Seasoned Law Enforcement Receive Advanced Training to Protect Cultural Heritage

August 27, 2021

In February 2020, agents practiced taking photos of cultural property to share with subject matter experts.

Cultural property, art, and antiquities are vulnerable to looting, theft, and trafficking by criminal and terrorist groups around the world.  To address this threat, the U.S. Department of State’s Cultural Antiquities Task Force (CATF) and the Smithsonian Institution held its 17th training program for U.S. federal law enforcement personnel.  The four-day training, “Preventing Trafficking and Protecting Cultural Heritage,” was held virtually and served as a refresher and update for 25 seasoned agents from across the United States and around the world who work on cultural property cases.  The training was organized in partnership with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum Conservation Institute and Office of International Relations.  

Training participants engaged with cultural heritage experts and other experienced art crime investigators on a wide range of topics.  These included the legal frameworks for cultural property protection, such as new bilateral cultural property agreements and import restrictions, the art market and provenance research, and financial art crimes, including money laundering and the illicit use of non-fungible tokens (NFTs).  Agents also learned advanced care, handling, and photography techniques for cultural property.  Speakers included representatives from the State Department’s Cultural Heritage Center, Smithsonian Institution, HSI, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Department of Justice, INTERPOL, and the private sector.  

This program has now trained over 387 law enforcement personnel since 2009.  In 2021, the CATF and Smithsonian Institution also organized a virtual cultural property anti-trafficking workshop series that covered ancient coinsmanuscripts, and fakes and forgeries.  Collectively, member agencies of the CATF have successfully repatriated more than 20,000 pieces of cultural property to more than 45 countries since the Task Force was established in 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 disrupt cultural property trafficking in the United States and abroad. Since its creation, the CATF has supported more than 100 domestic and international cultural property training programs. CATF is a law enforcement focused working group of the Cultural Heritage Coordinating Committee.  Both are managed by the State Department’s Cultural Heritage Center.