On September 27, 2022, US Assistant Secretary of State for Education and Culture Lee Satterfield convened the 16 member agencies of the Cultural Heritage Coordinating Committee (CHCC) for the second time this year. The Committee’s discussion focused on recent multilateral cultural heritage meetings, policy changes and increasing opportunities.
Assistant Secretary Satterfield and staff from the Cultural Heritage Center updated the Committee on the outcome of the G20 Culture Ministerial Meeting, where the culture ministers of member countries met to discuss shared goals, including post-Covid-19 recovery in the cultural sector. At the ministerial meeting, the United States took a firm stand against Russian attacks on Ukraine’s cultural identity and the heritage of minority groups, and expanded US bilateral relations with Indonesia (chair of the G20 2022) and India (chair of the G20 2023).
The committee reviewed the Smithsonian Institution’s new Ethical Returns Policy and Collaborative Governance Policy, published this spring. The new policy allows for the joint management and return of museum collections to individuals and communities under appropriate conditions based on ethical considerations and best practices. The United States is a model of success in collaborative cultural heritage management and is committed to continuing to invest in long-term relationships and capacity-building initiatives with countries or groups engaged in this policy.
The committee also discussed the recently reorganized US Army Memorial Officers. These modern-day “Monument Men” are members of the US Army Civil Affairs Corps who advise the military on cultural heritage issues, legal obligations, and diplomatic concerns encountered during deployments around the world, especially in times of war and political crisis. The first class to graduate from the Army Memorial Officer Training in August included 14 US Army officers, one archivist and eight foreign military representatives from the United Kingdom, Italy, Australia, the Netherlands, France, Lebanon and Austria. The study was developed by the Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative and the US Army’s Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command.
Following the April 2022 CHCC meeting, the Committee applauded the Institute of Museum and Library Services for its recent award of $50,000 to the University of Pennsylvania to support and expand the Cultural Property Expert On-Call Program, which facilitates consultation between U.S. law enforcement officials. did and experts in archeology and art history when expertise is needed during the investigation. The one-year grant will support program staff and the extensive recruitment of subject matter experts for areas of need.
The US State Department established the Cultural Heritage Coordinating Committee in 2016 to coordinate the US government’s efforts to preserve and protect cultural property internationally in the event of political instability, armed conflict, or natural or other disasters.