Interagency Training Builds Capacity to Protect Cultural Heritage

March 9, 2020

Cultural property, art, and antiquities around the world are vulnerable to looting, theft, and trafficking by criminal and terrorist groups. To address this threat, the U.S. Department of State’s Cultural Antiquities Task Force (CATF) conducted its 16th training program, “Preventing Trafficking and Protecting Cultural Heritage,” for U.S. federal law enforcement personnel to increase their capacity and coordination to combat cultural property trafficking. The five-day training in February 2020 was organized with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Smithsonian Institution Museum Conservation Institute (MCI).

Training participants engaged with cultural heritage experts and experienced investigators of art crime on a wide range of issues. These included combatting cultural property trafficking, identifying and handling objects with care, the art market, and 21st Century art crime.

The training brought together 25 participants from HSI domestic and international offices, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and the FBI Art Crime Team. Speakers included representatives from the State Department’s Cultural Heritage Center, Smithsonian Institution, HSI, CBP, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Department of Justice, the National Park Service, INTERPOL, and Howard University.

This program, in partnership with HSI and Smithsonian, has now trained over 360 law enforcement personnel since 2009. Collectively, members of the CATF have successfully repatriated more than 20,000 pieces of cultural property to more than 45 countries since 2004.

About the Cultural Antiquities Task Force

Created by the State Department in 2004 at the direction of Congress, the CATF comprises federal agencies that share a common mission to combat antiquities trafficking in the United States and abroad. Since its creation, the CATF has supported more than 95 domestic and international cultural property training programs. CATF is managed by the State Department’s Cultural Heritage Center.