UCL Institute for Sustainable Heritage


Maria Shehade

Thesis title:  The resolution of cultural property disputes: a way forward

Primary supervisor: Dr Kalliopi Fouseki
Secondary supervisor: Professor May Cassar 
Starting date: June 2012
Projected completion date: June 2015

Cultural property disputes and repatriation claims in general are some of the most complicated issues that heritage practitioners often face. People involved in one way or another with the heritage sector i.e. not only heritage practitioners but also diplomats, managers, ministry employees and so on, often find themselves involved in such claims, whether they are on the requesting or the receiving end. With these demands emerging, even more often in recent years, the need for an in- depth examination of this topic becomes more necessary, since a blueprint for the handling of such issues is becoming more essential than ever.

My thesis, will examine the potential of Alternative Dispute Resolution methods (negotiation and mediation in particular) and cultural diplomacy in the resolution of disputes concerning the ownership of cultural property and claims for the repatriation of the artefacts in question. Through the examination of case studies, the thesis will ultimately suggest a model for heritage practitioners and managers involved in repatriation claims and disputes over cultural property, which they can use as a tool during negotiations with involved parties.

Based on alternative dispute resolution theories, together with conflict management and negotiation theories, my thesis will explore ways in which negotiation and mediation techniques and practices can work to bring a positive outcome in cases of cultural property disputes, define the parameters that determine the outcome of such processes and suggest ways to overcome possible problems that occur during the process. 


I have studied History, Archaeology and History of Art at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, specialising in History.

Following the completion of my studies in 2009, I started an MA course in Managing Archaeological sites at UCL Institute of Archaeology. My MA dissertation, entitled ‘The presentation and interpretation of archaeological vestiges integrated into museum buildings: The case of the New Acropolis Museum’, focused on the examination of presentation and interpretation issues related to archaeological remains which are incorporated into modern museum structures. The dissertation examined particular examples of such museums and also presented the future plans for the creation of a new exhibition space for the presentation of the vestiges integrated into the New Acropolis Museum together with some further suggestions and ideas for the presentation and opening of the site. In 2010, I completed my degree with distinction.

Since 2012, I am registered for a PhD degree at the Bartlett School of Graduate Studies at the Centre for Sustainable Heritage. My PhD thesis aims to investigate the potential of alternative dispute resolution methods (negotiation and mediation in particular) and cultural diplomacy in the resolution of disputes concerning the ownership of cultural property and claims for the repatriation of antiquities.

My research interests include amongst others cultural heritage management, repatriation of antiquities, museum management, cultural heritage law, cultural diplomacy, Alternative dispute resolution, conflict management and negotiations.