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Art Museums Create Plan to Safe Harbor Art Objects Threatened by War

The Islamic State posted this photo on social media showing extremists destroying an ancient statue with sledge hammers. (Photo: ISIS)

The Islamic State posted this photo on social media showing extremists destroying an ancient statue with sledge hammers. (Photo: ISIS)

Art museums under the auspices of the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) have created a plan to safeguard rare art and antiquities that are threatened with destruction in war zones. The move was prompted by attacks on ancient, historic sites in the Middle East.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City joined arts organizations around the world in February to universally condemn the destruction of priceless antiquities by Islamic extremists in the Iraq city of Mosul.

The extremists from the Islamic State (IS) used sledge hammers, drills and other power tools to smash ancient statues and sculptures.

The situation led to a symposium at the New York City museum to develop protocols to protect art works threatened by political violence or natural disasters.

The heart of the plan will be a data base of all objects allocated to museums. The AAMD will maintain the registry. The protocols also layout the ground rules under which museums will take possession of art works.

“Under the Protocols, the works we will hold will not be the property of the museum. Access to the works, and exhibition of them, will be determined by the depositor,” said Julian Raby in a prepared statement.

Raby is a member of AAMD’s task force on archaeological materials and ancient art and director of the Freer and Arthur M. Sackler Galleries at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

Beside safeguarding threatened antiquities, the protocols are designed to help curb the trafficking of stolen artworks from war zones and natural disaster sites, according to the group.

During the symposium, earlier this week, U.S. State Department officials revealed that it would be expanding its “Rewards for Justice” program. It is attempting to curb the sale of stolen oil and art by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, also known as ISIL, or IS.

As part of that program, the state department offers rewards as high as $5 million for information leading to the disruption of ISIL’s trade in oil and looted antiquities.

A Special Forces raid on Islamic State official Abu Sayyaf in May discovered evidence of ISIL’s illegal trafficking in antiquities, according to Andrew Keller, a deputy assistant secretary of state.

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