AC’s Efforts to Combat Looting in Egypt Cited in The National News

As the fight against cultural looting persists, developing stronger policy and legislation is one of the Antiquities Coalition’s top priorities. In 2016, the Antiquities Coalition encouraged an agreement between the U.S. and Egypt to protect Egypt’s cultural heritage from trafficking. The agreement was renewed for another five years in December 2021.

In a recent article with The National News, Chairman and Founder of the Antiquities Coalition, Deborah Lehr, highlighted the significance of this agreement:

“When you have the [agreement], it switches the burden of proof. Egypt doesn’t have to prove that the items were looted. The importer has to prove that it’s legitimate,” Lehr says.

This article shines a light on the severity of antiquity looting in countries including Egypt, Yemen, and Iraq, and how these nations are working to return their stolen heritage. It is critical that the narrative around the illicit trade of art and antiquities continues to shift toward a global understanding that looting is a crime with extreme consequences for our shared history, human rights, and global security.

Read the full article here.

The Premiere of Turathi: A New Heritage Platform to Combat Looting in Algeria

In Algeria, the AC Holds Event to Launch New Photo Guide to Preserve Algerian Cultural Heritage

The Antiquities Coalition was honored to join the Algerian Ministry of Culture and Arts and the U.S. Embassy in Algiers on May 9, 2022, for the official launch of Turathi, a photographic guide to help identify Algeria’s stolen cultural heritage. The Antiquities Coalition and the Algerian Ministry of Culture developed Turathi as part of their ongoing partnership to preserve and protect the country’s cultural heritage, sponsored by the U.S. Embassy in Algiers.

The Photo guide and the database are a work tool, intended primarily for the use of local customs officers, law enforcement, and international partners involved in the fight against illicit trafficking of cultural property, as an initial step that allows them to identify cultural goods, through a preliminary comparison between their finds and similar artifacts. However, this guide is available to everyone with the aim of engaging and empowering the civil society for the protection of Algeria’s cultural heritage.

Peter Herdrich, Co-Founder of the Antiquities Coalition and Director of the Digitization and Cultural Heritage Preservation Project, spoke at the event to discuss the necessity of collaboration in cultural heritage preservation. 

Herdrich was joined by Soraya Mouloudji, the Algerian Minister of Culture, and Elizabeth Moore Aubin, the U.S. Ambassador to Algeria, who also gave remarks emphasizing how this tool will support the protection and preservation of Algerian cultural heritage. AC in-country Project Manager Abir Chorfa also delivered a speech on the success of the project and next steps.

With over 35,000 stolen objects reported in Algeria, the need for good solutions to fight against cultural racketeering has never been more acute. The Antiquities Coalition remains committed to using tactics like digitization and tools like the photo guide to protect our shared history and global security: although the fight to combat the illegal trade of art and antiquities requires participation from a variety of disciplines.

Governments, law enforcement, cultural experts, libraries, conservators, businesspeople, and more must work together to uncover solutions to safeguard cultural heritage across the world. 

As Deborah Lehr, Founder of the Antiquities Coalition, emphasized during her remarks, “Please have a look at the printed Guide and the website. Get to know these items. And please tell others about them, both professionals and members of the public. The more people know about the importance of protecting the heritage of Algeria and how critical that is, the broader our coalition is.”

The Antiquities Coalition looks forward to its continued collaboration with the Ministry of Culture and Arts and the U.S. Embassy in Algiers and how this resource will assist in its mission to fight the illicit trafficking of Algeria’s cultural heritage.


AC Chairman and Founder Featured in ChinaNews

Lehr Urges More Understanding of the Illicit Trade of Art and Antiquities

On May 19th, the China-Europe-America Museums Cooperation Initiative hosted a joint event alongside the Antiquities Coalition and the Academy of Contemporary China and World Studies under CICG. During the virtual discussion, over 30 globally recognized experts shared insights on the role museums play in protecting cultural heritage. 

Deborah Lehr, Chairman and Founder of the Antiquities Coalition, highlighted the significance role that China, Europe, and America play in the fight against the illicit trade of art and antiquities: 

“Taken together, these three regions make up 77% of the global art market and the overwhelming majority of the world’s museums.” 

Additionally, Lehr called for more understanding of the problem:

“For museums, training in provenance research and authentication, as well as having dedicated museum staff to research acquisitions and object history, can make a significant difference,” Lehr said. “And helping archaeologists, global antiquities dealers, and the purchasing public build capacity in understanding the ‘watch outs’ of the illicit trade can make a difference.”

Read the full article here.

How Can Museums Better Safeguard Our Cultural Heritage?

A Global Dialogue In Honor of International Museum Day

Global events have made attacks on our cultural heritage more prevalent and unrelenting than ever. With the illegal trade and unethical collection of art and artifacts threatening our history, there are steps that can be taken to help mitigate the illicit trade of our cultural heritage. 

The protection of our cultural heritage hinges on how governments, law enforcement, museums, and responsible players in the art market respond to the increased attacks on our shared history. 

Museums, in particular, have an opportunity—and responsibility—to support the legal and ethical collection of ancient art and artifacts, use their platforms to educate the public on the illicit trade, and work with the private sector to protect themselves, global markets, and our shared world heritage from criminals who seek to exploit it for their own gain.

On May 19, the Antiquities Coalition joined the China-Europe-America Global Initiative for a global dialogue exploring the vital responsibility of museums in the fight against cultural racketeering. “The Second Dialogue: Protection of Our Cultural Heritage” featured international leaders in government, the arts, business, and more in discussions about how we can work together to better safeguard our history.

With 31 speakers from 10 countries, this event showcased the dangers of cultural racketeering to our history, human rights, national economies, and global security.

The Antiquities Coalition’s Chairman and Founder, Deborah Lehr, and Executive Director, Tess Davis, spoke at the event on behalf of the AC. Their remarks stressed the critical need for joint international action to send a strong message against the illicit trade in antiquities.

The Antiquities Coalition was proud to cooperate on this event and thanks the China-Europe-America Initiative for its leadership in the fight against antiquities trafficking around the world.

Learn more about the event from the CEA here.

Follow our website for updates on insights from this important event.

NATO SP CoE Emphasizes the Importance of Cultural Property Protection

Under Colonel Giuseppe de Magistris of the Carabinieri, the NATO Stability Policing Centre of Excellence (SP CoE) is leading an alliance-wide effort to incorporate cultural property protection into Stability Policing. Described as a “new model of peacekeeping,” Stability Policing aims to restore the rule of law and protect human rights by reinforcing local and national law enforcement during crisis operations.

The end goal of Stability Policing is to ensure preservation, support impacted communities, cut off criminal and terrorist financing sources, and lay a solid foundation for post-conflict stabilization.

During this unprecedented time of threats facing NATO, cultural property protection is more important than ever because it can reinforce and lay the groundwork for deeper international peace and security efforts. This is particularly important to consider against the backdrop of Russia’s attacks against Ukraine, as we explored in a recent policy brief.

Col. de Magistris and Tess Davis at the roundtable discussionCol. de Magistris recently stressed that NATO SP CoE recognizes the significance of cultural property protection in its efforts to build international peace and security during a closed-door roundtable discussion hosted by The Antiquities Coalition on April 25.

After his remarks, our Executive Director, Tess Davis, led a moderated discussion between experts from the US government, museums, and academia on critical topics raised by Col. de Magistris, such as military and cultural property protection, investigating the looting and trafficking of antiquities, and the NATO SP CoE cultural property network.

The Antiquities Coalition looks forward to its continued partnership with Col. de Magistris and the NATO SP CoE as we work to safeguard the world’s heritage from cultural racketeering.