SAFE/Saving Antiquities for Everyone is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to preserving cultural heritage worldwide. Our mission is to raise public awareness about the irreversible damage that results from looting, smuggling and trading illicit antiquities. We promote respect for the laws and treaties that enable nations to protect their cultural property and preserve humanity’s most precious non-renewable resource: the intact evidence of our undiscovered past.



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Candlelight Vigil for the Iraq Museum at the Asian Art Museum. San Francisco, California (Photo: Claudia Brose)


According to a 2000 Harris Poll among Americans:


think laws should prevent importing artifacts from a country that does not want them exported.


believe that there should be laws to protect archaeological resources.


think people should be punished for taking artifacts from an archaeological site on publicly owned land.
Like most Americans and others around the world, we support the protection and preservation of our common heritage. SAFE turns this support into action by providing tools, resources and a network for concerned individuals worldwide.


Ancient objects are not just beautiful to look at. Uncovered in their original contexts, properly interpreted, antiquities provide insight into the way our ancestors lived, their societies and their environments. They complete our view of ancient life and enrich our understanding of our own selves on many levels. Among the few survivors of early cultural history, antiquities comprise an essential part of our global cultural heritage.

We can’t protect something unless we know that it needs protecting.

Public awareness is the first step to giving a voice to people of all walks of life. When that collective voice is heard, systemic change is possible. As the environmental movement has done, SAFE seeks to change minds and attitudes so that behaviors will change. Our cultural heritage belongs to all of us; we are all responsible for safeguarding our shared humanity. 

While many organizations focus on on-site preservation, academic research and other solutions to the problem, SAFE is the only 501(c)(3) organization that centers on public awareness. We create the framework for active engagement for everyone, no matter where or who they are.

SAFE was founded in April 2003, in the wake of the ransacking of the National Museum of Iraq. Responding to the realization that our shared connection to our ancestors, our cultural heritage, must be protected, founder Cindy Ho left her career in advertising and turned to creating a global awareness campaign to inform all people what is at stake. It quickly turned into a nonprofit.

“The news from Iraq made me realize how vulnerable it was and how little I had known about these threats to the very core of our humanity. How could I, how can we, afford to not know? When I discovered that there was virtually nothing about this that was easily accessible to the general public, raising awareness became the something that I had to do.”

SAFE founder Cindy Ho
Read more about our story

SAFE’s mission is to raise public awareness about the irreversible damage to the study of history and culture that results from looting, smuggling, and trading illicit antiquities. An antiquity loses its informative value when torn from its original context without proper scientific excavation. Likewise, the archaeological site itself is stripped of historical, cultural, socio-economic, religious, and other valuable information when an antiquity is plundered from it. That is why we work toward saving antiquities, specifically objects more than 100 years old that have been unscientifically removed from monuments or archaeological sites.

SAFE promotes respect for the laws and treaties that protect cultural heritage and property. SAFE favors accountability for those who violate United States laws and/or tolerate the violation of other countries’ laws in pursuit of cultural artifacts. SAFE supports the enforcement of international and bilateral cultural property agreements.

SAFE encourages legal and ethical behavior among collectors, dealers, and museums to stop the trade in illicit antiquities. SAFE recognizes the ability of individuals and institutions to lawfully acquire and properly retain or transfer title of antiquities where authorized by law. However, antiquities are more than just aesthetic objects of beauty; they serve as historical evidence of the past. Because principles of supply and demand influence illegal antiquities trafficking, purchasers of antiquities should recognize that high demand can entice others to illegally excavate archaeological sites, smuggle illicit antiquities, and sell stolen objects. Such unlawful and unethical behavior permanently destroys information about the past.

SAFE espouses accurate, professional research combined with dynamic outreach and public education. Only through information and outreach can the public and policymakers work toward ending the looting, smuggling, and trading of illicit antiquities.

SAFE takes positions, where appropriate, on the repatriation of antiquities looted or smuggled after the enactment of the 1970 UNESCO Convention. SAFE’s attention is focused on the current destruction caused by looting and illicit antiquities trafficking so as to protect our shared cultural heritage and the undiscovered past.

We are professionals, educators, students, scholars and others from around the world, who share our mission and vision.

At SAFE, professionals in communications, media, and advertising work alongside experts in the academic, legal and law enforcement communities to make the public aware of the vulnerability of ancient sites, monuments and artifacts, and to take action to ensure the preservation of cultural heritage.

We do not represent or advocate for any particular profession, or academic discipline. We call for open discussions that examine practices and behavior that destroy cultural heritage. We have no “special interest” at stake except for the future of our past.


