, engineering, and mathematics for newspapers, general magazines, radio, and television.

For additional information, contact the Office of Development at 202/326-6636 (fax 202/789-2009).

Renovation at Harvard's Widener Library

For the next two years, the Widener Library will see some basic improvements in its heating, ventilation and air conditioning, electrical, lighting, fire suppression and security systems. Space will also be added for both readers and staff. This is a real preservation project, undertaken to protect the collections. (More information in American Libraries, Aug. 1999, p. 27.)

A Millenial Legend

U.S. News & World Report reputedly published a story of panicked worshippers on the eve of the year 999, and how they wept and trembled in St. Peter's Basilica in expectation of the Second Coming and the end of the world.

According to the Urban Legends Reference Pages, however, there is no evidence to support the truth of this story. Periods of 1000 years are mentioned in the Bible (Revelations), but without any mention of when they begin. Furthermore, the year 1000 in the calendar we use today does not correspond to the calendar in use 1000 years ago. (More information at

Norman Cohn's The Pursuit of the Millenium, Second Edition (Harper Torchbooks/The Academy Library, Harper & Bros., New York, 1961), contains no reference to hysteria at the turn of the last millenium. The "millenium" was a concept that related to a day of judgement predicted by members of "subterranean popular revolts" that Cohn compares to the totalitarian movements of our time. It had nothing to do with a certain year that ended in three zeros.

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