Illicit Trafficking in Cultural Property. A Master course to learn how to stop it

Oct 25, 2023

The phenomenon of illicit trafficking in cultural goods is a serious transnational reality, often closely linked to other illicit circuits such as weapons and drugs. Sometimes, it involves unexpected individuals, as in the recent case of over 2,000 items stolen from the British Museum. The curator, Peter John Higgs, who had worked at the British Museum for thirty years, appeared to have engaged in parallel activities of theft and selling, primarily of uncataloged objects. Some of these items are believed to have even ended up for sale on eBay.

The widespread nature of this phenomenon and the deteriorating international landscape, with numerous ongoing wars, coupled with Italy’s significant role as a source country for looted heritage, make it essential to train professionals equipped with the tools to identify and combat criminal activities related to cultural assets and artworks at risk of illicit trafficking or counterfeiting. This training is needed both for personnel in the museum and in the judicial and forensic fields (Technical Consultants for the Court, Technical Consultants of the Parties, Experts for the Judicial Police, Lawyers).

Art-Test will be part of the teaching staff for the Second-level Executive Master’s Course “Illicit Trafficking of Cultural Goods I-TRACE“, organized by Ca’ Foscari University of Venice and the Italian Institute of Technology, which aim to address these objectives.

The course will cover topics related to Archaeology, Art History, Legislation, Criminology, Art Economics, Chemical-Physical Sciences, and Applied Informatics.

Participants will gain a solid understanding of the dynamics and regulations of art markets and public policies related to antiquities and cultural goods, both nationally and internationally (with a particular focus on the European Union context). They will also be able to correctly identify the most suitable operational procedures for researching the origins of archaeological and artistic items and recognize the ‘red flags’ signaling illicit sales.

Finally, they will become familiar with innovative technological tools that can be used for the protection of cultural heritage, risk assessment, and the fight against illicit trafficking (remote sensing, 3D modeling and reconstruction, blockchain, analysis of online sales and auctions).

The course is structured into 5 Educational Areas: ‘Law and Politics of Cultural Goods,’ ‘Art and Antiquities Market,’ ‘Diagnostics and Authentication,’ ‘Digital Technologies for Combating Illicit Trafficking,‘ and ‘Discussions on Cultural Heritage.’ The educational modules will alternate between theoretical lessons and active learning experiences such as case studies, problem-solving exercises, and practical exercises. These activities will be carried out in person at the CFCS locations, on a dedicated online platform, or during visits to museums and institutions.

Art-Test will focus on the theme of Authentication, particularly the scientific techniques useful for this purpose, within the Diagnostics and Authentication section.

The Master will be conducted in English on a part-time basis, taking place on Fridays and Saturdays.

On November 7th, at 6:00 PM, there will be an Open Day where you can learn more and meet some of the instructors. 👉