Five cultural preservation experts from the countries of Georgia, India, Nepal, Serbia and Turkey met with Duke leaders in the arts and global affairs at the Nasher Museum on Friday as part of the International Visitor Leadership Program, the U.S. State Department’s professional exchange program.
“We were honored to host this distinguished group to talk about our many shared interests in taking care of the world’s cultural heritage and speaking out against the illegal trafficking of looted art," said Nasher Museum Director Sarah Schroth. "We were pleased to collaborate with the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs in this way."
The group included Aleksandar Aleksic, archeologist and senior conservator-researcher at the Institute for Cultural Preservation (Serbia); Ahu Ceziker, cultural projects coordinator at the Mardin Museum (Turkey); Sophio Chikhradze, chief specialist for the legal unit of the National Agency for Cultural Preservation (Georgia); Ujwala Menon, conservation architect at the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (India); and Suresh Suras Shrestha, undersecretary for the World Heritage Conservation section of the Department of Archaeology (Nepal).
The group of cultural preservation experts is traveling around the country, meeting with professionals to expand their understanding of similar U.S. agencies and enhance their knowledge of strategies to prevent the destruction, looting and trafficking of cultural heritage and promote best practices in conservation and stewardship.
Since 1940, the International Visitor Leadership Program has brought more than 500 participants to visit U.S. communities. These professionals are nominated by their local U.S. embassies.
The Office of Global Affairs at Duke arranged discussions with Duke scholars who have expertise in these areas, including Paul Jaskot, professor of Art, Art History & Visual Studies and director of the Wired! Lab, which frequently uses visualization methods to increase understanding of historical and protected sites. The group also met Andrew Armacost, head of collection development and curator of the Rubenstein Library and Patrick Duddy, a visiting senior lecturer at Duke and former U.S. ambassador to Venezuela. At the Nasher Museum, the group met Lee Nisbet, associate registrar and visual resources manager, and Julia McHugh, Trent A. Charmichael Curator of Academic Initiatives.
“It’s rare and very beneficial to meet colleagues from other countries who are working on similar issues around provenance, site protection, cataloguing and conservation,” said McHugh, a specialist in the arts of the ancient and colonial Americas.