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Virtual | Preserving Cultural Heritage in Afghanistan & Beyond, with Laura Tedesco & Anna Bottinelli

December 15, 2021 | 12:00 pm

Laura Tedesco at work in the field in Afghanistan
9am PT / 10am MT / 11am CT / 12pm ET

Afghanistan is currently facing an incredible crisis. Since the US left the country and Taliban forces reentered, many aspects of daily life have come into question, including how the country’s cultural heritage will be affected. Just two decades ago, when the Taliban were last in power, they called for the destruction of any and all pre-Islamic statues and sanctuaries on the land. While this new regime has promised to honor Afghanistan’s cultural heritage, history makes us skeptical.

One woman who has spent many years living and traveling throughout Afghanistan, overseeing the preservation of its archaeological sites, artifacts, monuments, and museums, is Laura Tedesco, Cultural Heritage Program Manager at the U.S. Department of State. As a cultural heritage and preservation specialist, Laura has experienced firsthand the challenges of preserving art and heritage amidst conflict, an experience she shares with Anna Bottinelli, President of the Monuments Men Foundation. Join us for a discussion about the preservation of cultural heritage in Afghanistan and beyond with these two leading experts!


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About the speakers

Headshot of Laura Tedesco

Dr. Laura A. Tedesco serves as the Cultural Heritage Program Manager for the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs. Laura’s work is centered on supporting U.S. Embassies across the region in identifying and guiding cultural preservation projects supported by the Department of State. In 2021 there are more than 30 active projects that preserve intangible and built heritage of more than 12 nations. Now based in Washington, D.C. and Charleston, S.C., she previously worked in Afghanistan at the U.S. Embassy from 2010-2012 developing and overseeing the State Department’s large-scale initiatives to support the preservation of Afghanistan’s imperiled cultural patrimony. Prior to joining the Department of State, Laura worked at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City for 13 years. She has also worked in the private sector field of cultural resources management, managing archaeological recovery of cultural resources for land development and corporate investment programs. Tedesco has participated in archaeological excavations in Syria, Palestine, the Republics of Armenia and Georgia, Italy, Cyprus, and in several locations across the United States. She holds a PhD in Anthropology from New York University. Laura has a popular podcast that focuses on her personal story of the challenges she’s faced as a woman carrying out heritage preservation programs in Afghanistan. The title of the podcast is Monuments Woman.

Headshot of Anna BottinelliBorn and raised in Florence, Italy, Anna Bottinelli earned her B.A. in History of Art from John Cabot University (JCU) in Rome, graduating Magna Cum Laude. There, she was also the recipient of numerous accolades including the 2010 JCU Excellence in Art History Award and JCU Leadership Award. In 2011, she received her M.A. in Art History at The Courtauld Institute of Art in London. She specialized in the Franciscan and Dominican Art of 13th century Italy. At the same time, Ms. Bottinelli began work as the lead Italian research assistant to #1 New York Times Bestselling Author Robert Edsel on his project to write about the Monuments Men and their preservation work in Italy during World War II. Her work contributed greatly to the success of Mr. Edsel’s acclaimed bestseller, “Saving Italy: The Race to Save a Nation’s Treasure from the Nazi.”

In 2014, Ms. Bottinelli accepted a full time research position with the Monuments Men Foundation for the Preservation of Art, in Dallas, Texas. By 2017, she had advanced to senior leadership positions and in December 2019, she was appointed as the Foundation’s new President, succeeding its founder, Mr. Edsel . During her tenure at the Foundation, Ms. Bottinelli has overseen numerous restitutions of cultural objects to individuals and museums in Europe. She has also served as a consultant for “Hunting Nazi Treasure,” an eight-part investigative documentary that continues to air on Discovery’s American Heroes Channel, History Channel-Canada, and Canale Focus in Italy, with additional future broadcasts planned internationally.

Today Ms. Bottinelli is considered an expert on the subject of art looting and recovery during World War II. She regularly is a point of contact for provenance attorneys seeking expert opinions on art restitution cases involving Italy. Ms. Bottinelli has close ties with the art restitution unit of the Italian Carabinieri, who have been steadfast supporters of the Monuments Men Foundation and its mission. Anna Bottinelli is currently based in Dallas with her husband and two little boys. She divides her time between the U.S. and Italy.

Images: Laura Tedesco in Ghazni, Afghanistan; Laurie Tedesco, The Monuments Woman photographed for publication by Jackie Neale October, 2021 in Charleston, SC; Anna Bottinelli


December 15, 2021
12:00 pm
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