Law Enforcement and Experts Team-Up to Combat Cultural Property Trafficking

August 13, 2020

On August 12, 2020, Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs Marie Royce and Williams Director of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology Dr. Julian Siggers signed a Memorandum of Understanding to establish a new public-private partnership. Under this partnership, the Department of State and the Penn Cultural Heritage Center will cooperate to combat international cultural property trafficking. 

The United States is unwavering in its commitment to protect and preserve cultural heritage around the world and to combat the trafficking in cultural property that funds criminal and terrorist networks. This new partnership will facilitate consultations between U.S. law enforcement officials from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Homeland Security Investigations, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection and experts in archaeology and art history when expertise is needed during the course of investigations. Experts from the faculty and staff of the University of Pennsylvania and other relevant universities, museums, libraries, archives, and nonprofit organizations will also participate. 

"This partnership with the Penn Cultural Heritage Center is vital and adds to the Committee’s growing body of programs and initiatives that build law enforcement cooperation and international capacity to stop trafficking," said Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs Marie Royce. "Thousands of paintings, manuscripts, antiquities, and other works of art have been repatriated by the United States to countries around the world thanks to the work of U.S. law enforcement and the private sector experts that assist them.  I envision that thousands more will be repatriated thanks to this new partnership." 

The U.S. Government's Cultural Heritage Coordinating Committee member agencies have repatriated more than 20,000 cultural objects to more than 45 different countries, and supported nearly 100 training programs in the United States and overseas.  

This Memorandum of Understanding could not have been brought to fruition without the support of the staff of the Penn Cultural Heritage Center, staff of the State Department’s Cultural Heritage Center and Office of the Legal Adviser, and members of the Cultural Heritage Coordinating Committee, including the Federal Bureau of Investigations, Homeland Security Investigations, the National Park Service, the National Endowment for the Humanities, Customs and Border Protection, the Department of Defense, and the Department of Justice. 


About the Penn Cultural Heritage Center 

The Penn Cultural Heritage Center is a research, policy, and outreach center at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. By positioning communities in a leading role, the Penn Cultural Heritage Center reframes the preservation of cultural heritage within a context of social, political, and economic development. The Penn Cultural Heritage Center demonstrates and disseminates its strategy through field projects, research, engagement in public policy, and public programs that emphasize the centrality of community priorities for successful outcomes. Since Penn Cultural Heritage Center’s inception, it has been committed to the protection of cultural heritage from intentional destruction, looting, and trafficking. 

About the Cultural Heritage Coordinating Committee 

The Cultural Heritage Coordinating Committee (CHCC) builds cooperation across U.S. government agencies to protect and preserve culture around the world.  The Department of State established the CHCC in 2016 under the Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act.