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Firm co-founder and chief executive Marion Forsyth Werkheiser is an award-winning lawyer, nonprofit executive, and preservation advocate with a distinctive ability to convene diverse stakeholders to work together to solve tough problems and to scale solutions.
Marion’s practice focuses at the intersection of development and preservation. She helps clients make full use of protections for historic and cultural resources in domestic and international law, and she works with stakeholders from all sectors to develop more informed risk management practices that take into account adverse impacts to historic places. She helps clients navigate the federal process established in Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, and she advocates in Washington for more effective implementation of the NHPA.
In 2014, the Register of Professional Archaeologists honored her with the John F. Seiberling Award for her significant and sustained efforts in the conservation of archaeological resources.
Marion’s practice also concerns the international trade in art and antiquities, and she has counseled foreign governments, advocacy organizations, and individuals on UNESCO conventions and U.S. law governing illicit antiquities. She helps clients devise strategies to protect archaeological sites and cultural institutions at risk from looting due to political instability, armed conflict, and exploitation by terrorist groups, including the Islamic State. She is an expert member of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) Committee on Legal, Administrative, and Financial Affairs.
Marion also explores the intersection of technology and cultural heritage through her practice. She helps promote technological advances that improve outcomes for heritage at risk, including GIS mapping, augmented reality, and virtual reality applications. She is also interested in ways that cultural heritage can inform the development of artificial intelligence.
Marion visits petroglyphs at Jubbah, Saudi Arabia.
A national leader in cultural heritage law, Marion co-founded the Lawyers’ Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation and served as its inaugural vice-president. For four years she taught a seminar on international and domestic cultural property law at the College of William and Mary Law School.
Marion brings to her work a deep commitment to social change. She co-founded and for five years co-directed the Phoenix Project, a nationally recognized social enterprise focused on improving business practices and sustainability of social sector organizations and preparing the next generation of social entrepreneurs. Her work received the Virginia Governor’s Award for Community Service. The Phoenix Project has since merged to form the Center for Social Entrepreneurship at George Mason University.
Marion has been a political junkie for as long as she can remember. She has run grassroots and candidate political campaigns and maintains excellent relationships with legislators and staffers on Capitol Hill and in state houses across the country. She served as a legal fellow in the office of U.S. Senator Evan Bayh (D-IN).
Marion earned her J.D. from Harvard Law School and is licensed to practice law in California, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. She is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Indiana University, where she was a Wells Scholar and earned her B.A. degree in political science and classical civilization with an emphasis in art and archaeology. In 2014, Indiana University honored her with its Outstanding Young Alumni Award. She is honored to spend two weeks at Indiana University in Spring 2017 as a Wells Scholars Program Professor and to co-teach a course in the Department of Anthropology on issues in heritage management.
- Form and manage Leaders in Energy and Preservation, a nonprofit coalition of energy industry and preservation community leaders devising voluntary practices that manage risk and protect significant historic and cultural sites.
- Direct management and growth strategy for the American Cultural Resources Association, the trade association for the cultural resources management industry.
- Devise and execute government affairs strategy for the American Cultural Resources Association and the Society for Historical Archaeology, the largest scholarly group concerned with the archaeology of the modern world.
- Coordinate Preservation 50, the national celebration of the 50th anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act.
- Led successful lobbying effort resulting in $26 million in additional Congressional funding for cultural resources compliance on the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project.
- Represent consulting party in National Historic Preservation Act Section 106 process on advocacy efforts to preserve historic bridges impacted by transportation development.
- Facilitated strategic and project planning for achieving World Heritage inscription for the Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks in Ohio.
- Negotiated creative mitigation settlement for the nation’s first offshore wind farm pursuant to Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act.
- “The National Historic Preservation Act and 36 CFR 800,” with L. Eden Burgess and Cameron Green, in THE NATIONAL HISTORIC PRESERVATION ACT: PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE (Kimball Banks & Ann Scott, eds., 2016).
- “Shut the Artifacts-for-Arms Market Doors,” with Ryan Rowberry and Greg Werkheiser, Huffington Post, Nov. 4, 2015.
- “The Converging Roads to Energy Independence and Heritage Preservation,” National Preservation Leadership Forum, Feb. 24, 2014.
- International Cultural Property Trusts: One Response to Burden of Proof Challenges in Stolen Antiquities Litigation, 8 CHI. J. INT’L L. 197 (2007).
