Antiquities Coalition Discusses Due Diligence with Public Broadcasting of Latvia
August 3, 2021
There is a great deal at stake in conflict-destabilized regions—including cultural heritage, according to a web report (written in Latvian) published on June 1 by Public Broadcasting of Latvia (LSM).
Elizabete Auniņa, who researches international security and the Middle East, interviewed the Antiquities Coalition in her article about how conflict-destabilized regions are disproportionately vulnerable to looters, who strip artifacts from archaeological sites and museums, and smugglers, who sneak these pillaged goods out of their home countries and into the hands of the highest bidders. This trend has only been exacerbated by COVID-19, as the Antiquities Coalition reported in May 2020, August 2020, and March 2021.
For reasons like these, on May 6, INTERPOL launched ID-Art as a free application on the Apple and Android stores. Aside from allowing users to create an inventory of their private art collections and report at-risk geographical locations, ID-Art enables users to identify stolen cultural objects by either manually entering search criteria or simply taking or uploading a photo in the app, which then uses an image recognition program to compare the provided photo to the photos of 50,000-plus objects listed in INTERPOL’s Stolen Works of Art database.
In preparing several of our Story Map case studies, which trace looted objects from the ground to the buyer, we at the Antiquities Coalition have found that these objects end up not only in private collections, but also in auction houses and museums. More than likely, a good portion of these buyers are unaware that they are complicit in criminal activity—but, nonetheless, may bear some responsibility for failing to exercise due diligence (e.g., in-depth research).
“Even unsuspecting buyers can be complicit in buying looted artifacts, if not careful,” Antiquities Coalition Project Director Helena Arose told LSM, referencing the AC’s #BuyerBeware campaign.
The United States can help put a stop to these global crimes against culture by closing its own borders to illicit antiquities. For more information, visit our new webpage.