Category Archives: International

Statement Regarding the United States of America’s Intention to Withdraw from UNESCO

Statement by the United States Delegation to the Forty-first session of the World Heritage Committee

Statement from the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA), American Alliance of Museums (AAM), American Anthropological Association (AAA), American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR), Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD), Society for Classical Studies (SCS), U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield (USCBS), and U.S. National Committee of ICOMOS (US/ICOMOS) Regarding the United States of America’s Intention to Withdraw from UNESCO

On October 12, 2017, the United States announced its decision to withdraw from the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 2018. A founding member of the Organization in 1945, the United States has benefited from UNESCO’s guiding precepts and principles in its efforts to preserve humanity’s shared heritage.

The United States was the first State to ratify UNESCO’s 1972 World Heritage Convention. The 23 U.S. World Heritage sites reflect the universal values of our natural and cultural heritage. These sites include Philadelphia’s Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were signed, the Statue of Liberty, which stands at the entrance to New York Harbor as an international symbol of freedom, and sites that reflect our country’s multicultural past from the dwellings and ceremonial buildings of the Pueblo Indians, to the defensive architecture of San Juan, to Jefferson’s plantation at Monticello. The United States’ unique contribution was recognition that natural wonders from Glacier Bay to the volcanoes of Mauna Loa and Kilauea and from the redwood forests to the Smoky Mountains serve as a bridge among generations and peoples in America and around the world.

Provisions of the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property and the 1954 Hague Convention on the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict serve to protect archaeological sites, historic structures, and repositories of cultural material from looting and destruction both during armed conflict and transfer through the international market. The 1970 Convention also facilitates loans of cultural objects from museums around the world in order to inform American audiences about the heritage of those outside our borders. Throughout the world, UNESCO supports the protection of culture in the face of terrorist attacks, armed conflict, and natural disasters, recognizing its symbolic power to link communities and strengthen their resilience in the face of war and hardship.

The United States has long strived to protect heritage around the world. Through participation in UNESCO the United States has signaled the importance of international cooperation in education, science, cultural awareness and communication, all of which serve to strengthen ties among nations and societies. These messages stand at the heart of American democracy and underlie the activities of our organizations. Despite its regrettable decision, we call upon the United States to continue to work with UNESCO and the broader international community to promote appreciation of the outstanding value of our shared cultural heritage.

The Archaeological Institute of America promotes archaeological inquiry and public understanding of the material record of the human past to foster an appreciation of diverse cultures and our shared humanity. Founded in the AIA has nearly 220,000 Members and more than 100 local societies in the United States, Canada, and overseas.

The American Alliance of Museums has been bringing museums together since 1906, helping to develop standards and best practices, gathering and sharing knowledge, and providing advocacy on issues of concern to the entire museum community. Representing more than 35,000 individual museum professionals and volunteers, institutions, and corporate partners serving the museum field, the Alliance stands for the broad scope of the museum community.

Founded in 1902, the American Anthropological Association, with 10,000 members, is dedicated to advancing human understanding and applying this understanding to the world’s most pressing problems.

The American Schools of Oriental Research, founded in 1900, is an international organization of archaeologists, historians, linguists, and cultural heritage professionals who initiate, encourage, and support research into, and public understanding of, the cultures and history of the Near East and wider Mediterranean.

The Association of Art Museum Directors advances the profession by cultivating leadership capabilities of directors, advocating for the field, and fostering excellence in art museums. An agile, issues-driven organization, AAMD has three desired outcomes: engagement, leadership, and shared learning. Further information about AAMD’s professional practice guidelines and position papers is available at

The Society for Classical Studies, founded in 1869 as the American Philological Association, is the largest scholarly society in the field of Classics in North America. Its mission is to advance knowledge, understanding, and appreciation of the Greek and Roman world and its enduring legacy.

The U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield is dedicated to preventing destruction and theft of cultural property during armed conflict and natural disasters worldwide. The name, Blue Shield, comes from the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, which specifies a blue shield as the symbol for marking protected cultural property. USCBS is an affiliated national committee of Blue Shield (International).

The U.S. National Committee of ICOMOS (US/ICOMOS) is part of the worldwide ICOMOS network of people, institutions, government agencies and private entities who support the conservation of the World’s heritage. Since 1965 US/ICOMOS has worked to deliver the best of international historic preservation and heritage conservation work to the U.S. domestic preservation dialogue, while sharing and interpreting for the world the unique American historic preservation system.

