UCL Global


UCL and Walk of Truth join forces to protect cultural heritage

30 September 2021

The two organisations signed an MoU to promote research, training and education around the protection of cultural heritage globally

Mesopotamian art - sculpture of head

Despite five major international conventions signed in the past 20 years to address art trafficking and cultural heritage protection, the black market for art and antiquities continues to plague the heritage, economy and wellbeing of countries around the world.

To address this and as part of their agreement, UCL and Walk of Truth will establish a new research centre in Nicosia, Cyprus with an office in London. It will be a leading centre of excellence for the research and development of methods to harness technology, education and innovation to better document, screen and flag potential instances of illegal trade.

The centre will also increase awareness of cultural heritage and enhance the effectiveness of law enforcement at protecting cultural heritage.

Walk of Truth, registered in the Netherlands but based in Cyprus, is a leading non-governmental organisation built on 30 years of pioneering work in the field of protecting cultural heritage and recovering and repatriating antiquities.

In their new partnership with UCL, there will be an emphasis on driving awareness of the role cultural heritage plays in the larger fight for human rights, and on the illegal transport and trade of antiquities and works of art around the world. 

Walk of Truth and UCL will also jointly leverage their substantial knowledge and experience to provide counsel and guidance to governments and NGOs such as UNESCO, the International Council of Museums (ICOM) and the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), as well as to private and public entities including universities, research centres, museums and cultural entities.

Such counsel will address issues related to the protection and promotion of culture and cultural heritage, including how to identify the illegal trade of art and antiquities, how to promote culturally responsible tourism and how to support partnerships between disparate organisations to drive better law enforcement internationally.

Dr Mark Altaweel, Vice-Dean for Innovation, Enterprise and Knowledge Exchange in the Faculty of Social & Historical Sciences at UCL, who leads the project from the UCL side, said: “This partnership will not only bring educational and research benefits to the UCL community and the new research centre’s staff, but it will also be a key contributor to UCL’s efforts to promote public/private partnerships and to define and develop partnerships with the third sector.”

Ms Tasoula Hadjitofi, author and founder of the Walk of Truth, said: “This is a very important and special agreement between UCL and Walk of Truth. It will facilitate research and training related to my extensive personal archives and will allow the world to better use the repatriation of stolen antiquities of Cyprus as a model for other hotspot areas where human rights and cultural heritage are being violated throughout Europe, the Middle East and Africa.”

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