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I. Cultural Property Agreement with the U.S.

On January 19, 2001, the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the Republic of Italy entered into a bilateral agreement (PDF), or Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), imposing import restrictions on pre-Classical, Classical, and Imperial Roman archaeological material from Italy.

On January 19, 2006, the MOU was amended and extended for a five year period.

On January 19, 2011, the MOU was amended and extended for an additional five-year period.

II. Summary of the Basis for the Agreement

The agreement is in response to a request from the Government of Italy made under Article 9 of the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. (PDF)

The import restrictions are intended to reduce the incentive for pillage and illicit trafficking of cultural objects.

Reports from the Carabinieri Nucleo Tutela del Patrimonio Artistico and in the Italian national and regional press indicate that looting is a current and severe problem, particularly in Sicily, Lazio, Campania, Apulia, and Sardinia. Books such as The Medici Conspiracy by Peter Watson and Cecilia Todeschini (2006), The Lost Chalice by Vernon Silver (2009), and I predatori dell’arte perduta by Fabio Isman (2009) provide some insights into the organizations that loot Italian sites and traffic in illicitly acquired archaeological material from Italy. At the same time, the quantity and nature of Italian archaeological material on the market further show that the archaeological heritage of Italy is being pillaged to meet the demand in the international trade. The agreement offers both countries an opportunity to engage in a partnership to help protect the cultural heritage of Italy, and to enrich American cultural life through research and educational programs, and loans between Italian and American institutions.

III. Categories of Objects Subject to Import Restriction

The Designated List (PDF), published in the Federal Register by the Department of the Treasury on January 23, 2001, describes types of restricted objects from Italy as ranging in date from approximately the 9th century B.C. to the 4th century A.D.. Categories include stone, metal, and ceramic sculpture; decorated vessels in metal and ceramic; metal jewelry; weapons and armor, and inscribed metal sheets; glass and stone mosaics; and wall painting. An amended Designated List (PDF), was published in the Federal Register by the Department of the Treasury on January 19, 2011.

IV. Import Restrictions

Objects from categories described in the Designated List may enter the U.S. only if they have an export permit issued by Italy, or documentation indicating that they left Italy prior to the effective date of the restriction: January 23, 2001. As of January 19, 2011, coins of Italian types constitute a subcategory of archaeological metal objects subject to import restriction.

V. Provisions in Article II of the MOU

Article II of the Agreement between the U.S. and Italy contains a number of provisions intended to strengthen the protection of archaeological sites, promote scholarship and scientific research, and encourage broader access to Italian archaeological materials for the American public.

U.S. / Italy Long-term Loan Program

U.S. museums and other institutions are encouraged to participate in the U.S.-Italy long-term loan program. Guidelines for the loans of archaeological material were created in collaboration with the Direzione Generale per i Beni Archeologici, and are available here in English (PDF) and Italian. (PDF)

Collaborative projects associated with loans might include:

  • scientific and technological analysis of materials and conservation of materials;
  • comparison for study purposes in the field of art history and other humanistic and academic disciplines with material already held in American museums or institutions;
  • educational presentations of special themes involving various museums or academic institutions.

Italy / U.S. Integrated Project

Descriptions of twenty-two exhibits and other projects that have been offered to U.S. institutions under the auspices of the Direzione Generale per i Beni Archeologici are available here in English (PDF) and Italian. (PDF)

VI. For More Information

United States:Cultural Heritage Center(culprop@state.gov)

Italy: Direzione Generale per i Beni Archeologici
Via di San Michele, 22
00153 Rome, Italy
Telephone: (39) 06-58431
Fax: (39) 06-5882472

Bilateral Agreements

Learn more about the agreements countries have signed with the U.S. to protect cultural artifacts.


Contact Us

Email: culprop@state.gov

Telephone: 202-632-6301

Fax: 202-632-6300