The Ambassador's Fund for Cultural Preservation is one of several programs administered by the Cultural Heritage Center, a division of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). It is the only component of the U.S. government that provides grant support to heritage preservation in developing countries. Projects are chosen from those proposed by U.S. Ambassadors in 120 countries that the State Department deems eligible. AFCP grants are awarded in areas ranging from providing technical support for the restoration of buildings that are hundreds of years old to aiding in documentation to saving threatened traditional crafts.
In 2001, acknowledging that heritage preservation is an integral element of U.S. foreign relations, Congress established the Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation, to directly assist developing countries in preserving their cultural heritage by helping them develop long-term strategies to do so, and by providing grants to specifically help pay for the preservation process. Initially the law creating AFCP instructed the Department of State to set aside a million dollars for the fund, but since then the annual appropriation has grown. Between 2001 and 2007, the Fund paid about $11 million dollars for 437 grants in 119 countries.
Among recent projects awarded grants: Conservation of more than 200 Buddha statues in the Museum of Vietnamese History in Ho Chi Minh City; Provision of tools for site management of the ancient city of Busra, in Syria, the northern capital of the Nabataean Empire in the 2nd century BC, which contains evidence from the Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman periods; Restoration of the 18th century Maria Magdalena Church in Managua, Nicaragua; Documentation of Romani culture and music that has been passed down through generations for six centuries in Romania; Conservation of Pashto, Arabic, and Persian manuscripts dating back to the 16th century in the Pashto Academy, University of Peshawar, Pakistan; A former GULAG camp in Perm, Russia; A manuscript collection in Kosovo dating from the Ottoman Empire; and A post-Tsunami survey of buildings in the 13th century coastal town of Matara, Sri Lanka.
(by Nina Teicholz, Washington Post)
Art and antiquity dealers contend that CPAC has been making livelihood-killing decisions beyond the boundaries of the laws. Dealers also assert if you close down the legal market, not only are the objects lost to private collectors, but if as a result they wind up on the black market, museums can’t buy them either. The dealers have also contended that the executive director of the Ambassador’s Fund, Maria Kouroupas, seems intent on eliminating the art trade. They say that she operates behind closed doors, is disdainful of the interest of dealers, and lacks tolerance for differing points of views.
Maria P. Kouroupas is the executive director of the Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation. She attended the University of Arkansas and the State College of Arkansas, receiving a Master’s Degree in History and Education. In 1977 she worked for the American Association of Museums in Washington D.C., and in 1984 she began at the United States Information Agency, where she became Deputy Director of the Cultural Preservation Advisory Committee. In 1993 she was named its director, and she also served as the executive director of the Committee before coming to The Cultural Heritage Center in that same capacity.