Congressional Medal of Honor awarded to Monuments Men

Harry Ettlinger (keynote speaker at the USCBS Annual Meeting last year) accepts the Congressional Medal of Honor on behalf of the original Monuments Men.
Details in article below.

“Monuments Men” receive monumental honor from Congress

House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, left, presents the Congressional Gold Medal to Monuments Men Harry Ettlinger, Richard Barancik, Thursday, Oct. 22, 2015, during a ceremony in Emancipation Hall on Capitol Hill in Washington. From left are, Boehner, Ettlinger, Barancik, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., and Motoko Fujishiro Huthwaite. The award is Congress’ highest honor of appreciation for distinguished achievement. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Harry Ettlinger was one of those honored as one of the art experts turned military officers who rescued treasures looted by the Nazis, nicknamed the Monuments Men.

The 89-year-old discovered a Rembrandt self-portrait that had been stashed away in a German salt mine.

“I was in charge of what was going on down there. I said let’s open the box,” said Ettlinger.

Before the war, the masterpiece had hung in a museum in Ettlinger’s hometown. But because he was Jewish, he was never allowed to visit it. He and his family fled Nazi Germany for the United States.

Now, thanks to Ettlinger, the painting is back in its hometown.


Harry Ettlinger poses next to a photo of the Rembrandt self-portrait he discovered


“For me to go into that particular museum and take a look at it and get a photograph of it, that made me feel good,” said Ettlinger. “It made me feel good in my heart.”

The 2014 film “The Monuments Men” brought new attention to the real Monuments Men. It was based on a book by Robert Edsell.

“The story from my point of view was: who were these men and women?” said Edsell.

One of those women is Motoko Huthwaite. She worked for Lieutenant Commander George Stout, played in the movie by George Clooney.

Huthwaite was a typist. Until last month, she didn’t realize the field reports she worked on related to the famous group.

“I was absolutely flabbergasted,” said Huthwaite.

The foundation set up to honor the Monuments Men has run out of money, so Thursday’s ceremony was bittersweet.

“It’s the realization of a dream I held so closely. We struggled to get to this moment,” said Edsell.

Preservers of the past, awarded a monumental honor.

USCBS to Co-Sponsor Event about Heritage Destruction in Syria and Iraq

Click on the photo to see the details of the event.

Click on the photo to see the details of the event.

“Death of History: Witnessing Heritage Destruction in Syria and Iraq”

Please RSVP to the Penn Cultural Heritage Center of the University of Pennsylvania Museum.

Brought to you by the Penn Cultural Heritage Center of the University of Pennsylvania Museum, the Smithsonian Institution, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield

In coordination with Senator Bob Casey, Senator David Perdue, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Edward Royce, and House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Eliot Engel

October 28, 2015 from Noon – 1:30 pm in the Kennedy Caucus Room, Russell Senate Office Building

The Islamic State, or ISIS, continues to wreak havoc throughout Iraq and Syria, laying a path of death and destruction in its efforts to create a homogeneous caliphate under its brutal rule. To finance this campaign of violence and bloodshed, ISIS is looting the region’s cultural antiquities and peddling them on the black market. Whatever ISIS terrorists can not remove, they destroy in an effort to wipe out any trace of culture that differs from their view, resulting  in an irreversible loss of cultural heritage for current and future generations. ISIS has destroyed priceless artifacts in Mosul, bulldozed Mesopotamian ruins in the 3,000 year old city of Nimrud, and beheaded a renowned 83-year-old Syrian scholar. 

The ancient cities now facing destruction at the hands of ISIS are considered by many to be the birthplace of modern civilization.  How can we ensure these treasures are not trafficked to finance terrorism? What does this cultural heritage represent to the region and the world? And how can the U.S. and other partners work to preserve it?

Please join us for a special exhibition showcasing the sites and artifacts at risk of destruction in Iraq and Syria, followed by a panel discussion of pending legislation and other efforts to preserve cultural heritage in the face of ISIS.

Featuring distinguished panelists:

•  Richard Kurin, Under Secretary for History, Art, and Culture, Smithsonian Institution
•  Brian I. Daniels, Director of Research and Program, Penn Cultural Heritage Center,  University of Pennsylvania Museum
•  Patty Gerstenblith, Distinguished Research Professor at DePaul University College of Law and Secretary of the U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield
•  Salam al-Kuntar, Fellow, Penn Cultural Heritage Center,  University of Pennsylvania Museum  

Please RSVP to the Penn Cultural Heritage Center of the University of Pennsylvania Museum.

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.

NEPAL Earthquake – April 25, 2015


A massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake stuck Nepal at 11:56 a.m. on April 25. Its epicenter was the village of Barpak in the Gorkha district, west of the Kathmandu valley. As of May 6, more than 7000 deaths have been recorded, with many thousands more injured. This tragic loss of life has been accompanied by severe damage to and total destruction of much of Nepal’s cultural heritage, including many of its World Heritage sites. USCBS extends its sympathy to the families of those who have perished as well as to the survivors of this devastating earthquake.

Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, has expressed her shock at the devastating impact of the Nepal earthquake on Nepal’s cultural heritage.

Cindy Ho, founder of SAFE/Saving Antiquities for Everyone, has asked “How can we think about cultural heritage when life is lost?” by suggesting that “cultural heritage is the ultimate non-renewable resource.” See her statement at:

nepal earthquake

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons and AFP

Swayambhunath Complex: Also known as the Monkey Temple, the ancient religious complex is now little more than dust.

H.R. 1493 Full Text. Just released!

H.R.1493 full text
[Congressional Bills 114th Congress]
[From the U.S. Government Printing Office]
[H.R. 1493 Introduced in House (IH)]

  1st Session
                                H. R. 1493

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



                             March 19, 2015

  Mr. Engel (for himself, Mr. Smith of New Jersey, Mr. Royce, and Mr. 
   Keating) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the 
Committee on Foreign Affairs, and in addition to the Committees on Ways 
   and Means, Armed Services, and the Judiciary, for a period to be 
subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration 
  of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee 


                                 A BILL

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

    Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the 
United States of America in Congress assembled,


    This Act may be cited as the ``Protect and Preserve International 
Cultural Property Act''.


    In this Act:
            (1) Appropriate congressional committees.--The term 
        ``appropriate congressional committees'' means the Committee on 
        Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives and the 
        Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate.
            (2) Cultural property.--The term ``cultural property'' 
        includes property covered under--
                    (A) the Hague Convention for the Protection of 
                Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, 
                concluded at The Hague on May 14, 1954 (Treaty Doc. 
                    (B) Article 1 of the Convention Concerning the 
                Protection of the World's Cultural and Natural 
                Heritage, adopted by UNESCO on November 23, 1972 
                (commonly referred to as the ``1972 Convention''); or
                    (C) Article 1 of the Convention on the Means of 
                Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export, 
                and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, adopted 
                by UNESCO on November 14, 1970 (commonly referred to as 
                the ``1970 UNESCO Convention'').


    (a) Findings.--Congress finds the following:
            (1) Over the years, international cultural property has 
        been looted, trafficked, lost, damaged, or destroyed due to 
        political instability, armed conflict, natural disasters, and 
        other threats.
            (2) During China's Cultural Revolution, many antiques were 
        destroyed, including a large portion of old Beijing, and 
        Chinese authorities are now attempting to rebuild portions of 
        China's lost architectural heritage.
            (3) In 1975, the Khmer Rouge, after seizing power in 
        Cambodia, systematically destroyed mosques and nearly every 
        Catholic church in the country, along with many Buddhist 
        temples, statues, and Buddhist literature.
            (4) In 2001, the Taliban destroyed the Bamiyan Buddhas, 
        ancient statues carved into a cliffside in central Afghanistan, 
        leading to worldwide condemnation.
            (5) After the fall of Saddam Hussein, thieves looted the 
        Iraq Museum in Baghdad, resulting in the loss of approximately 
        15,000 items, including ancient amulets, sculptures, ivories, 
        and cylinder seals. Many of these items remain unrecovered.
            (6) The 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami not only 
        affected 11 countries, causing massive loss of life, but also 
        damaged or destroyed libraries, archives, and World Heritage 
        Sites such as the Mahabalipuram in India, the Sun Temple of 
        Koranak on the Bay of Bengal, and the Old Town of Galle and its 
        fortifications in Sri Lanka.
            (7) In Haiti, the 2010 earthquake destroyed art, artifacts, 
        and archives, and partially destroyed the 17th century Haitian 
        city of Jacmel.
            (8) In Mali, the Al-Qaeda affiliated terrorist group Ansar 
        Dine destroyed tombs and shrines in the ancient city of 
        Timbuktu--a major center for trade, scholarship, and Islam in 
        the 15th and 16th centuries--and threatened collections of 
        ancient manuscripts.
            (9) In Egypt, recent political instability has led to the 
        ransacking of museums, resulting in the destruction of 
        countless ancient artifacts that will forever leave gaps in 
        humanity's record of the ancient Egyptian civilization.
            (10) In Syria, the ongoing civil war has resulted in the 
        shelling of medieval cities, damage to five World Heritage 
        Sites, and the looting of museums containing artifacts that 
        date back more than six millennia and include some of the 
        earliest examples of writing.
            (11) In Iraq and Syria, the militant group ISIL has 
        destroyed numerous cultural sites and artifacts, such as the 
        Tomb of Jonah in July 2014, in an effort to eradicate ethnic 
        and religious minorities from contested territories. 
        Concurrently, cultural antiquities that escape demolition are 
        looted and trafficked to help fund ISIL's militant operations.
            (12) On February 12, 2015, the United Nations Security 
        Council unanimously adopted resolution 2199 (2015), which 
        ``[r]eaffirms its decision in paragraph 7 of resolution 1483 
        (2003) and decides that all Member States shall take 
        appropriate steps to prevent the trade in Iraqi and Syrian 
        cultural property and other items of archaeological, 
        historical, cultural, rare scientific, and religious importance 
        illegally removed from Iraq since 6 August 1990 and from Syria 
        since 15 March 2011, including by prohibiting cross-border 
        trade in such items, thereby allowing for their eventual safe 
        return to the Iraqi and Syrian people.''.
            (13) United Nations Security Council resolution 2199 (2015) 
        also warns that ISIL and other extremist groups are trafficking 
        cultural heritage items from Iraq and Syria to fund their 
        recruitment efforts and carry out terrorist attacks.
            (14) Cultural property represents an irreparable loss of 
        humanity's common cultural heritage and is therefore a loss for 
        all Americans.
            (15) Protecting international cultural property is a vital 
        part of United States cultural diplomacy, showing the respect 
        of the United States for other cultures and the common heritage 
        of humanity.
            (16) The United States Armed Forces have played important 
        roles in preserving and protecting cultural property. In 1943, 
        President Franklin D. Roosevelt established a commission to 
        advise the United States military on the protection of cultural 
        property. The commission formed teams of individuals known as 
        the ``Monuments Men'' who are credited with securing, 
        cataloguing, and returning hundreds of thousands of works of 
        art stolen by the Nazis during World War II.
            (17) The Department of State, in response to the Convention 
        on Cultural Property Implementation Act, noted that ``the 
        legislation is important to our foreign relations, including 
        our international cultural relations. The expanding worldwide 
        trade in objects of archaeological and ethnological interest 
        has led to wholesale depredations in some countries, resulting 
        in the mutilation of ceremonial centers and archaeological 
        complexes of ancient civilizations and the removal of stone 
        sculptures and reliefs.''. The Department further noted that 
        ``[t]he United States considers that on grounds of principle, 
        good foreign relations, and concern for the preservation of the 
        cultural heritage of mankind, it should render assistance in 
        these situations.''.
            (18) The U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield was founded in 
        2006 to support the implementation of the 1954 Hague Convention 
        for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed 
        Conflict and to coordinate with the United States military, 
        other branches of the United States Government, and other 
        cultural heritage nongovernmental organizations in preserving 
        international cultural property threatened by political 
        instability, armed conflict, or natural or other disasters.
    (b) Statement of Policy.--It shall be the policy of the United 
States to--
            (1) protect and preserve international cultural property at 
        risk of looting, trafficking, and destruction due to political 
        instability, armed conflict, or natural or other disasters;
            (2) protect international cultural property pursuant to its 
        obligations under international treaties to which the United 
        States is a party;
            (3) prevent, in accordance with existing laws, importation 
        of cultural property pillaged, looted, stolen, or trafficked at 
        all times, including during political instability, armed 
        conflict, or natural or other disasters; and
            (4) ensure that existing laws and regulations, including 
        import restrictions imposed through the Office of Foreign Asset 
        Control (OFAC) of the Department of the Treasury, are fully 
        implemented to prevent trafficking in stolen or looted cultural 


    The Secretary of State shall designate a Department of State 
employee at the Assistant Secretary level or above to serve 
concurrently as the United States Coordinator for International 
Cultural Property Protection. The Coordinator shall--
            (1) coordinate and promote efforts to protect international 
        cultural property, especially activities that involve multiple 
        Federal agencies;
            (2) act as Chair of the Coordinating Committee on 
        International Cultural Property Protection established under 
        section 5;
            (3) resolve interagency differences;
            (4) develop strategies to reduce illegal trade and 
        trafficking in international cultural property in the United 
        States and abroad, including by reducing consumer demand for 
        such trade;
            (5) support activities to assist countries that are the 
        principle sources of trafficked cultural property to protect 
        cultural heritage sites and to prevent cultural property 
        looting and theft;
            (6) work with and consult domestic and international actors 
        such as foreign governments, intergovernmental organizations, 
        nongovernmental organizations, museums, educational 
        institutions, and research institutions to protect 
        international cultural property; and
            (7) submit to the appropriate congressional committees the 
        annual report required under section 6.


    (a) Establishment.--There is established a Coordinating Committee 
on International Cultural Property Protection (in this section referred 
to as the ``Committee'').
    (b) Functions.--The full Committee shall meet not less often than 
annually to coordinate and inform Federal efforts to protect 
international cultural property and to facilitate the work of the 
United States Coordinator for International Cultural Property 
Protection designated under section 4.
    (c) Membership.--The Committee shall be composed of the United 
States Coordinator for International Cultural Property Protection, who 
shall act as Chair, and representatives of the following:
            (1) The Department of State.
            (2) The Department of Defense.
            (3) The Department of Homeland Security, including U.S. 
        Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Customs and Border 
            (4) The Department of the Interior.
            (5) The Department of Justice, including the Federal Bureau 
        of Investigation.
            (6) The United States Agency for International Development.
            (7) The Smithsonian Institution.
            (8) The U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield.
            (9) Such other entities as the Chair determines 
    (d) Subcommittees.--The Committee may include such subcommittees 
and taskforces as the Chair determines appropriate. Such subcommittees 
or taskforces may be comprised of a subset of the Committee members or 
of such other members as the Chair determines appropriate. At the 
discretion of the Chair, the provisions of the Federal Advisory 
Committee Act (5 U.S.C. App.) and section 552b of title 5 of the United 
States Code (relating to open meetings) shall not apply to activities 
of such subcommittees or taskforces.
    (e) Consultation.--The Committee shall consult with governmental 
and nongovernmental organizations, including museums, educational 
institutions, and research institutions on efforts to promote and 
protect international cultural property.


    The Secretary of State, acting through the United States 
Coordinator for International Cultural Property Protection, and in 
consultation with the Administrator of the United States Agency for 
International Development, the Secretary of Defense, the Attorney 
General, and the Secretary of Homeland Security, as appropriate, shall 
annually submit to the appropriate congressional committees a report 
that includes information on activities of--
            (1) the United States Coordinator and the Coordinating 
        Committee on International Cultural Property Protection to 
        protect international cultural property;
            (2) the Department of State to protect international 
        cultural property, including activities undertaken pursuant to 
        the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in 
        the Event of Armed Conflict, and other statutes, international 
        agreements, and policies, including--
                    (A) procedures the Department has instituted to 
                protect international cultural property at risk of 
                destruction due to political instability, armed 
                conflict, or natural or other disasters; and
                    (B) actions the Department has taken to protect 
                international cultural property in conflicts to which 
                the United States is a party;
            (3) the United States Agency for International Development 
        (USAID) to protect international cultural property, including 
        activities and coordination with other Federal agencies, 
        international organizations, and nongovernmental organizations 
        regarding the protection of international cultural property at 
        risk due to political unrest, armed conflict, natural or other 
        disasters, and USAID development programs;
            (4) the Department of Defense to protect international 
        cultural property, including activities undertaken pursuant to 
        the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in 
        the Event of Armed Conflict and other cultural property 
        protection statutes and international agreements, including--
                    (A) directives, policies, and regulations the 
                Department has instituted to protect international 
                cultural property at risk of destruction due to 
                political instability, armed conflict, or natural or 
                other disasters; and
                    (B) actions the Department has taken to avoid 
                damage to cultural property through construction 
                activities abroad; and
            (5) the Department of Homeland Security and the Department 
        of Justice, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, to 
        protect both international cultural property abroad and 
        international cultural property located in, or attempted to be 
        imported into, the United States, including activities 
        undertaken pursuant to statutes and international agreements, 
                    (A) statutes and regulations the Department has 
                employed in criminal, civil, and civil forfeiture 
                actions to prevent and interdict trafficking in stolen 
                and smuggled cultural property, including 
                investigations into transnational organized crime and 
                smuggling networks; and
                    (B) actions the Department has taken in order to 
                ensure the consistent and effective application of law 
                in cases relating to both international cultural 
                property abroad and international cultural property 
                located in, or attempted to be imported into, the 
                United States.


    Notwithstanding any other provision of law, any agency that is 
involved in international cultural property protection activities is 
authorized to enter into agreements or memoranda of understanding with 
the Smithsonian Institution to temporarily engage personnel from the 
Smithsonian Institution for the purposes of furthering such 
international cultural property protection activities.


    (a) Presidential Determination.--Notwithstanding subsection (b) of 
section 304 of the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act 
(19 U.S.C. 2603) (relating to a Presidential determination that an 
emergency condition applies with respect to any archaeological or 
ethnological material of any State Party to the Convention), the 
President shall apply the import restrictions referred to in such 
section 304 with respect to any archaeological or ethnological material 
of Syria, except that subsection (c) of such section 304 shall not 
apply. Such import restrictions shall take effect not later than 120 
days after the date of the enactment of this Act.
    (b) Definitions.--In this section--
            (1) the term ``archaeological or ethnological material of 
        Syria'' means cultural property of Syria and other items of 
        archaeological, historical, cultural, rare scientific, or 
        religious importance unlawfully removed from Syria on or after 
        March 15, 2011; and
            (2) the term ``State Party'' has the meaning given such 
        term in section 302 of the Convention on Cultural Property 
        Implementation Act (19 U.S.C. 2601).

See it at »


Reintroduced! International Cultural Property Act

The Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act was reintroduced on March 19 by Congressman Eliot Engel as H.R. 1493. The goal of this legislation is to protect and preserve international cultural property at risk due to political instability, armed conflict, or natural or other disasters, and for other purposes.

UNESCO Director General condemns destruction of Nimrud in Iraq

UNESCO Press Release No. 2015-17

Nimrud, Iraq

Paris, 6 March – “I condemn in the strongest possible manner the destruction of the archaeological site of Nimrud site in Iraq. This is yet another attack against the Iraqi people, reminding us that nothing is safe from the cultural cleansing underway in the country: it targets human lives, minorities, and is marked by the systematic destruction of humanity’s ancient heritage,” said UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova.

“We cannot remain silent. The deliberate destruction of cultural heritage constitutes a war crime. I call on all political and religious leaders in the region to stand up and remind everyone that there is absolutely no political or religious justification for the destruction of humanity’s cultural heritage

“I call on all of those who can, especially youth, in Iraq and elsewhere, to do everything possible to protect this heritage, to claim it as their own, and as the heritage of the whole of humanity.

“I appeal also to all cultural institutions, museums, journalists, professors, and scientists to share and explain the importance of this heritage and the Mesopotamian civilization. We must respond to this criminal chaos that destroys culture with more culture.

“I have alerted the president of the Security Council as well as the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. The entire international community must join its efforts, in solidarity with the government and people of Iraq, to put an end to this catastrophe.

Likewise, UNESCO is determined to do whatever is needed to document and protect the heritage of Iraq and lead the fight against the illicit traffic of cultural artefacts, which directly contributes to the financing of terrorism. At stake is the survival of the Iraqi culture and society”

The city of Nimrud (Kahlka), was founded more than 3,300 years ago. It was one of the capitals of the Assyrian empire. Its frescos and works are celebrated around the world and revered in literature and sacred texts. The Iraqi government has confirmed that the site was attacked by armed extremists using bulldozers on the 5th of March.

ISIL torches Iraqi history in Mosul


Many Iraqis evoke popular saying about the loss of non-human objects: ‘May the books be a sacrifice for the people.’

| Arts & Culture, Human Rights, Middle East, Iraq

Books rescued from Mosul are displayed at the Dominican Priory in Qaraqosh, Iraq [AP]Books rescued from Mosul are displayed at the Dominican Priory in Qaraqosh, Iraq [AP]


Marcia Lynx Qualey
Marcia Lynx Qualey writes about Arabic literature and literary translation for a number of publications. She blogs daily at



Last Saturday, news began to spread that the Mosul Central Library had likely been bombed. It was followed on Thursday by video that showed the methodical destruction of the Mosul Museum and news that bookshops on Al-Nujaifi Street in downtown Mosul may have been burned.

Although the apparent library bombing took place a week ago, it’s still unclear exactly what happened in Iraq’s second-largest city. That’s because Mosul has been largely cut off from the rest of the world since the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) took control of the area in June. Instead of reliable news reports, we have brief phone calls, amateur ISIL documentaries, camera photos of burning books, and intermittent tweets that both illuminate and confuse what’s going on.

Iraqi archaeologist discusses ISIL’s destruction of antiquities

It is difficult to say how many people have been tortured, killed, or forced to flee their Mosul homes in the last six months. At the same time, UNESCO estimates that ISIL-controlled areas are undergoing a massive cultural destruction, which may be “one of the most devastating acts of destruction of library collections in human history”.

Improvised incendiary devices

According to mostly anonymous reports coming out of Mosul, last Saturday, improvised incendiary devices were placed around the city’s central library. Elaph news reported that city residents asked ISIL fighters to reconsider, but bombs were set off, igniting fires that destroyed an estimated 8,000 to 10,000 books and manuscripts.

Novelist Mahmoud Saeed, a native of Mosul who now lives in Chicago, said he reached a friend who said the central library had not yet been destroyed, although many smaller libraries and bookshops certainly had been.

The Mosul Central Library, founded in 1921, came to be known as one of the richest libraries in Iraq, second only to the central library in Baghdad. If it has been destroyed, Saeed said: “It will be a great loss to the people of Mosul, but also to the Iraqi people as a whole.”

The Mosul library, Saeed said, is what “made me a writer. It was located in the most beautiful place at that time, in the 40s and 50s, on the right bank of the Tigris, near the King Ghazi iron bridge. The building overlooked the river”.

The public library didn’t just hold government-owned books. Wealthy families also kept personal books in special rooms, and these privately owned books were accessible to all city residents who wanted to read.

This meant, Saeed said, that the Mosul library was a particularly special place. Some of the family-sponsored rooms contained books that were otherwise banned in Iraq.

“For example, any books about communism, socialism, or sex were forbidden from trade in Iraq. But the [family-sponsored] reservoirs contained a lot of these books.”

The Mosul library is what made me a writer. It was located in the most beautiful place at that time, in the 40s and 50s, on the right bank of the Tigris, near the King Ghazi iron bridge. The building overlooked the river.Mahmoud Saeed, Iraqi novelist

Among the library’s irreplaceable holdings were 18th-century manuscripts, books from the Ottoman era, early 20th century Iraqi newspapers, as well as antique items such as astrolabes.

Book collection in danger

The Central Library doesn’t have the only book collection in danger. Over the past weeks, several other libraries have reportedly been destroyed in the nearby Anbar province. Elaph news site quoted a member of the Board of Anbar province, Adel al-Fahdawi, who estimated that, during a single week in February, ISIL had wrecked more than 100,000 books. Other sources had ISIL removing manuscripts from monasteries, piling them up, and burning them.

Nor are books the only target in this cultural warfare. An ISIL-produced video, posted to Twitter on Thursday, shows fighters taking sledgehammers to ancient statues at the Mosul Museum. The amateur, documentary-like film even has a commentator who explains that the prophet orders us to destroy idols.

The video also showed a brief shot of burning books.

The University of Mosul, meanwhile, has been undergoing a slower destruction. Over the last several months, large parts of the university have been shut down, taken over, and turned into barracks and storage for fighters. At least one of the libraries remained intact, although a source said squatters have moved onto the campus with their farm animals. She feared that books and furniture might be used as firewood.

‘Books were only paper’

Poet and publisher Faiza Sultan, who graduated from the University of Mosul in 1994, said that the university’s central library had one of the best collections in the region.

“I spent five years visiting this library on a daily basis,” she said. “It was my sanctuary.”

Nonetheless, Baghdadi poet Sabreen Kadm said that some Mosulis have welcomed ISIL. After the US invasion in 2003, sectarian divisions were heightened and fostered. During former prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki’s rule, Sunnis were repressed, and some were happy to see ISIL fighters enter the Nineveh governorate.

Kadm watched the images of the burning books in Mosul on her computer, but like many Iraqis, was less moved by them than by images of human loss.

In the end, Kadm said, books were only paper, and “they have killed the people in very horrible ways”.

Iraqi poet Dunya Mikhail, now living in Detroit, said many Iraqis had been evoking a popular saying about the loss of non-human objects: “May the books be a sacrifice for the people.”

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.

Source: Al Jazeera

Historians Pore Over ISIS Video of Smashed Statues for Clues to What’s Been Lost

The New York Times – MIDDLE EAST – FEB. 26, 2015

Confronted with the latest video news release from Islamic State militants in Iraq, which shows jihadists taking sledgehammers and electric drills to ancient statuary in the city of Mosul, historians and archaeologists spent much of Thursday studying the footage for clues as to what, exactly, had been lost.

The smashing of the antiquities, described as “idols” by a spokesman for the Islamic State in a video report titled “The Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice #1 — Nineveh Province,” seemed to echo the destruction of the Great Buddhas of Bamiyan by the Afghan Taliban in 2001. And it outraged Iraqi opponents of the Sunni Muslim extremists.

ISIS Onslaught Engulfs Assyrian Christians as Militants Destroy Ancient Art

Lynda Albertson, the chief executive of the Association for Research into Crimes Against Art, pointed out that some of the footage matches images of the museum’s galleries included in a 2009 Unesco report. She said that the museum “specializes in antiquities from the Assyrian empire, which flourished within the provincial borders of present-day Province of Nineveh,” but “also houses a significant collection of sculptures and other stone relics from Hatra — the capital of the first Arab Kingdom.”

An image of the inside of the Mosul Museum included in a Unesco report on its condition in 2009. CreditUnesco

A screenshot from video posted online by Islamic State militants on Thursday, showing the destruction of statues inside a gallery of the Mosul Museum.

Christopher Jones, a doctoral student in ancient Near Eastern history at Columbia University who blogs about the threat to cultural heritage posed by the Islamic State, suggested that most of the originals destroyed inside the museum appeared to be from ancient Hatra.

Most of the destroyed statues seem to be from Hatra. Most of the Assyrian relief sculptures in the museum are replicas.

— Christopher Jones (@cwjones89) Feb. 26, 2015

Eleanor Robson, a professor of ancient Near Eastern history with the British Institute for the Study of Iraq, said the destruction was filmed at two sites: inside the Mosul Museum — which was looted in 2003, after the American-led invasion of Iraq — and at the Nergal Gate, an entryway to the capital of the Assyrian Empire, Nineveh, guarded by a pair of colossal human-headed, winged bulls.

Video released by Islamic State militants on Thursday showed ancient statues of two winged bulls with human heads before they were defaced.

The militants’ video lingered on a description of the gate, which explained that the entrance was dedicated to Nergal, the Sumerian god of plague and the underworld in ancient Mesopotamia. The association of the winged bulls with this pre-Islamic god was offered by the spokesman for the fundamentalist militants as a justification for their destruction.

Ms. Robson said in a BBC radio interview that the video evidence showed that “artifacts from two different ancient cities as well as modern replicas” were destroyed at the museum. “What we’ve got at the beginning of the video are standing statues of people who lived in the desert city Hatra in Iraq in the second century B.C. to the third century A.D.,” she said.

As those statues are smashed in the video, Ms. Robson noted, “you can see in them iron rods which archaeologists have used to piece them together from ancient fragments.”

The winged bulls, she added, date to the early seventh century B.C., “so they have stood there for nearly 3,000 years welcoming people into the city, and ISIS have now taken sledgehammers to them.”

@holland_tom @matthewteller Three is us have watched & rewatched: more originals than I first thought 🙁 #wishfulthinking

— Eleanor Robson (@Eleanor_Robson) Feb. 26, 2015

A similar winged bull is in the British Museum in London.

Samuel Andrew Hardy, a specialist in the trade in illicit antiquities who teaches at the American University of Rome, explained on his blog that one of the one of the exhibits shown in pieces on the Museum floor, a statue of the seventh-century-B.C. Assyrian king Sargon, was a reproduction of the original. “The Assyrian reliefs (carved panels),” he added, “were plaster cast replicas of pieces that are in the British Museum.”

Mr. Hardy also suggested that, even though the new video showed the destruction of pre-Islamic artifacts, Islamic State militants had previously taken part in “the illicit trade in antiquities,” despite their professed horror of “idols.”

“Obviously, they are destroying some things that they could sell,” Mr. Hardy wrote, “but they are also selling some things that, according to their perversion of Islamic law, they ‘should’ destroy.”

The video of the winged bull, he added, highlighted “that it was too massive for them to sneak it out of the country to an unscrupulous private collector in the West.”

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