UCL, Walk of Truth join to protect cultural heritage

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The Walk of Truth organisation and University College London (UCL) signed an MoU to work closely together to promote research, training, and education to protect cultural heritage.

Emphasis will be given 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 worldwide.

UCL and Walk of Truth will establish a research centre in Nicosia, with an office in London which 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 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), private and public entities.

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

Tasoula Hadjitofi, the founder of the Walk of Truth, said the partnership would facilitate research and training related to her extensive personal archives.

“It 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.”

Dr Mark Altaweel, Vice-Dean for Innovation, Enterprise and Knowledge Exchange in the Faculty of Social and Historical Sciences at UCL, said the partnership would bring educational and research benefits to the UCL community.

“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.”

Walk of Truth is registered as a not-for-profit foundation in the Netherlands since 2011.

It draws on a broad network of high-level contacts in the worlds of government, museums, cultural agencies, including UNESCO and Interpol.

Its founder Hadjitofi has 30 years of experience tracking down and repatriating antiquities looted from Cyprus and sold worldwide.