#CultureUnderThreat: Antiquities Trafficking and Terrorist Financing

New Video Series Kicks off with UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova

The Antiquities Coalition is proud to continue bringing you insights from global leaders in the fight against cultural racketeering with the launch of its new video series.

#CultureUnderThreat: Antiquities Trafficking and Terrorist Financing kicks off with Irina Bokova, Director General of UNESCO, and one of the world’s foremost advocates for cultural preservation. 

In this exclusive interview, Madame Bokova discusses the importance of public outreach in the fight against cultural racketeering. “We need to talk to young people, we need to go to the social media,” says Director General Bokova. “That is why I launched this #UnitedHeritage campaign in Baghdad, at the University of Baghdad, where the Antiquities Coalition was one of the first partners to come to join us.”

The series is premiering on our website and YouTube channel.  A new episode will be released each week, featuring comments and analysis from top policymakers and experts. Future videos include Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, Cambodian Secretary of State Chan Tani, and Getty President James Cuno, among others. 

Each of these interviews was shot onsite at the #CultureUnderThreat forum, which was held on September 24 in New York with our partners the Asia Society, Middle East Institute, and UNESCO. This unprecedented event brought together Foreign Ministers and senior officials from 9 nations with art and museum directors, corporate executives, military officers, and experts in heritage, law, security, and technology. The proceedings closed with a “Call to Action” for the international community to join forces in a strategic effort to both halt the trade in conflict antiquities and cut of a key source of funding for groups such as ISIS. 

We believe that Director General Bokova, H.E. al-Jaafarii, H.E. Tani, Dr. Cuno, and our other guests have important messages for the international community. Please help us to make sure their voices are heard by sharing these videos widely. To subscribe  — and keep informed of the Antiquities Coalition’s work to fight cultural racketeering — sign up for our e-newsletter here.

Antiquities Coalition Joins UMD and the DC-AIA for International Archaeology Day 2015

By: Katie A. Paul

IADLogo2015-stickerOctober 17th was the fifth annual Archaeology Day hosted by the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA) – an event that began as a National celebration of archaeology in the United States and quickly became a day of international recognition. For International Archaeology Day 2015, the Antiquities Coalition’s Chief of Staff, Katie A. Paul, joined the AIA Washington, DC local society along with the University of Maryland for Cultural Heritage: Why do we care?
Understanding why we care about cultural heritage is a crucial question to address in today’s environment. With parts of the Middle East and North Africa in such deep turmoil and conflict, it is difficult for individuals to understand the value of cultural heritage when there are serious human rights conflicts that must be addressed first.

Photo of International Archaeology Day - credit Alex NagelTo begin this discussion, the event started with presentations from a panel of experts including the AC’s Katie Paul, Alex Nagel (Research Associate, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution), Sandra Scham (Vice President, DC-AIA), and Matthew Suriano (Assistant Professor of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, University of Maryland). The presenters, all with archaeological experience, focused on the issues beyond the material and looked at the broader implications of cultural heritage under threat, and US responses.

The students attending the event were UMD undergraduates ranging from classics and archaeology majors to economics and international development and members of the public. After the four panelists presented the wide breadth of issues facing the state of cultural heritage today the discussion moved to small working groups. Participants were broken up into groups focusing on a variety of case examples that included challenges faced in today’s crises. Some of these scenarios included examples on financing of terrorism through illicit antiquities sales and the challenges faced by museums purchasing artifacts for safekeeping. Recent suggestions made by groups like the AAMD were questioned in light of storage facilities, and some of the scenarios raised more questions than answers. Whose interests are at stake? What role do social media play in a globalized world?

One of the greatest impacts of this event was that participants were able to leave taking away the human connection of cultural heritage and understanding the inherent problems faced by people and not just objects. Students were able to gain insight into why it is important to be more than an archaeologist when it comes to the issue of #CultureUnderThreat.


Thank you to the Local Washington, DC Society of the Archaeological Institute of American and the University of Maryland for all of their efforts in organizing this event.