PHILADELPHIA—The Wall Street Journal called him "a living legend." The London Times dubbed him "the most famous art detective in the world."
Robert K. Wittman, founder of the FBI's Art Crime Team and an undercover agent for two decades, pulls back the curtain on his remarkable career with the publishing of his new memoir, "Priceless: How I Went Undercover to Rescue the World's Stolen Treasures." He speaks publicly about his adventures, and signs his book, co-authored with John Shiffman, at the University of Pennsylvania Museum Tuesday evening, June 8, at 6 pm. General admission tickets to the program are $10; $5 Penn Museum members; and free for Penn students. The program is co-sponsored by Penn Museum's Cultural Heritage Center. More information and pre-registration (suggested) is online: www.penn.museum/events-calendar/details/234.html.
"I've enjoyed a long history—and fond memories—of collaboration with the archaeologists and staff of the Penn Museum, and I wanted to make my first Philadelphia appearance for the national public book tour at the Museum," Mr. Wittman noted. "What better place than in front of the famous 19th century Chinese crystal ball -stolen from the Museum in 1988 and recovered by the FBI several years later-to sign copies of Priceless?"
Penn Museum has worked closely with Mr. Wittman on several occasions, including with expert identification and later a short-term exhibition of an ancient Moche warrior gold "backflap" from Peru, stolen and recovered during a Philadelphia-based sting operation in 1998. The formation of the FBI Art Crime Team was formally announced at the Penn Museum in 2005. Shortly after, when Mr. Wittman recovered several ancient Mesopotamian cylinder seals illegally brought to the United States by a U.S. soldier from Iraq, the Museum hosted another FBI press conference, and a short-term display of the artifacts, to increase awareness of archaeological looting and theft.
During his career, Mr. Wittman has pulled off awe-inspiring undercover stings all over the world, rescuing hundreds of stolen works-among them paintings by Rembrandt, Renoir, and Rockwell; Geronimo's headdress; and an original copy of the Bill of Rights.
The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology is dedicated to the study and understanding of human history and diversity. Founded in 1887, the Museum has sent more than 400 archaeological and anthropological expeditions to all the inhabited continents of the world. With an active exhibition schedule and educational programming for children and adults, the Museum offers the public an opportunity to share in the ongoing discovery of humankind's collective heritage.
Penn Museum is located at 3260 South Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104 (on Penn's campus, across from Franklin Field and adjacent to SEPTA's University City Regional Rail station serving the R1, R2, and R3 lines). Museum hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10:00 am to 4:30 pm, Sunday 1:00 to 5:00 pm. Closed Mondays and holidays. Admission donation is $10 for adults; $7 for senior citizens (65 and above); $6 children (6 to 17) and full-time students with ID; free to Members, Penncard holders, and children 5 and younger; "pay-what-you-want" after 3:30 pm Tuesday through Saturday, and after 4:00 pm Sunday. Penn Museum can be found on the web at www.penn.museum. For general information call (215) 898-4000.