- “Model Jury Instructions: Removing Some of the Lynch-Pins,” with David Tarler in PRESENTING ARCHAEOLOGY IN COURT (Sherry Hutt, David Tarler & Marion P. Forsyth, eds., 2005).
- PRESENTING ARCHAEOLOGY IN COURT: A LEGAL GUIDE TO PROTECTION OF SITES (2005). Co-edited with Sherry Hutt and David Tarler.
- Casualties of War: The Destruction of Iraqi Cultural Property as a Result of U.S. Action in the Gulf War, 14 DEPAUL-LCA J. ART & ENT. L. 73 (2004).
- LEGAL PERSPECTIVES ON CULTURAL RESOURCES (2004). Co-edited with Jennifer Richman.
- Keynote Speaker, Ohio Statehood Day, Columbus, OH, 2016.
- Panelist, “The UNESCO 2001 Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage: Compliance and Misconceptions,” Society for Historical Archaeology Conference, Washington, DC, 2016.
- Lecture, “The Fight Against Cultural Terrorism: Disrupting the Trade in Blood Antiquities,” Cincinnati Museum Center, 2015.
- Panelist, “Experts Roundtable: The Path Forward- Uniting the Efforts,” Cultural Property Under Threat: The Cultural, Economic & Security Impact of Antiquities Theft in the Middle East,” Cairo, Egypt, 2015.
- Presenter, “Integrating Cultural and Environmental Screening Tools for Energy Development,” NatureServe Conference, Traverse City, MI, 2015.
- Presenter, “Preservation 50: Our Legacy, Our Future,” National Preservation Conference, Savannah, GA, 2014.
- Presenter, “Bridging the GAPP: Protecting Historic Resources and Promoting Energy Development in Ohio,” Heritage Ohio Conference, Kent, OH, 2014.
- Plenary Speaker, “Making Historic Preservation Advocacy Count for Arizona,” Arizona Historic Preservation Conference, Rio Rico, AZ, 2014.
- Lecture, “The Fight Against Cultural Racketeering: Exposing the Global Black Market in Looted Art and Antiquities,” Indiana University Mathers Museum, Bloomington, IN, 2014.
- Moderator, “Bridging the GAPP: Protecting Archaeological Resources and Promoting Energy Development,” Society for American Archaeology Annual Meeting, Austin, TX, 2014.
- Moderator, “Bridging the GAPP: Mapping a New Policy Agenda for Shale Gas Development and Historic Preservation,” National Preservation Conference, Indianapolis, IN, 2013.
- Panelist, “Developing Effective Strategies for Cultural Resources Compliance & Energy Development,” 19th Annual American Cultural Resources Association Conference, Washington, DC, 2013.
- Presenter, “Government Relations in the Cultural Resource Sector,” Society for California Archaeology Annual Meeting, Berkeley, CA, 2013.
- Panelist, “The Arts on Capitol Hill,” 5th Annual Art Litigation and Dispute Resolution Institute, New York County Lawyers’ Association, New York, NY, 2012.
- Program Co-Chair, Cultural Resources: Section 106, Historic Preservation & Traditional Cultural Properties, CLE International, Washington, DC, 2012.
- Keynote Address, “High Stakes for Cultural Resources in the 2012 Election,” 18th Annual American Cultural Resources Association Conference, Seattle, WA, 2012.
- “Preservation Law and Risk Management,” Preservation Virginia Statewide Conference, Leesburg, VA, 2012.
- “Organizational Creation and Compliance,” Social Innovation Program at George Mason University, Fairfax, VA, 2012.
- Moderator, “Training the Next Generation of Social Enterpreneurs,” Accelerating Social Entrepreneurship in the Age of Austerity, Arlington, VA, 2011.
- “International Cultural Property Trusts,” US/ICOMOS World Bank Symposium, Washington, DC, 2010.
- Moderator, “A Fight for the Future: Art and Antiquities Crime,” Saving Antiquities for Everyone Beacon Awards, New York, NY, 2010.
- Expert Member, International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) Committee on Legal, Administrative and Financial Issues
- Associate Member, Advisory Council on Underwater Archaeology (ACUA)
- Board Member, SRI Foundation
- State Bar of California
- Virginia State Bar
- District of Columbia Bar