Statement on Black Lives Matter

From Wikimedia Commons: “A crowd of community members gather outside the Governor’s Residence in Saint Paul, Minnesota, in the 2 a.m. hour on July 7, 2016, following the police shooting of Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, by a St. Anthony Police officer.” (Image Credit: Tony Webster /

As an international organization dedicated to safeguarding our history, we know that diversity is one of our world’s greatest strengths. We unequivocally support the Black Lives Matter movement. We believe it has the power not only to realize American ideals, but to advance justice and equality around the globe, as we are seeing by the demonstrations of solidarity in many of the countries where we work.

An important and long overdue conversation is now taking place about racism, oppression, and other injustices. Given the power of cultural heritage both to unite and divide, organizations devoted to its preservation have a unique responsibility to be part of the solution, not the problem. We recognize that to live up to this responsibility, as an institution and individuals, we have far to go. But we commit to making this goal a reality.

To begin, we will:

  • Redouble our efforts to support the individuals, communities, and even countries who have seen their patrimony looted and sold to the highest bidder.
  • Amplify voices that have gone unheard for far too long through all our public channels, events, and programs, including by commissioning paid articles and other publications on relevant topics.
  • Listen and learn from those at the center of the greater struggle and share helpful resources with our supporters, particularly those that examine racism in the fields of art, archaeology, and museums.
  • Conduct active outreach to Historically Black Colleges and Universities to enlist more diverse students and scholars in our mission, mentor those interested in this field through a paid internship program, and widen our search when adding to our staff and senior advisors.

We promise to hold ourselves accountable for making a difference and we will start at home, critically reflecting upon our team, our work, and all of our choices.

AC Executive Director Tess Davis Speaks With NPR About Facebook Antiquities Ban

Facebook announced on June 23 that it would begin to delete any content on Facebook or Instagram “that attempts to buy, sell or trade in historical artifacts.”

In examining the practical implications of this policy on July 28 for NPR’s Morning Edition, International Correspondent Jane Arraf spoke with Antiquities Coalition Executive Director Tess Davis, who called the prohibition a good first step—especially given the spike in art crime facilitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which the Antiquities Coalition reported on back in May.

“Now is a particularly critical time because the COVID-19 crisis—it hasn’t spared anything, including our cultural heritage,” Davis said. “And above-board dealers, galleries, auction houses, even museums, they’re all shuttered, but the international black market is staying wide open for business. And in particular, Facebook never shuts down.”

Antiquities Coalition Cited in Yale Law Journal Forum

The Antiquities Coalition and AC Executive Director Tess Davis were cited by recent Yale Law School graduate Nikita Lalwani in “State of the Art: How Cultural Property Became a National-Security Priority,” an essay published July 19 in volume 130 of the Yale Law Journal’s online companion, the Yale Law Journal Forum.

Lalwani describes the essay as follows: 

For much of the twentieth century, the United States did little to help repatriate looted antiquities, thanks to a powerful coalition of art collectors, museums, and numismatists who preferred an unregulated art market. Today, however, the country treats the protection of cultural property as an important national-security issue. What changed? This Essay tells the story of how a confluence of events—including the high-profile destruction and looting of cultural property in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as the revelation that looted antiquities were helping to bankroll terrorist organizations in the Middle East—convinced both Congress and the State Department to take the issue seriously. It then asks what this shift says about how the United States sets its policy agenda and reflects on how cultural property law should evolve from here.

Lalwani spoke with Davis in a video interview on April 16, investigating why the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act not only upheld such “strict requirements” for any States Parties requesting memoranda of understanding, but also created such a “heavily bureaucratized” process for approving said agreements.

As Davis explained, “restricting the art market was less accepted in 1983 than it is now” and “lawmakers wanted to cover their bases by giving much more deference to the market.”

If the CCPIA had been written today, Davis added, stricter regulations would be likely.

Lalwani also quoted Davis later in her essay, when discussing the effects of the United States defining more policy priorities—including cultural property issues—as national security concerns.

“The State Department has realized that cultural-property agreements are valuable diplomatic tools, and they are more willing to pursue them,” Davis said. “Part of that might owe simply to the personalities involved. But with ISIS on the front page of newspapers, that’s certainly raised awareness.”

In addition to quoting Davis, Lalwani cites several other Antiquities Coalition articles throughout the essay, including: