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The Penn Museum displays art available for purchase at its Opening Weekend Celebration in 2019.

Credit: Karen Wong

The Penn Cultural Heritage Center is holding a virtual lecture on antiquities trafficking and art crime. 

Guest speakers Special Agent Jake Archer of the FBI Art Crime Team and Assistant U.S. Attorney K.T. Newton will discuss recent issues surrounding art and antiquity fraud during the lecture on Feb. 17.

Antiquities trafficking — the global circulation of objects through both legal and illegal means — is an expensive problem that results in major international issues, according to Executive Director of the PennCHC Richard Leventhal. 

The event is sponsored by the PennCHC — a research center within the Penn Museum — and aims to educate the community about antiquities trafficking and explain how officials are working to stop illegal activities.

“These issues of identity and representation are so critical," Leventhal said. "It's, in fact, a growing problem, as museums and private individuals are purchasing more and more of these objects."

Archer and Newton, both based in Philadelphia, are involved in the process of investigating and prosecuting incidents of antiquities trafficking and art crime.

Archer conducts investigations and repatriations related to art and cultural property. Prosecutors such as Newton are responsible for bringing legal action against individuals who have committed crimes, Leventhal said. 

“What we're trying to do is not only think intellectually about these issues, but also to effect change on the ground,” Leventhal said. 

The Penn CHC also works with indigenous communities and battle-torn communities to preserve cultural heritage. They collaborate "hand-in hand" with these communities to "protect the past and secure the future", according to their website

PennCHC signed an agreement in Aug. 2020 with the Cultural Heritage Coordinating Committee, which is established by the Department of the State. PennCHC agreed to use its resources in archeology and art history to combat antiquities trafficking in a new program.

The joint program facilitates consultations between archeology and art history experts and law enforcement officials from the FBI, Homeland Security Investigations, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection. 

“We work together on a cooperative venture to think about the nature of heritage identity, the way they want to be represented, the way they want to present themselves to the world in some sense,”  Leventhal said.

The virtual lecture will take place at 12:30 p.m. Tickets are ‘pay what you wish’ and available through the Penn Museum website.