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On August 8, 2023, the National Museum of American Diplomacy (NMAD) installed a special exhibit featuring a rare Yemeni artifact on loan from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art.
The stone statue is a funerary monument, which is an object that commemorates a deceased person or group. The carving and name represent the deceased individual. It was likely created between 500 and 1 BCE and stolen from an ancient cemetery in Northwestern Yemen.
This ancient funerary monument is one of 77 objects illegally imported to the United States and recovered by the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security.
In February 2023, this monument and 76 other items were repatriated to the Republic of Yemen Government. The Yemeni government has allowed the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art to care for the objects until their safe return to Yemen is possible.
The exhibit is a testament to the important role American diplomacy plays in preserving the cultural heritage of communities around the world.
The conflict in Yemen since 2014 has not only created an immense humanitarian crisis but has also devastated the country’s rich cultural heritage. In February 2020, the United States responded to Yemen’s request for assistance in deterring the looting and theft of cultural property by imposing emergency import restrictions on certain archaeological and ethnological material.
The loan and exhibit were coordinated in conjunction with the U.S. Department of State’s Cultural Heritage Center in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The Center protects and preserves culture worldwide by countering antiquities trafficking, strengthening international law enforcement cooperation, and supporting projects for the preservation of sites, objects, and traditional practices.
Later this month, the NMAD will be hosting a ceremony for the signing of a cultural property agreement between Yemen and the United States regarding the protection of cultural heritage.
NMAD is proud to be able to partner with prestigious institutions like the Smithsonian to coordinate interagency loans like this statue. We consider the museum to be an ideal place to discuss the diverse and sometimes lesser-known work of diplomats.
The exhibit will be on display until September 8, 2023, in the Founding Ambassador’s Concourse on the lower level of the museum. State Department employees can access the museum without an appointment through the 21st Street entrance of the Harry S Truman building. The space is open during standard business hours, Monday through Friday.