UNESCO x Interpol on virtual museum of stolen objects


UNESCO and INTERPOL have joined forces on an innovative project to create the first virtual museum focused on stolen cultural artifacts. The project, set to launch in 2025, is backed by an initial funding commitment from Saudi Arabia and is estimated to cost around $2.5 million. The primary objective of this initiative is to raise awareness about the illicit trafficking of stolen cultural property and aid in the recovery of stolen objects. Audrey Azoulay, the Director-General of UNESCO, aptly points out, ‘Behind every stolen work or fragment lies a piece of history, identity, and humanity that has been wrenched from its custodians, rendered inaccessible to research, and now risks falling into oblivion.’ By collaborating with Interpol, the virtual museum will utilize their extensive database of over 52,000 stolen artifacts, transforming these items into 3D representations. 

Architect Francis Kéré, known for being the first African architect to receive the Pritzker Prize, is responsible for the design of the virtual museum, drawing inspiration from the central atrium of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and shaping it in the form of a baobab tree, which holds significant cultural and spiritual value in Africa.

francis kéré to design UNESCO's first virtual museum of stolen artifacts
renders by UNESCO/Kéré Architecture



kere-designed museum unearths the past through 3d artifacts 


UNESCO‘s virtual museum will serve as an educational tool, not only for authorities and cultural professionals but also for the general public, with a particular focus on younger generations. It will offer visitors a realistic experience, allowing them to explore virtual galleries, access educational resources, and gain an understanding of the importance of protecting cultural heritage.

Within the virtual museum, visitors will interact with 3D renderings of stolen artifacts, accompanied by detailed information about their history and cultural significance. Additionally, the project places a strong emphasis on incorporating stories and testimonies from the communities to which these artifacts belong, providing a more profound connection to the objects on display.

francis kéré to design UNESCO's first virtual museum of stolen artifacts
UNESCO and INTERPOL collaborated on the virtual museum of stolen objects

francis kéré to design UNESCO's virtual museum of stolen artifacts
the museum’s design aims to reconnect stolen cultural artifacts with their original communities

francis kéré to design UNESCO's first virtual museum of stolen artifacts
UNESCO Member States review the museum’s schematic design by Francis Kéré, followed by discussions about the project, image courtesy of UNESCO



project info:


name: Virtual Museum of stolen cultural objects 

associations: UNESCO | @unesco x INTERPOL | @interpol_hq

architects: Kéré Architecture | @kerearchitecture