RITHMS at CULTNET Annual Meeting
CULTNET, an Informal Network of Law Enforcement Authorities and Experts Competent in the field of cultural goods, recently organized this year's gathering in Madrid from the 24th to the 26th of October, 2023. This event, hosted during the Spanish Presidency of the Council of the European Union, brought together industry experts and institutions devoted to preserving our cultural heritage. Notable members of CULTNET include the European Commission, Europol, and INTERPOL.
The primary focus of this year's meeting was addressing the challenges of crimes against cultural heritage in Spain, with a special emphasis on fostering collaboration among various institutions engaged in this important endeavor. A significant spotlight was also placed on the protection of cultural heritage in conflict zones, particularly focusing on the cultural heritage of Ukraine.
Law enforcement agencies from across Europe gathered to share their experiences in combating the illicit trafficking of cultural treasures and art-related crimes. Three key RITHMS partners took center stage:
- The Brigade of Cultural Heritage of the Spanish National Police, chair and organizer of this year's CULTNET meeting, shed light on the "Leona" operation, revealing the case of clandestine excavations and the illicit sale of Iberian artifacts.
- The Carabinieri of the Italian Cultural Heritage Protection Unit showcased the "Artemis" operation.
- The Dutch Police led the discussion on the future development of the CULTNET network.
Dr. Arianna Traviglia, Director of the Centre for Cultural Heritage Technology (Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia) and Project Coordinator for RITHMS, presented the project's goals and current activities. She discussed how RITHMS can evolve into a vital tool for law enforcement agencies in the ongoing fight against the illicit trafficking of cultural goods.
RITHMS Third workshop
In a pivotal moment for the RITHMS project, the 3rd internal workshop unfolded over two days, showcasing significant progress in the ongoing battle against organized crime's grip on cultural heritage. The event took place at the Centre for Cultural Heritage Technology in Venice.
Day 1 - Delving into Milestones and Strategies
The first day of the workshop centered around the presentation of all deliverables completed in the project's inaugural year. Attendees included RITHMS' Project Officer and members of both the Advisory and Ethics Boards.
Participants engaged in deep discussions regarding the achievements and hurdles encountered during the project's initial year. Valuable insights and best practices were exchanged, setting the course for future endeavors. The unwavering commitment to combating organized crime's impact on cultural heritage was evident throughout the day, reinforcing the project's vital mission.
Day 2 - Exploring the Nexus of Organized Crime and Cultural Heritage
Day two of the workshop marked a resounding success, with participants actively engaging in discussions and dedicating themselves to the cause. The workshop's focus was to delve into the intricate links between organized crime and cultural heritage.
Each contribution made during this session laid the foundation for the months ahead, as RITHMS members work to uncover solutions to this pressing issue. The insights, research findings, and discussions shared during the workshop will serve as invaluable resources in the ongoing fight to safeguard cultural heritage.
The RITHMS project extends heartfelt gratitude to its advisors, including the Council of Europe, UNIDROIT Foundation, OSCE, and Europol, for their unwavering support and collaboration.
RITHMS at EAA Conference in Belfast
Our esteemed team members, Dr. Arianna Traviglia and Dr. Michela De Bernardin (Centre for Cultural Heritage Technology - Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia) had the honor of serving as session chairs alongside Dr. Marianne Mödlinger at the EAA23 Weaving Narratives conference in Belfast, Ireland.
The session they led, titled "REPOSITORIES AND DATASETS AS OPERATIONAL TOOLS IN COUNTERING THE ILLICIT TRAFFICKING OF CULTURAL GOODS" addressed the challenges posed by looting and illicit trafficking of cultural artifacts, particularly in regions affected by conflict.
During the session, attendees had the opportunity to explore the crucial role played by databases and research activities in combating cultural heritage trafficking. Organizations such as Arma dei Carabinieri - Command for the Protection of Cultural Heritage in Italy, the French OCBC, and INTERPOL’s Works of Art Unit were highlighted for their efforts in developing databases of stolen objects. Innovative techniques like social network analysis were also discussed, revealing how they are being employed to track illicit online sales and criminal networks.
The session featured informative presentations that focused on the creation of digital repositories for archaeological goods, whether acquired, sold, or stolen, and research catalogs with clear geographic provenance. These presentations were followed by a structured discussion that encouraged participants to engage in critical dialogue, exploring effective ways to connect these datasets and make them accessible to law enforcement experts.
This session was organized within the framework of the RITHMS_EU project, emphasizing our dedication to establishing an interoperable digital platform. This platform aims to identify organized criminal networks involved in the trade of cultural property, providing invaluable intelligence to investigators and contributing to the preservation of cultural heritage.