March 20, 2014
Egyptian archaeologist Monica Hanna to receive 2014 SAFE Beacon award in New York City

October 04, 2011
Chasing Aphrodite co-authors Jason Felch and Ralph Frammolino to receive 2011 SAFE Beacon Award

September 29, 2010
SAFE to present 2010 Beacon Award to four of the most prominent crusaders against art & antiquities crime

July 23, 2009
Preservation Advocates Ask UNESCO to Intervene in Demolition of Kashgar China

November 01, 2008
Colin Renfrew to receive the 2009 SAFE Beacon Award

March 10, 2008
SAFE and Donny George Hold Second Annual Global Candlelight Vigil for the Iraq Museum 

December 12, 2007
SAFE Hosts Private Tours of the Oriental Institute Museum with Donny George, Former Director of the Iraq Museum in Baghdad

December 12, 2007
Donny George and Neil Brodie to Receive the 2008 SAFE Beacon Award

June 04, 2007
Student Illustration and Photography Competition Winners Announced

March 27, 2007
SAFE and Donny George Hold Global Candlelight Vigil for The Iraq Museum

March 01, 2007
SAFE Organizes Letter Writing and Awareness Campaign in Favor of the Renewal of the Bilateral Agreement with Guatemala

January 29, 2007
SAFE announces 2007 Student Illustration and Photography Competition

January 06, 2007
SAFE to Podcast Interviews on Illicit Antiquities and Cultural Heritage Preservation

October 02, 2006
SAFE Hosts Lecture by Peter Watson, author of The Medici Conspiracy at New York’s Chelsea Art Museum

September 06, 2006
Rick DellaRatta and Jazz for Peace to hold special benefit to save antiquities

February 23, 2006
SAFE distributes NETWORK—a DVD documentary about the illicit antiquities trade

February 20, 2006
Thieves of Baghdad at Cooper Union

October 26, 2005
“Stolen Books” in Boston Public Library

September 02, 2005
SAFE TOURS announces 2005 fall schedule

September 01, 2005
SAFE testifies in Washington to support Italian cultural heritage

August 11, 2005
SAFE launches “Say YES to Italy” campaign

August 01, 2005
Sacramento says YES to SAFE’s campaign to safeguard Italy’s cultural heritage

June 01, 2005
SAFE offers Iraq Museum Benefit Tours

May 17, 2005
SAFE announces Second International Student Public Awareness Campaign Competition

April 06, 2005
SAFE and LCCHP cosponsor a public panel discussion Preserving our Past: Looting and the Black Market in Art, Artifacts

April 06, 2005
SAFE hosts new Stolen History Tour at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts

March 21, 2005
SAFE launches online lectures with Prosecutor’s Toolkit

February 28, 2005
SAFE rallies to protect China’s cultural heritage at CPAC

February 04, 2005
Anti-looting “cavalry” prepares to storm DC in efforts to aid China

January 10, 2005
SAFE hits ground running at AIA annual conference

December 14, 2004
Romanian wins top prize in 2004 international student competition

November 18, 2004
SAFE presents Roger Atwood at book signing

October 16, 2004
Annual benefit a big success to save antiquities

October 04, 2004
Iraq antiquities advocates take the spotlight at annual reception

September 22, 2004
International student competition recruits to save endangered antiquities

September 06, 2004
Iraq antiquities advocate honored at annual SAFE benefit

June 01, 2004
Saving Antiquities for Everyone launches new web site

August 20, 2003
SAFE supports new legislation to safeguard Iraq’s cultural heritage

July 10, 2003
Industry and academia join to help safeguard cultural heritage

The 2014 SAFE Beacon Award honoring Monica Hanna received major international and national media coverage in the New York Times, the PBS “NewsHour” and on live radio with WNYC, the New York City affiliate of National Public Radio, CBC Radio in Toronto, and BBCEgypt Daily News, Egypt Today, to name a few.

  • SAFE president Cindy Ho in Bible History Daily on the case of the AIA-St. Louis Society and the Treasure of Harageh, February 4, 2015
  • SAFE and Colin Renfrew mentioned in ARTINFO, January 5, 2009
  • TIME Magazine quotes SAFE President on looted Chinese antiquities, September 27, 2007
  • German publication IKA features SAFE
  • SAFE’s efforts in Stolen art met with public yawn, USA Today
SAFE in Singtao

SAFE’s efforts to support China’s request for import restrictions were covered in the Chinese press.

