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Cultural Crime Research Network (CULTcrime)

Cultural objects are increasingly being traded through international criminal networks. So-called ‘illicit objects’ can originate from war and conflict areas, illegal metal detector finds, theft from museums, and older collections with unknown provenance. In Norway, we are seeing an increasingly serious threat to cultural heritage. Prevention of cultural crime and research in the field requires collaboration between researchers, museums, government institutions, state administration and international NGOs.

Illicit metal detector finds from the Baltics. Seizure by Buskerud police 2018. Photo: Håkon Roland, KHM.

About the group

CULTcrime will produce applied research to improve the management of cultural crime and the measures to combat it. The ambition is to go from a management-based research to research-based management. The group is part of Nordic and international networks and constitutes an interdisciplinary pool of expertise in management archaeology, law and international politics.

Core themes

Cultural crime is about cultural heritage being destroyed in war and conflict areas, objects that are removed from their country of origin, cultural heritage in diplomatic relations, the worldwide market for antiquities, private collectors, damage to protected cultural monuments and increasing illegal metal detector activity in Norway.

In many parts of the world, cultural heritage is being destroyed by illegal sales on a black or grey market that often operates through social media and closed internet groups. The cultural heritage of nations and peoples is under threat from complex networks of smugglers and traders that make it possible for private capital to build up collections of artefacts. The scale of this activity means that today we see a new colonization of cultural heritage driven by private demand in the antiquities market.

With conflict areas, terrorist financing, cultural crime and the antiquities market closely entangled, we need to better understand the connections between politics, conflict, migration, social conditions and increased cultural crime.

Moreover, the fight against cultural heritage crime is characterized by a lack of overarching measures, both nationally and globally. The handling of illicit cultural objects is linked to international conventions, the regulation of import and export by each nation, priorities within police and customs agencies, and ethical guidelines for museums, antique dealers and researchers. Thus, better coordination and exchange of information, clearer guidelines and areas of responsibility, as well as mapping of cultural crime are central to efforts to tackle cultural heritage crime.

Who has the defining power over the cultural value of objects, and how the meaning of objects changes in diplomatic negotiations on return to source communities is also an important field of research.

Objectives and cooperation

CULTcrime aims to provide an explicit contribution to solving the societal challenges related to cultural crime, and to deliver impact-driven research in line with UiO, NFR and ERC's new strategies and research agendas. It focuses on four main areas:

  • Protection of cultural heritage and cultural objects in war and conflict areas
  • Investigation of the illegal trade in cultural objects
  • Repatriation of illegally traded cultural objects
  • Destruction of protected cultural monuments and metal detector activity in Norway

CULTcrime gathers expertise on illicitly traded objects, criminal law, property law, international law, regulation of import and export, repatriation, protection of cultural heritage in war and conflict areas, ethical guidelines, protected heritage in Norway, metal detectorist activity, the antiquities market and international conventions.

CULTcrime is an expert advisor to government institutions in Norway and is part of national working groups and formalized Nordic and international networks through ICOM, Blue Shield and the Nordic Center for Cultural Heritage & Armed Conflict (CHAC).


Network and Resources

Published Feb. 3, 2021 8:38 AM - Last modified Feb. 12, 2021 12:57 PM