Past President of USCBS Honored

Founder USCBS Honored

Left to right:
Karl von Habsburg-Lothringen, President Blue Shield (International)
Professor Friedrich Schipper, General Secretary, Austrian National Committee of the Blue Shield
Cori Wegener, Founder, U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield, Cultural Heritage Preservation Officer in the office of the Provost of the Smithsonian Institution

Corine Wegener, Founder of USCBS honored

The Plenary Session of the General Assembly of the Blue Shield (International) was held in Vienna, Austria on September 13, 2017. Karl von Habsburg, President of Blue Shield (International) presented Cori Wegener with the Blue Shield President’s Award, an antique military saber.

The award was given in recognition of her work as a member of the U.S. military. During her tour of duty in Baghdad, May 2003 to March 2004, Ms. Wegener was instrumental in the protection of cultural property of Iraq.

A second award was presented to Colonel Kèba Sangaré of Mali, in absentia. He was honored for his work in protecting the cultural property of Timbuktu following the reconquest of the region in January 2013.

USCBS Presents Awards for Outstanding Public Service

On March 8, 2017, Nancy C. Wilkie, President, U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield, presented the USCBS Outstanding Public Service Award for the Protection of Cultural Property to Representatives Eliot Engel and Ed Royce, who were instrumental in the passage of the Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act H.R. 1493/S. 1887.

Full text of the USCBS Awards

USCBS Participates in LCCHP 2017 Annual Conference

USCBS President Nancy Wilkie, Knox Thames, and Elizabeth Varner at the Lawyers’ Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation 2017 Annual Conference

USCBS participated in the 2017 Annual Conference of the Lawyers’ Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation, held at Georgetown University Law School, Washington, DC on March 10, 2017.  The focus of the conference was Cultural Heritage Law and Policy Updates for which USCBS organized a panel addressing the topic: US Committee of the Blue Shield and US Policy Perspectives on Cultural Heritage in Times of Armed Conflict.

Speakers included:

Nancy C. Wilkie, President, U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield; Member, Interim Board, Blue Shield (International), who provided an  update on recent Blue Shield activities, including the presentation of the USCBS Outstanding Public Service Award for the Protection of Cultural Property to Representatives Eliot Engel and Ed Royce, who were instrumental in the passage of the Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act H.R. 1493/S. 1887.

Full text of the USCBS Awards


Mark Iozzi, Democratic Counsel • House Committee on Foreign Affairs, on behalf of Representative Eliot EngelMark Iozzi, Democratic Counsel • House Committee on Foreign Affairs, on behalf of Representative Eliot Engel

Jessica Kelch, Policy Coordinator, Counsel at House Committee on Foreign Affairs, on behalf of Representative Ed Royce

Knox Thames, Special Advisor for Religious Minorities in the Near East and South/Central Asia; Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor; U.S. Department of State

Elizabeth Varner, Staff Curator, U.S. Department of the Interior, Interior Museum Program; Adjunct Professor, Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law; Board Member, Lawyers’ Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation


US/ICOMOS and USCBS sign a Memorandum of Understanding

James Reap and Nancy Wilkie, President USCBS sign MOU between US/ICOMOS and USCBS

On March 11, 2017, In Washington D.C., the U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield (represented by Nancy Wilkie, President USCBS) and US/ICOMOS (represented by James Reap, Officer of US/ICOMOS and Board Member of USCBS) entered into a Memorandum of Understanding for the protection, preservation, and restoration of cultural sites, monuments and objects harmed during armed conflict and natural disasters.

As part of the agreement, both organizations pledge to work collaboratively to assist entities responsible for the protection of cultural sites, monuments and repositories in the case of armed conflict and natural disaster; to compile information concerning tangible cultural heritage located in conflict and disaster zones; and to carry out programs for training military personnel in the law of armed conflict as it pertains to the protection of tangible cultural heritage.


President Signs Engel Bill to Stop ISIS From Looting Antiquities

Breaking news.

New Law Cracks Down on Funding Source for ISIS While Protecting Syria’s Cultural Heritage

President Barack Obama signs H.R. 2751, the ÒFDA Food Safety Modernization Act,Ó in the Oval Office, Jan. 4, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza) This official White House photograph is being made available only for publication by news organizations and/or for personal use printing by the subject(s) of the photograph. The photograph may not be manipulated in any way and may not be used in commercial or political materials, advertisements, emails, products, promotions that in any way suggests approval or endorsement of the President, the First Family, or the White House.

May 9, 2016

Press Release

WASHINGTON—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today welcomed the President’s signature into law of Rep. Engel’s legislation to crack down on the sale of artifacts looted by ISIS from cultural sites in Syria.  The Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act would contribute to the comprehensive policy of degrading and destroying ISIS without risking American lives or costing American taxpayers.

The new law imposes tough new import restrictions on antiquities that are trafficked out of Syria, bringing U.S. policy in line with a UN Security Council Resolution that called on governments to deny funding to ISIS by preventing trade in Iraqi and Syrian cultural property.

“As part of America’s effort to degrade and destroy ISIS, we need to do all we can to cut off resources for this terrorist group.  Today, we’re putting a new tool to use.  My legislation will crack down on the trafficking of looted Syrian artifacts, which has put millions of dollars in the hands of ISIS extremists,” said Rep. Engel.  “This legislation has earned support from lawmakers of both parties and in both Houses, as well as numerous cultural heritage preservation groups.  I want to thank the President for signaling his support as well, and for signing this bill into law.”

Numerous outside groups and experts voiced their support for the Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act when it passed the House late last month.

Deborah Lehr, Chair of the Antiquities Coalition, said, “The passage of the Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act is a critical, bipartisan demonstration of American leadership. The looting of antiquities is a direct threat to American national security and to humanity’s shared heritage. By closing the U.S. market for blood antiquities from Syria, the United States is cutting off a key source of terrorist financing. We applaud Representatives Engel, Keating, Royce, and Smith, as well as the entire House and Senate, along with the many individual citizens and groups whose hard work and dedication made the passage of this bill possible. We look forward to working together with them all to ensure its implementation.”

Brian I. Daniels, Director of Research at the Penn Cultural Heritage Center, University of Pennsylvania Museum, said, “The protection of human history is a non-partisan issue. Representative Engel has demonstrated great leadership in working with Chairman Royce and other members of the House and Senate in authoring a bipartisan bill that makes a difference in the preservation of cultural heritage.  H.R. 1493 ends the incentive for ISIS to loot antiquities by making it clear that there is no legal market for the artifacts stolen from Syria during the present conflict. But this bill goes even further by encouraging Federal agencies to work together on preserving human history—and holding them accountable to do just that. In recent years, we have watched how terror groups have conspired to erase the history of ethnic and religious groups that they oppose. This bill is insurance that does not happen.”

Patty Gerstenblith, Distinguished Research Professor at the DePaul University College of Law, said, “With this legislation, the United States has taken a significant step toward reducing the destruction of cultural heritage in the Syrian conflict and preventing the sale of looted antiquities from providing income to ISIL and others engaged in the conflict. The 15 cultural heritage organizations that supported this legislation thank Congressman Engel for his leadership in providing a practical response to the funding of terrorism.”

(Dr. Gerstenblith is a USCBS Board Member)

On June 1, 2015, Representative Engel’s legislation unanimously passed the House.  The Senate approved a slightly modified version of the legislation on April 13, which the House passed by voice vote on April 26.

The law imposes new import restrictions on cultural artifacts removed from Syria. Similar restrictions were enacted in 2004 with respect to Iraqi antiquities.  The law provides exceptions to allow artifacts to enter the United States for temporary protection and restoration.  Restrictions will remain in effect until the crisis in Syria is resolved and America is able to work with a future Syrian government to protect cultural property from trafficking under a bilateral agreement, in accordance with America’s national interests.

Additionally, the law expresses support for a new interagency coordinating body to enhance cooperation among the government agencies, including the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security, already working on cultural preservation issues.  It also takes steps to enhance Congressional oversight of this issue.

Representative Engel introduced the Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act along with Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs; Rep. William R. Keating (D-MA), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade; and Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ), Chair of the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations.

See original post here »

Full text of the bill as amended and passed »

HR 1493 passed by the Senate as amended by the Senate

On April 13th, the United States Senate passed the antiquities bill, HR 1493 as amended by the Senate.

See full text … BILLS-114hr1493eas

To protect and preserve international cultural property at risk due to 
 political instability, armed conflict, or natural or other disasters, 
and for other purposes.

The U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield is mentioned as a consulting organization.

2016 USCBS Annual Membership Campaign

The Blue Shield is the internationally recognized symbol used to mark protected cultural property during war and armed conflict. US Committee of the Blue Shield is the only organization that unites members from all cultural property professions and disciplines, cultural heritage institutions, government agencies, emergency services, and the armed forces to address critical issues in cultural property protection for our nation.

We can’t do it without you! Join now! »

The success of the USCBS depends on the support of our membership. Only with memberships and donations can the USCBS continue to advocate for the protection of heritage collections in:

  • museums, libraries, and archives
  • monuments and works of art
  • houses of worship
  • archaeological sites, and
  • historic architecture.

Recent USCBS accomplishments include:

  • Military conflicts in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Ukraine—along with recent terrorist activities in Lebanon, Egypt and France—have taxed the world’s ability to protect the world’s citizens and our shared cultural heritage. The U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield remains committed to working with our military to ensure that their activities both at home and abroad protect, rather than damage or destroy, cultural property.
  • We continue to prepare inventories of cultural heritage at risk, supported in part by a recent grant from the J.M. Kaplan Fund dedicated solely to this endeavor. We also have taken responsibility for the archiving of these lists so that they will be readily available when needed by our military and their allies.
  • On the legislative front, we have worked tirelessly for the passage of the Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act. This act passed in the House in early June and was introduced in the Senate (as S. 1887) in late summer with the co-sponsorship of Senators Casey (D-PA), Perdue (R-GA) and Grassley (R-IA). Among the provisions of the bill is assistance to countries that are the principal sources of trafficked cultural property for protection of their cultural heritage sites and prevention of looting and theft of their cultural property. The bill also directs the President to apply specified import restrictions with respect to any archaeological or ethnological material of Syria, as if Syria were a State Party to the 1970 UNESCO Convention on Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export, and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property.
  • Documenting cultural heritage at risk during armed conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Mali, and Egypt, as well as other regions where there is U.S. military presence.
  • Coordinating Do Not Target Lists in the Middle East for the U.S. military and our allies.
  • Partnering with other cultural heritage organizations to provide cultural heritage training for U.S. military forces prior to deployment.
  • Entering into a Memorandum of Understanding with the Smithsonian Institution in order to pursue common interests in the protection of cultural property in the U.S. and abroad.

To current and past members, thank you for supporting USCBS and your commitment to the protection of our shared heritage in collections and sites throughout the world. To future members, we look forward to your joining us in our mission!

By joining or renewing your membership today, you will continue to be a part of our effort to protect the world’s cultural heritage from destruction and theft.

Payment Methods

Pay for your membership online with PayPal, credit card or bank account: Payments are processed using PayPal. Paypal is a secure, low-cost method for USCBS to accept online memberships and donations. You don’t need a PayPal account, but if you do have an existing account, you will be prompted to log in. If you don’t wish to use your PayPal account, just follow the appropriate prompts to pay by credit card or bank account.

Select Membership Type

Even if you are already a member, you may also choose to donate any amount to USCBS.

Pay for your membership by Check: If you choose to pay by check, you may download, complete and mail our USCBS Membership Form along with your check.

Cultural Preservation in War Zones Present Big Challenges

MAY 11, 2015

Cultural Preservation in Disasters, War Zones Presents Big Challenges

By Eden Stiffman

A video posted online on February 26, 2015 shows so-called “Islamic State” militants destroying statues inside the Nineveh museum in northern Iraq.

The last six months have been a time of severe cultural heritage destruction. The self-proclaimed Islamic State has brazenly targeted ancient buildings and works of art in Iraq and Syria, and more recently, the earthquake in Nepal flattened historic temples.

But donations for cultural preservation aren’t keeping up with need, advocates say, despite recent infusions of financial support.

Historically, few grant makers and donors have supported emergency cultural-heritage preservation, and leaders of nonprofits in the field say fundraising remains a challenge. They contend more awareness is needed in the philanthropic community about how to address cultural heritage in crisis — both in conflict and after natural disasters.

‘Is there going to be anything left?’

In the last few months alone, Islamic State militants destroyed parts of the ancient cities of Nimrud and Hatra in Iraq. In Syria, fighting between government and opposition forces has led to exterior damage of the medieval Krak des Chevaliers castle — built during the crusades — and many of the religious artifacts inside.

“With things being destroyed so actively, I think everyone wonders, ‘Is there going to be anything left to restore once there is a period of stabilization?’” said Andy Vaughn, executive director at the American Schools of Oriental Research, or ASOR. “That has been a real concern, and I think it’s a valid concern.”

ASOR, a nonprofit consortium based at Boston University, launched a heritage initiative for Syria and Iraq last year thanks in part to $756,000 in U.S. State Department funding. The effort is an international collaboration of scholars working to document damage, promote global awareness, and plan emergency and postwar responses. The current focus is creating a database of at-risk archaeological sites in Syria using ARCHES, an open-source mapping system developed by the Getty Conservation Institute and the World Monuments Fund.

As the coalition considers how to expand over the next two years, Mr. Vaughn said he’ll spend more time meeting with foundations and individual donors. “The situation is so bad that everyone is truly wanting to do what they can,” he said.

Iraq War Lessons

Syrian volunteers covered mosaics in the Ma’arra Museum in the Idlib province with a protective layer of glue and cloth, then several truckloads of sandbags were then laid out to protect the mosaics from damage caused by further attacks.

In 2003, Corine Wegener, then a curator at the Minneapolis Museum of Arts and an Army reservist, was mobilized as an Arts, Monuments, and Archives Officer to help protect the Iraq National Museum as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Thieves had looted an estimated 15,000 items from the museum, including antique bronze sculptures and ancient Assyrian, Babylonian, and Mesopotamian artifacts.

U.S. troops had no training in cultural preservation, Ms. Wegener said, and there was little help from nonprofits or other international organizations.

“How is it possible that there’s not some form of Doctors Without Borders for cultural heritage?” she recalled thinking upon her return. “This work is not like the church that goes for two weeks to build houses in Haiti, where you take people who have some basic carpentry skills…. When you’re doing a disaster assessment of cultural heritage assets, you really need trained conservators, logistical support, security.”

Her experience led to the formation of the U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield, a nonprofit initially created to lobby for ratification of the 1954 Hague Convention, an international treaty designed to protect cultural heritage during conflict, which the United States did not sign until 2008. Over time, the organization shifted its focus to providing training for troops, and it also helps create lists of culturally important sites for the Department of Defense to avoid striking when possible.

From the start, fundraising was the biggest challenge for the Blue Shield, which is led by volunteer scholars, said Ms. Wegener, who now works in cultural heritage preservation at the Smithsonian Institution.

Crisis Response


J.M. Kaplan Fund
    • $25,000 supporting a training program at the Iraqi Institute for the conservation of antiquities and heritage through the University of Pennsylvania
    • $57,000 to the American Schools of Oriental Research to expand its Syrian Heritage Initiative
    • $28,000 to the Smithsonian Institution for its emergency care for Syrian museum collections training program
    • $29,000 to the U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield
Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
  • $250,000 to the Smithsonian Institution to support the planning of its Cultural Crisis Recovery Center
  • $75,000 to the Smithsonian Institution for the Safeguarding the Heritage of Syria and Iraq partnership
U.S. Department of State
  • $756,000 to the American Schools of Oriental Research for its Syrian Heritage Initiative

Amid other emergency issues caused by disasters, there’s a significant gap between what donors are giving and the needs that the professional community is trying to meet, advocates say. Some people question whether organizations should protect heritage sites while people are still suffering during major humanitarian crises. The preservation community, however, sees its work as complementary.

“Saving people also means saving their heritage,” Ms. Wegener said. “You can’t separate these things.”

The 7.8-magnitude earthquake that struck the Kathmandu valley on April 25 flattened many of the country’s historic temples and palaces. Donors have responded to the humanitarian crisis, and the cultural heritage preservationists are considering next steps.

Nepalese government archaeologists have begun assessing the losses, and the Smithsonian has offered assistance. “There is a golden hour for doing this kind of work,” Ms. Wegener said. “You don’t want to get in the way of saving people, but often you have a limited amount of time before the cost-benefit is probably not worth the conservation costs … You have to have money in the bank or you’re going to be late in the game.”

The Haitian earthquake in January 2010 was a turning point for the conservation community. As president of the Blue Shield at the time, Ms. Wegener convened a meeting with officials from museums, libraries, and government at the American Association of Museums in Washington. As the question went around the room, it became clear that nobody had plans to do anything in response.

But Richard Kurin, the Smithsonian’s Under Secretary for History, Art, and Culture, had been in touch with Haitian colleagues who had asked for help. The result was that for the first time, cultural heritage got a small percentage of the U.S. government’s humanitarian budget. However, private donations from the nonprofit Broadway League ultimately made the Smithsonian’s project possible, as Mr. Kurin wrote in Saving Haiti’s Heritage: Cultural Recovery After the Earthquake, a book highlighting some of the fundraising challenges.

Armed Conflict

Syrian volunteers worked to repair and fortify damage to the roof of the Ma’arra Museum to prevent further deterioration and possible collapse.

Armed conflicts pose particular challenges for cultural preservationists. Some donors are nervous about supporting efforts in nations that the U.S. government has branded as sponsors of terrorism. Others wonder how much can be accomplished in an active war zone.

