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AIA Spring Dinner: Championing Middle Eastern Heritage

April 26, 2018

On April 25, 2018, the Archaeological Institute of America and the Antiquities Coalition celebrated major contributions in protecting our shared world heritage, including the first bilateral cultural agreements between the United States and Arab nations. The gala, which the Antiquities Coalition was pleased to host in Washington D.C., honored four awardees who have made significant contributions to the preservation of Middle Eastern and North African heritage.

We would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the night’s honorees on their achievements and the continued work that they do to champion cultural heritage.

Her Excellency Wafa Bughaighis is Libya’s Ambassador to the United States in Washington, DC. Prior to her appointment, Ms. Bughaighis served as Deputy Minister for Political Affairs in the Libyan Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and had a distinguished career in education as the Director of the International Bureau of the Ministry of Education for Eastern Libya. She was instrumental in securing the recent U.S.-Libya bilateral agreement, which restricts the import of illicit Libyan antiquities into the United States, while increasing responsible cultural exchange.

Patty Gerstenblith is a Distinguished Research Professor of Law at DePaul University and Faculty Director of its Center for Art, Museum & Cultural Heritage Law. Prof. Gerstenblith chaired the President’s Cultural Property Advisory Committee from 2011 to 2016. She is the founding president of the Lawyers Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation and a director of the U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield.

Susan Kane is the Mildred C. Jay Professor of Art at Oberlin College. She is the Director of the Cyrenaica Archaeological Project in Libya and the Sangro Valley Project in Italy. Prof. Kane received the 2013 Presidential Award from the Society of American Archaeology for her work in preserving Libyan archaeological sites and heritage during the country’s 2011 civil war.

Larry Schwartz is the former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs. Prior to this appointment, Mr. Schwartz served a variety of positions in the State Department, including, Senior Advisor in the Office of Middle East Transitions and Director for Policy, Programs and Resources in the Office of the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy. Throughout this career of public service, at home and overseas, Mr. Schwartz has championed our shared world heritage. His leadership was crucial in this time of uncertainty, not only in the Middle East and North Africa but around the world.

In addition to honoring these four individuals, Thursday’s event also celebrated the 35th anniversary of the U.S. Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act, which implements the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. This 1983 law gives the U.S. President authority to enter into bilateral agreements with foreign nations that restrict the import of their undocumented cultural property into the United States. Such agreements — also known as memoranda of understanding (MOUs)—between market countries and source countries are an effective tool in discouraging the illicit trade in antiquities. To date, the United States has signed MOUs with 17 nations and imposed two emergency actions with similar terms for Iraq and Syria.

On February 23, 2018, the United States entered its most recent agreement with Libya, only the second with an Arab country.

For more information on MOUs visit our informative page here.

Read our press statement on the Libyan MOU signing here.