  • Tomb raiders by Phil Chamberlain (July 2005, Police-The Voice of the Service)
  • End of An Era by Karen Mazurkewich (March 4 2005, The Asian Wall Street Journal)
  • Click here to listen to and read SAFE Founder Cindy Ho’s interview on February 21, 2005 with Radio Free Asia
What is SAFE?

SAFE, which stands for Saving Antiquities for Everyone, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving cultural heritage worldwide.

How did SAFE get started?

Cindy Ho, an advertising professional, started SAFE in April 2003. Horrified by the news of looting in Iraq, she decided to do something concrete about the vulnerability of our shared cultural heritage, especially the illicit global antiquities trade.

What are you trying to achieve?

Like the environmental movement, we aim to change hearts and minds in order to change behavior.

Our goal is to encourage shared stewardship and responsibility in everyone to protect cultural antiquities, no matter where they are found. In the long run, education and public awareness are the most effective ways to safeguard the records of human history.

But aren’t there other bigger, established organizations doing the same thing already?

Sure. Our work complements the work of other organizations. What sets SAFE apart is that we are industry and academic professionals working together for a single cause: to raise awareness of the devastating effects of antiquities looting and trafficking. Unlike organizations which carry out the vital task of on-site preservation, we lay the groundwork to establish the importance of preservation.

How do you plan to safeguard cultural heritage?

Public awareness is the first step to giving everyone a voice. Through public awareness and education, we alert people to looting and the illegal antiquities trade and its role in the destruction of human history. We offer concrete ways to invest in the shared stewardship of the world’s cultural heritage. By serving as a platform and network for others concerned, and by providing effective tools and resources, we aim to ensure that our common heritage will always have a future.

Why should I support your work, when there are so many problems and issues to address?

Antiquities are the building blocks of human history; they complete our view of ancient life and enrich our understanding of the world today. If we allow this destruction to continue, we will lose our understanding of human history. Now is the time for us to participate in safeguarding the past for our future—our children and grandchildren. But first, people need to know about the severity of the situation, and what is at stake.

Who are you trying to reach?

In short, everyone! Unfortunately, some people relegate issues related to history and culture to the experts: scholars, professors, legislators and members of law enforcement. It is believed all too often that issues related to history and culture are the problems of experts in the field: scholars, professors, legislators, and members of law enforcement. Important issues which ultimately affect everyone are left for a small group to handle.

We want to communicate to the public that this is everyone’s concern because the past belongs to all of us. We particularly want to leave an impression on young people: our future policy makers and leaders. Cultural heritage is part of the legacy they will inherit, and we need to ensure that this legacy will continue for generations to come.

What do you do?

We use social media and marketing techniques to educate the public about the threats faced by cultural heritage around the world due to the illegal excavation of archaeological sites, the looting of museums and monuments, and the black market trade in antiquities. We also coordinate outreach efforts to provide support for community, student, and professional groups, and serve as a network for the mobilization of action.

Where is SAFE’s office?

We do not have an office. We are a team of dedicated volunteers, living in many different states and countries who are passionate about preserving cultural heritage. Currently, all money donated or raised on the behalf of SAFE is put into programs and projects for tangible outcomes.

Do I need to have prior knowledge of cultural heritage to volunteer with SAFE?

Not at all! Our volunteers come from diverse backgrounds, and we welcome and utilize all types of skill sets in our work. As a team, we are constantly learning together. The most important things are passion and dedication.

On which areas of the world do you focus your efforts?

We are dedicated to raising awareness about the destruction of cultural heritage around the world. Often, however, the most damaging effects of looting and the black market trade of antiquities occur in what are known as “source countries.” Source countries are typically culturally rich but economically poor. At the same time, we strive to alert the economically rich “market countries” to the harmful consequences of antiquities trafficking, and communicate the ways in which the demand of market countries directly corresponds to the issues in source countries.

Where do donations to SAFE go?

We make every effort to keep our expenses at a minimum so that virtually all donations are invested in our projects. At present, no one at SAFE receives a salary. Most expenses are donated, and we all work from home, with our own equipment.

Are contributions tax-deductible?

Yes. SAFE is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, and contributions are tax deductible under section 170 of the Internal Revenue Code. Any contributions of cash, securities or materials made to the organization are tax deductible to the full extent allowed by law.

How can I get involved with SAFE?

Communication is a key element of our mission, so if you are interested in our work, please keep in touch, stay updated with daily news, and join the discussion by signing up for our e-newsletter, joining our Facebook group, liking our Facebook pages, and following us on Twitter.

If you are interested in interning and volunteering with SAFE, please see our pages on internship and volunteering.