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Getty Launches $100 Million Initiative to Safeguard World's Ancient Cultural Heritage

Above: Participants in a Getty-funded course on conservation and archaeological site management conduct a condition survey exercise of the Achilles Mosaic at the Paphos Archeological Park in Cyprus. Photo: J. Paul Getty Trust.
Above: Participants in a Getty-funded course on conservation and archaeological site management conduct a condition survey exercise of the Achilles Mosaic at the Paphos Archeological Park in Cyprus. Photo: J. Paul Getty Trust.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA—The J. Paul Getty Trust in Los Angeles has established an ambitious decade-long global initiative to promote a greater understanding of the world’s cultural heritage and its universal value to society. In the coming years, the trust will invest $100 million in exhibitions, scholarship, educational programs, and conservation efforts and forge partnerships with universities, museums, and NGOs who will help expand the initiative’s reach.

“In an age of resurgent populism, sectarian violence, and climate change, the future of the world’s common heritage is at risk,” said James Cuno, president and CEO of trust. “Cultural heritage embodies a global community united by a common need to make things of beauty and usefulness, and to compose stories and rituals about humanity’s place in the world. We will launch with urgency and build momentum for years to come. This work must start now, before more cultural heritage is neglected, damaged, or destroyed. Much is at stake.”

Through the initiative, Ancient Worlds Now: A Future for the Past, the trust will raise awareness of the threats to ancient heritage, which range from development, economic pressures, and mass tourism to political forces, climate change, and violent conflict; create effective conservation strategies that can be applied on a large scale; engage with global audiences through advanced digital and interactive education and exhibition programs; and offer resources to areas of the world where the Getty has not yet worked, such as Southeast Asia and Central and South America.

The Getty’s commitment to protect cultural heritage is reflected in many activities which are already underway such as the digital mapping of excavations at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Çatalhöyük in Turkey and conservation efforts at the Byzantine-era archaeological site of Nea Paphos and its necropolis on the island of Cyprus—both projects have been awarded funds by the trust. Among the new programs being launched are a traveling research seminar on the art and architecture of ancient Thrace; a program for archaeologists from Turkey, Greece, and Bulgaria to study the histories of ancient monuments and sites in Turkey; and the publication of a book focusing on the intentional destruction of cultural artifacts in pursuit of strategic and political objectives.

Former British Museum director Neil MacGregor will serve as a consultant to the Ancient Worlds Now: A Future for the Past. “Human history is inevitably a history of entanglements and networks, of overlapping economic, political, and cultural developments,” MacGregor said. “In today’s sectarian violence, the complexity of the past is distorted through ideological manipulation, neglect, and destruction. Getty’s bold new initiative will address this by developing an understanding that the world’s cultural heritage, is our common heritage and that it continues to shape us all.”

September 19, 2019