“There’s a perception oftentimes that nothing can be done in a conflict — that there’s actually a need to wait,” said Brian Daniels, director of research and programs at the Penn Cultural Heritage Center, a research division at the University of Pennsylvania Museum.

The Center is a partner in the Safeguarding the Heritage of Syria and Iraq project, or SHOSI, which brings together the Smithsonian Institution, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the U.S. Institute of Peace, and the Day After Association, a Syrian-led civil society group, to support the professional community on the ground in Iraq and Syria. (Sotheby’s recently gave $75,000 to the Smithsonian in support of the project.)

Among its recent successes, SHOSI has worked to secure the Ma’arra Museum, south of Aleppo in Syria. The museum has been damaged by bombings and attacks from ISIS and the al-Nusra Front, a branch of Al Qaeda in Syria, but still houses a well-preserved collection of Roman and Byzantine mosaics. The group sent a team to fix damaged artifacts and protect the remaining mosaics, stacking sandbags inside the museum’s walls.

“I am very much trying to emphasize that we are doing this responsibly, we are doing this legally, and their dollars can make a difference right now,” Mr. Daniels said of his conversations with donors. “It really is dependent on whether or not the foundation is keyed to emergency response right now. Some are, and some just aren’t.

The New York City-based J.M. Kaplan Fund, which has supported other cultural heritage projects, has recently stepped up as a leading emergency donor. Since 2014, the foundation has given a total of $139,000 to four nonprofits supporting preservation in Iraq and Syria.

“We were approached by our cultural heritage colleagues with specific, time-sensitive projects,” said Ken Lustbader, a program officer for historic preservation at the Kaplan Fund. “Our response was based on their expertise and capacity to address an identified need without delay.”

Another problem: Volatile, unpredictable situations with immediate needs often don’t fit well with foundation funding cycles.

“I’m concerned with a museum curator coming to me and saying, ‘I need to stand by my collection because there’s a risk that there’s going to be armed conflict in this town in three months,’” Mr. Daniels said. Or, “‘This archaeological site that I’m monitoring has been looted out and I want to try to document the looting damage and the stuff that’s been left here.’”

“If a grantee won’t be named for three or four months, I can guarantee you the situation will have changed,” he said. “If I can plan out eight weeks in advance, I’m doing very well.”

Working Together

Prior to the recent reports from Syria, the heritage preservation field had not done a good job of organizing as a unified front. “This has been one of the few moments when there was some readiness to actually try to implement programming,” said Mr. Daniels.

Mr. Vaughn, of ASOR, said he’s also encouraged by the reciprocity and willingness to collaborate, which is “substantively different about this conflict, as opposed to other heritage disaster moments.”

He’s been having discussions with other organizations about finding funds for a summit of groups supporting the work in Syria and Iraq.

“We really need to do everything we can to reduce the duplication of effort,” he said. “This is part of the international community’s humanitarian response, to show the people whose cultural identity is under direct attack that the international world cares. There’s enough work for everyone to do, and we ought to figure out how we can cooperate to do it.”

Read original article »

$29,000 Grant Awarded by the J.M. Kaplan Fund to USCBS

USCBS receives grant to better prepare lists of cultural property needing to be protected in conflict zones

The U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield recently was awarded a grant in the amount of $29,000 by the J.M. Kaplan Fund for the preservation of cultural heritage in conflict zones. The grant will enable USCBS to prepare detailed and accurate lists of cultural property that should be protected during military conflict and disaster response. The information contained in these lists will enable the U.S. military to avoid damage to cultural property during armed conflict as well as in the course of engineering construction and civil affairs projects.

In the past, USCBS has helped create lists of cultural property through the efforts of volunteers – a process that, by its very nature, could not proceed at a very rapid pace. The receipt of this grant will enable USCBS to enlist subject matter experts to update existing lists and create new lists in a more timely and effective manner.

About the J.M. Kaplan Fund

The J.M. Kaplan Fund, a New York City–based family foundation, champions inventive giving that supports transformative social, environmental, and cultural causes. Over its 70-year history, the Fund has propelled fledgling efforts concerning civil liberties, human rights, the arts, and the enhancement of the built and natural worlds. Today, the Fund is active across the United States and beyond, operating grant programs focusing on the environment, historic preservation, migration, and New York City. To continue its legacy of catalytic grant-making, in 2015 the Fund launched the J.M.K. Innovation Prize, seeking out visionary, early-stage innovations in the fields of cultural heritage, human rights, and the natural and built environments.