Press Releases

Trahan, Lowenthal, Chabot Call for Transparency from the Met on Cambodian Art Collection

LOWELL, MA – Today, Congresswoman Lori Trahan (D-MA-03), joined by Congressional Cambodia Caucus Co-Chairs and Co-Founders Representatives Alan Lowenthal (D-CA-47) and Steve Chabot (R-OH-01) sent a letter to the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Met) requesting further information on the museum’s internal investigation into its Cambodian collection. The Met launched its investigation following complaints from Cambodian officials that Met artifacts were smuggled out of the country illegally.

“The Met’s stated policy is that it ‘is committed to researching and publishing the provenance or ownership history of its collection. Research accomplished to date is made available online and updated as completed.’ We are encouraged by this policy of transparency and hope that the Met will follow through on this commitment as it investigates the true provenance of its Cambodian artifacts,” the lawmakers wrote.

The Met acquired multiple Cambodian artifacts from Douglas A.J. Latchford, who was charged in November 2019 with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, substantive wire fraud, and the smuggling of numerous artifacts. The charges were dropped after Latchford passed away a year later, but the accusations clearly highlight the possibility that the artifacts Latchford provided were stolen from Cambodia.

“In fact, there is reason to believe that the list of stolen artifacts includes far more than the 13 which Latchford provided the Met,” the lawmakers continued.

The bipartisan letter sent today requests that the Met provide an update on its investigation, set a deadline to make a determination on these artifacts, work with the U.S. Department of Justice to determine where the artifacts belong, and in the event the artifacts were stolen, return the pieces to the people of Cambodia.

The questions posed to the Met are:

  1. Can the Met update us on its investigation?
  2. Has the Met set a deadline by which it intends to make determinations about the pieces in question?

                                      i.        If so, what is that deadline and how was it reached?

  1. Can the Met commit to working with the Department of Justice to determine where these priceless artifacts belong?
  2. If the Met determines that these treasures were originally stolen, will it commit to returning them to the people of Cambodia.

A digital copy of the letter sent today can be accessed HERE.