The Smithsonian is a versatile organization. Its place within the United States government puts it on par with federal agencies, allowing it to turn humanitarian empathy into institutional action by working with other agencies to protect heritage. The Protect and Preserve Cultural Property Act of 2016 imposes restrictions on the import of Syrian artifacts in an effort to undercut looting. It follows a similar law passed by Congress in 2004 to protect Iraqi artifacts.

The U.S. Department of State formed the Cultural Heritage Coordinating Committee in response to the Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act of 2016 (Public Law 114-151), which also calls for increased coordination among U.S. government agencies. The law identifies the Smithsonian as an important organization in these efforts, and the Smithsonian serves as a charter member of the Cultural Heritage Coordinating Committee. Smithsonian Distinguished Scholar and Ambassador-at-Large Dr. Richard Kurin serves on the Committee and chairs its Public Awareness and Partnership Working Group.