The U.S. government spent $5.6 million in 2011 to preserve historical sites, artifacts, and traditional arts — in foreign countries.
The money was distributed under the auspices of the U.S. Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation. Created by Congress in 2000, “the Fund supports a wide range of projects to preserve cultural heritage, such as the restoration of historic buildings, assessment and conservation of museum collections, archaeological site preservation, documentation of vanishing traditional craft techniques, improved storage conditions for archives and manuscripts, and documentation of indigenous languages,” according to the State Department, which administers the program.
In the last 11 years the fund has disbursed nearly $33 million of American taxpayers’ hard-earned money to over 700 projects in more than 100 foreign countries. Washington’s willingness to send other people’s moolah overseas “shows the depth of our nation’s respect for the cultural heritage of other countries,” says the State Department. Tell that to the Iraqis, whose national museum was looted during the U.S. invasion in 2003, prompting three U.S. officials to resign in protest over their government’s failure to secure the museum.
Last year, U.S. ambassadors in more than 80 countries applied for grants from the fund for projects in the countries in which they were stationed. Ultimately, 58 grants were approved at a total cost of $5,635,405.
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Photo of Phnom Bakheng Temple in Cambodia