Webinar Registration: The Misadventures of a Stolen American Relic

As the Confederacy crumbled, Union soldiers packed an American treasure for a trip north. As one of the original versions of the Bill of Rights left the captured North Carolina statehouse, it began a century-long odyssey, from midwestern living rooms to the back rooms of the shady antiquities marketplace. David Howard, author of Lost Rights: The Misadventures of a Stolen American Relic, joins the Antiquities Coalition in an exclusive live conversation about his book, to peel back the mystery surrounding the elusive parchment.

Howard’s “tour de force of antiquarian sleuthing” casts a critical light on the dark side of the antiquities trade, and the story of the lost Bill of Rights reveals a slice of the disreputable characters and practices that keep untold hordes of priceless heritage hidden away. Our discussion will examine what can be learned from the case study about the global fight against looting and trafficking of cultural patrimony.

Join us live, Tuesday, June 30th at 11 AM EDT!

AC Hosts Live Expert Panel on The Art of Pandemic Museum and Site Security

On June 17, the AC gathered world-renowned experts to appraise the threats to museum collections during the COVID-19 pandemic and explore cutting-edge strategy and solutions in a free live webinar. 

Speakers included Dennis Ahern (Director of Security UK, Christie’s Auction House) Vernon Rapley (Director of Cultural Heritage Protection and Security, Victoria and Albert Museum) and 

Dr. Donna Yates (Archaeologist and Associate Professor in the Department of Criminal Law and Criminology, Maastricht University). The discussion was moderated by AC Executive Director Tess Davis, who covered topics including how the pandemic is affecting museum and site security, opportunities created for both thieves and security professionals, and different approaches institutions might take now and in the future to protect their collections. 

Key Takeaways Include: 

  • Empty sites and museums pose challenges and opportunities for security: While a larger crowd poses more risk to objects and can be harder to police, a thief taking an object stands out in a small group. 
  • New metal detector enthusiasts should beware: Seemingly an appropriate outdoor hobby to partake in during lockdowns, resources for metal detecting can be scarce and participants can end up looting objects or harming sites.
  • Impacts will be felt into the future: As museums and sites face budget cuts and dwindling resources, threats will remain even past the pandemic. 

Watch the expert panel here.

The AC Digs Into: Anti-Theft ‘Fingerprints’ for At-Risk Antiquities

In 2003 and again under Daesh (ISIS) occupation, museum looting decimated renowned Iraqi collections and scattered much of the nation’s priceless heritage on the international black market. To deter such tragic pillage from striking again, an anti-theft technology company, its foundation, and archaeologists teamed up with Iraqi museum professionals to ‘fingerprint’ thousands of artifacts — hopefully making them easier to recover. We discussed the impressive project with Founder and Director of Art Fraud Insights and Senior Advisor at the SmartWater Foundation Colette Loll, Project Principal Investigator and University of Reading Professor Roger Matthews, and SmartWater CEO Phil Cleary. The Iraq SmartWater project is funded by the British Council’s Cultural Protection Fund, in partnership with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

Live Expert Panel: The Art of Pandemic Museum and Site Security

One early morning this March, thieves snatched Van Gogh’s “Spring Garden” from a Dutch museum. They used two tools to break in and grab the valuable work: a sledgehammer and the COVID-19 outbreak that closed the museum just weeks before. The crime illustrates a new danger to cultural heritage around the world amid the spread of the coronavirus.

Most museums and other cultural sites are now operating on skeleton crews. At the same time, the virus has taken the lives of security staff, while law enforcement around the world has understandably shifted to health-related priorities. From the lockdown’s earliest days, experts warned that art crime would rise with the pandemic. Now, looting and thefts may be underreported due to lack of staff. How can cultural institutions safeguard their collections — and archaeological sites do the same for pieces yet to be uncovered — during an unprecedented public health and economic crisis?

International experts will appraise the threat and explore cutting-edge strategy in our free webinar “The Art of Pandemic Museum and Site Security.” Leaders in the field will share their experience and insight in this live collection security deep-dive.

Speakers include: