Building on the H2020 NETCHER project (2019-2021), ANCHISE is the result of bringing together some of the most important research activities at European level in the last years, both on technologies for the fight against illicit trafficking, and humanities to improve the knowledge base on trafficking of cultural artefacts.
ANCHISE project relies on this holistic expertise to carry out five main actions with the aim to offer efficient methods, knowledge and toolkit to enhance the protection of cultural heritage against illicit trafficking.
Creating a hub of social sciences, politics and economics (for in-depth results likely to lead to structural evolutions in heritage protection)
The integration of social sciences and humanities pursued by ANCHISE brings to the project: - An insight into the workings of the traffic. By placing the phenomenon in the long term and on a global scale, the research allows a better understanding of the connections between the factors. - An approach capable of challenging the relevance of new technologies: Archaeologists and art historians are trained to recognize the provenances of artefacts according to their characteristics of production and style. They bring an analytical method into the project, which is simple and affordable (digital tools cannot solve all the questions of provenance). Their expertise is definitely to improve any technological tool designed to help LEAs (Law Enforcement Agencies). A know-how in cross-fertilization through the confrontation of multidisciplinary competencies and share of knowledge: Social sciences and humanities (SSH) have the capacity to federate the complex hierarchies of the heritage protection communities and to mobilize pools of experts. - A methodology for data management: Cultural heritage and fight of illicit trafficking of CH goods cover a broad range of disciplines, from Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH) to forensic studies, law and legal matters, and natural and exact sciences. Each discipline has its own terminology and ways to organise data, information and knowledge. Therefore, the foundation of a hub of social sciences, politics and economics must be supported by a solid data curation platform, fully implementing the FAIR principles. Such a hub would benefit and at the same time contribute to the creation of a European cloud for Cultural Heritage. - A gender equality approach: It is interesting to note that detectorism, for example, is a predominantly male activity. This observation may be an indicator to guide prevention actions. To lead such research activities, the consortium has a clear policy that half of the researchers involved at the level of the project are females. It is to be mentioned here that most of the partners already have a Gender Equality Plan and the other ones are currently building a Gender Equality Plan. Regarding the management of the project, each WP leadership will be handled by a gender-mixed duo as much as possible.
Conducting a large-scale evaluation of technologies and needs
Technologies, in particular the digital ones, evolve at a more rapid pace than the absorption and adoption rates of the Cultural Heritage (CH) sector. Therefore, it is imperative to choose only the most suitable ones to be further developed and adapted to the specific needs of the sector. However, many technologies are developed generically or for other purposes than their use in the CH domain. In order to choose from the vast array of available technologies, we need to define a set of evaluation criteria. They can be grouped in several categories, e.g., by their adaptability and adaptability by the CH sector, by their versatility to be adjusted to the specific needs of the sector, by the infrastructure development invested needed, training, added-value, safeties of operation, performance under different environmental constraints, etc. The search strategy must be defined as well – where do we look for the new technologies, which domains are covered, which geographic areas are most suitable for such a search? Such a search the entire cycle of activities of the project – prevention, early identification and alert on already stolen artefacts, for all the interested users, e.g., field prevention units, border police, CH professionals, etc.
Developing a toolkit of innovative technological solutions
Relying on strong technological expertise, ANCHISE develops flagship tools for: 1 - site monitoring and protection 2 - heritage collection protection 3 - border control object identification 4 - shared database design 5 - advanced heterogeneous data fusion engine, advanced crawling tools and object detection technologies 6 - methodology for the detection and characterisation of cultural goods based on Spectral Fluorescence Signature (SFS) to LEAs, Public and Private Cultural Heritage Institutions, Art dealers and auction houses, Archaeologists, Ministries of Culture
Conduction pilot experimentation areas with museums, border control and archaeological sites
One central pillar of the ANCHISE approach is to understand local, sociological and economic contexts of the illicit trafficking of cultural goods and to implement pilot experimentations and demonstration sessions all the while associating pertinent local and European stakeholders to the protection of our cultural heritage. The objective here is to identify technological solutions and test them together with the ANCHISE toolbox in near-real operational environments for the detection and protection of places in which cultural objects are being looted (such as archaeological sites and excavations) and stolen (such as private and public cultural institutions). ANCHISE ultimately seeks the integration of the civil society through development of awareness while developing tools as well as facilitating their access and usage to local and civil stakeholders (local as well as national associations focused on the protection of cultural heritage, citizens and inhabitants closely associated with archaeological sites). By doing so, the ANCHISE consortium aims to improve the necessary knowledge and technical means of all actors involved in the protection of the European cultural heritage to identify menaces and risks to our cultural heritage, and to apply appropriate preventative or reactive measures where needed to preserve its integrity
Engaging a unique and wide network of practitioners
Although the protagonists in the fight for protecting cultural heritage (structures devoted to cultural heritage, research centres, law enforcement agencies, art market) may know each other, the potential for cooperation remains underexploited: time, resources and space limitations, discrepancies between approaches, practices and work culture. Nevertheless, each of those professional bodies holds part of the solution: resource inventory, knowledge of the artefacts, production areas and fraudulent cases, rates and trends changing. ANCHISE will foster cross-fertilization, technological as well as non-technological innovations in protecting cultural heritage. ANCHISE can benefit from NETCHER’s background and methodological framework, that includes an existing, interdisciplinary and international network of 300 experts and key institutions, an online platform to support this community and allow safe sharing of information, a set of scientific resources and education materials, validated processes (top-down and bottom-up), public engagement and awareness, and proven rationale. These experiences will go further in ANCHISE, in so far as the public will be concretely invited to take part to the action, through the tasks described in WP5. The ANCHISE project relies on the User’s Board, a network of experts who will be invited to the demonstrations. This board will include members of institutions such as the Greek Ministry of Culture, the Department of Antiquities of Cyprus, the National Hellenic Research Foundation, the French Ministry of Culture, the Italian Ministry of Culture MiBACT Ministero dei bene e delle attività culturali e del turismo, the French border unit and the Dipylon Association. The experts and users are already trained to such inter-professional practices since most of them were active in the Netcher network and community.