UNESCO To Build A Virtual Museum For Stolen Artifacts

The project aims to raise awareness of the trafficking of stolen cultural property.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has announced its plans for what will be the first virtual museum of stolen artifacts.

READ ALSO: Missing Masterpieces: The Biggest Unsolved Art Heist In Modern History

“The project aims at designing the first virtual immersive reality museum of stolen cultural objects at a global scale. It will contribute to raising awareness among the general public to the consequences of illicit trafficking of cultural property and contribute to the recovery of stolen objects,” the UNESCO website states.

UNESCO's Virtual Museum For Stolen Artifacts
UNESCO’s Virtual Museum for Stolen Artifacts | Image via Twitter @archinect

“Visitors will be able to explore virtually spaces as in a real museum and get access to educational digital materials. The museum will also include stories and testimonies from local communities.”

Instead of growing its collection, the goal is to gradually empty the museum as the stolen objects are recovered. Collaborating with Interpol and other partners, the online museum’s total budget comes to $2.5 million.

UNESCO director Audrey Azoulay meeting with architect Francis Kéré
UNESCO director Audrey Azoulay meeting with Francis Kéré | Image via Instagram @kerearchitecture

Purposeful Design

The organization tapped Francis Kéré to design the virtual space. A native of Burkina Faso, Kéré was the first African architect to receive the Pritzker Prize. His initial design draws inspiration from the Guggenheim Museum in New York.

It also takes the shape of a baobab tree, which holds significant cultural and spiritual value in Africa. With around 52,000 works, experts digitally rendered the objects using Interpol’s Stolen Works of Art database.

Inside UNESCO's Virtual Museum for Stolen Artifacts
Inside the Virtual Museum | Image via Twitter @archinect

“Behind every stolen work or fragment lies a piece of history, identity, and humanity that has been wrenched from its custodians, rendered inaccessible to research, and now risks falling into oblivion,” said UNESCO’s director, Audrey Azoulay.

“Our objective with this is to place these works back in the spotlight, and to restore the right of societies to access their heritage, experience it, and recognize themselves in it.”

Banner image via Twitter @archinect.

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