Double event for RITHMS in Spain
In the last few days, we participated in two remarkable events, both dedicated to the preservation and protection of cultural heritage.
First Event: RITHMS Project Presentation at the II Interministerial Course on the Protection of Cultural Heritage.
We were honoured to have Silvia Valencia and Oscar Liz from the Brigade Of Cultural Heritage of the Spanish National Police, a Consortium Partner of RITHMS, deliver an insightful presentation on our project. The event, hosted by the Ministerio de Cultura y Deporte, took place at the prestigious National Museum of Underwater Archaeology Arqva in Cartagena, Murcia.
As one of the 4 police forces partnering with RITHMS, the Spanish National Police plays a vital role in protecting and preserving cultural heritage, taking charge of centralizing, coordinating, analyzing, and evaluating critical information related to our invaluable cultural treasures, as well as fostering relationships with key national and international organizations involved in cultural affairs.
Second Event: IIT's Participation in the Course "Seguridad y protección del patrimonio cultural. Buscando sinergias con el mercado del arte" (Security and Protection of Cultural Heritage. Seeking Synergies with the Art Market).
On the 29th and 30th of June, our colleagues from the Centre for Cultural Heritage Technology (Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia), Dr. Arianna Traviglia and Dr. Michela De Bernardin, contributed to this important course in Madrid. They explored various approaches to combat the illicit trafficking of cultural goods and shared valuable insights into the ongoing RITHMS project, shedding light on its progress and future prospects.
Both events provided fantastic opportunities for knowledge exchange, collaboration, and strengthening our mission to protect and preserve our rich history for the generations to come.
RITHMS at the International Conference on the Nicosia Convention - Riga, Latvia
At the International Conference on the Nicosia Convention in Riga, organised by the Council of Europe, Dr Arianna Traviglia (CCHT-IIT), RITHMS Project's Coordinator, delivered an inspiring speech on the power of technology in safeguarding cultural heritage and combating looting and illicit trafficking.
In fact, RITHMS project leverages Social Network Analysis methodology to develop an advanced digital resource that enhances the capabilities of Law Enforcement Agencies in their investigations.
By mapping social connections and analysing relationships between criminal and non-criminal actors, RITHMS will provide a novel understanding of the intricate trading networks related to cultural property.
Sharing the stage with RITHMS' Coordinator, Mr Maurizio Pellegrini and Ms Daniela Rizzo, former officers of the Italian Ministry of Culture and renowned experts in judicial cases addressing looting activities at archaeological sites.
As members of the Art Crime Project Association, RITHMS Consortium's Affiliated Entity, they are also involved in the project.
Furthermore, the conference provided a valuable opportunity to meet Ms Monica Redondo Alvarez and Dr Oscar Alarcon Jimenez, Programme Managers of the Nicosia Convention and esteemed Advisory Board Members of RITHMS project.
RITHMS at the Projects to Policy Seminar - Brussels, Belgium
RITHMS has been invited to participate in the "Projects to Policy Seminar", co-organized by DG HOME and REA. This annual event brings together a collective of newly launched projects and policy stakeholders to foster collaboration, knowledge sharing, and policy alignment.
It is an incredible opportunity for RITHMS to contribute to the policy landscape and make a meaningful impact in the following fields:
Fighting Crime & Terrorism: RITHMS aims to develop innovative solutions that enhance security measures and combat criminal activities against cultural heritage.
Strengthened Security Research and Innovation: RITHMS project firmly believes in the power of research and innovation to address emerging security challenges. The project aims to advance security research, foster innovation, and contribute to cutting-edge solutions that protect cultural heritage.
Border Management: efficient and secure border management is vital for tackling the international illicit trafficking of cultural goods. RITHMS recognizes the significance of streamlined processes and enhanced security measures at borders.
One of the seminar's goals is to raise awareness among relevant policy DGs (Directorates-General) about the newly launched projects, including RITHMS. We are grateful for this opportunity to showcase our project's objectives, progress, and potential policy-related outputs. Additionally, the seminar will provide valuable guidance to these new projects, enabling them to align with the policy priorities and interests of the policy DGs.
We are excited to engage with policy stakeholders, learn from their expertise, and contribute to the policy landscape. Through collaborations like these, we can truly make a lasting impact and drive positive change.
RITHMS on Border Security Report Magazine
After the presentation at the latest 𝐖𝐨𝐫𝐥𝐝 𝐁𝐨𝐫𝐝𝐞𝐫 𝐒𝐞𝐜𝐮𝐫𝐢𝐭𝐲 𝐂𝐨𝐧𝐠𝐫𝐞𝐬𝐬 in Skopje, RITHMS project lands on the pages of the specialised magazine 𝐁𝐨𝐫𝐝𝐞𝐫 𝐒𝐞𝐜𝐮𝐫𝐢𝐭𝐲 𝐑𝐄𝐏𝐎𝐑𝐓.
Find out more here: https://www.border-security-report.com/rithms-he-project-research-intelligence-and-technology-for-heritage-and-market-security/
RITHMS at Closing Conference of CrimeART Project in Moldova
On May 30th, the National Police of Moldova (RITHMS Consortium partner) presented RITHMS' objectives and main actions during the Closing Conference of the CrimeART project (Crime Against Cultural Goods and Cites).
Both projects share the common goals of enhancing investigative capabilities in crimes against cultural goods and combating organized crime through cooperation with relevant entities at national and international levels.
The knowledge acquired from five training sessions conducted within the CrimeART project, particularly regarding the methods and necessary actions for investigating cases involving cultural goods, will be exploited to further tailor the development requirements of RITHMS Platform.
RITHMS Second Workshop
The second internal RITHMS Workshop took place in Sofia on the 9th and 10th of May.
Consortium partners have been hosted by European Software Institute - Center Eastern Europe (ESI CEE) at Cybersecurity Lab (Sofia Tech Park) for the two-day meeting.
The main focus of the workshop was the validation of the technical requirements for the development of RITHMS digital platform: parameters to be used for Data Cleaning, Data Collection and its scrapers, platform access systems, output visualization format, and the structure of three use cases were defined.
By the end of the project, Law Enforcement Agencies will be provided with a technological tool that, thanks to the SNA (Social Network Analysis) application, will allow them to combine investigative data with open source information, obtaining valuable indications on the connections between individuals and criminal groups involved in the illicit trafficking of cultural property.
The automatic integration of multiple sources of information in an interactive multi-layer graph will be strategically crucial in boosting LEAs investigations and, finally, contrasting this phenomenon more effectively.
RITHMS at World Border Security Congress in Skopje
RITHMS is featuring at the World Border Security Congress in Skopje.
Jelena Levak, Senior Project Manager at RiniGARD and RITHMS SAB Member, is presenting key elements of RITHMS digital platform highlighting how it can support border authorities activities in tackling international illicit trafficking in cultural goods.
Through Social Network Analysis (SNA), RITHMS Platform will improve the overall understanding of this transnational criminal phenomenon and speed up border checks for individuals involved in criminal networks potentially overlapping with illicit trade of cultural property.
Furthermore, capitalizing on the efforts of border police and customs authorities, RITHMS project intends to promote a more active and efficient international cooperation in combating the phenomenon.
RITHMS at CAA Conference 2023
In Amsterdam, the Centre for Cultural Heritage Technology, Coordinator of RITHMS project, chaired the CAA 2023 Session: “Hey Google, stop that looter”. Digital technologies against cultural heritage crimes.
Dr Luigi Magnini opened the session by introducing the problematic use of metal detectors, which has been spreading and affecting both archaeological and historical sites. His talk illustrated how this issue is growing due in part to weaknesses in the regulatory system, especially in Italy, where also World War I sites are targeted by amateurs and hobbyist detectorists, socially accepted despite the illegality of such activities.
Following up, Dr Arianna Traviglia highlighted the potential of Earth Observation and satellite image analysis as an effective solution for monitoring looting activities and the illegal use of metal detectors. With this regard, she discussed the ESA-funded ALCEO project, implemented by CCHT, which aims to develop Artificial Intelligence methods for automatically detecting and classifying looted cultural heritage sites by exploiting multi-temporal satellite data.
Talking about new methods for detecting looting, Dr Michelle Fabiani presented a novel approach to creating robust and reliable spatiotemporal data on cultural heritage destruction using open-source data. Her talk delved into two projects - one using satellite data in Egypt and the other using open-source intelligence reports in Syria - and focused on the methods of data collection and validation. She then concluded with a demonstration of the utility of these methods in a case study in Egypt.
RITHMS First Workshop
RITHMS Consortium met in Fürstenfeldbruck, Munich, for the First Workshop, to get started with the deliverables dedicated to the legal, security, and technical requirements.
The Bayern School of Police hosted this three-day operational meeting where the first bricks for the SNA Platform's development were laid down.
RITHMS partners are already actively engaged in the implementation steps.
RITHMS Kick-Off Meeting
RITHMS Kick-Off Meeting took place in Venice, in the wonderful halls of the Ateneo Veneto. Numerous representatives of the Consortium gathered in person for the first time for a two-day discussion outlining the actions and next steps of the Project.
Cultural heritage, illicit trade, provenance research, security and IT innovations will be our main topics for the next years: don't miss RITHMS updates and follow us!