Olga Symeonoglou

Attorney at Law
202.812.4075

 

Olga Symeonoglou’s practice focuses on indigenous heritage, historic preservation, and art restitution. She counsels American Indian tribes and other clients on strategies to protect cultural and historic resources of significance to them and regularly represents tribes in administrative agency proceedings concerning development projects that impact tribal resources. She also advises clients on ownership disputes over works of art and antiquities and she has presented on the legal framework and history of art looted under colonial rule and art looted by the Nazis during World War II.

Indigenous Heritage

Olga advises American Indian tribes on the protection and preservation of cultural resources, including traditional cultural landscapes, through the National Historic Preservation Act and National Environmental Policy Act consultation processes. Olga also advises American Indian tribes on the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act and the Indian Child Welfare Act. 

Section 106

Olga advises clients on the consultation process under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, including preparing comments on behalf of consulting parties regarding governmental determinations of how proposed projects affect historic properties. She has experience working on projects seeking regulatory approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Advocacy

Olga advocates for cultural heritage preservation on behalf of clients to the U.S. Congress, White House, and executive branch agencies. She drafts comments on behalf of preservation organizations and American Indian tribes on federal agencies’ proposed changes to preservation and environmental regulations under the National Historic Preservation Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.

Art & Antiquities

Olga counsels clients in the art and cultural heritage sector regarding ownership disputes, including about claims for restitution of antiquities and art looted or sold under duress during World War II. She has experience litigating a major art restitution case and settling restitution disputes without the need for litigation.

About Olga

Olga joined the firm in 2018 after clerking for the Honorable Florence Pan on the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. She earned her Juris Doctor with honors from Georgetown University Law Center in 2017 and is licensed to practice in the District of Columbia, Virginia, and Missouri. During law school, Olga interned with the Office of General Counsel at the Smithsonian Institution and the Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section of the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice. She earned her Bachelor of Arts with honors in Art History from Barnard College in 2013.

Olga traces her interest in art history and archaeology to her childhood, when she and her brother accompanied their parents on archaeological excavations on the island of Ithaka, Greece. She has since visited archaeological sites in Greece, Italy, Turkey, Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia.

REPRESENTATIVE ENGAGEMENTS

  • For an American Indian tribe, recommend strategies for ensuring the tribe is consulted in federal permitting decisions that affect their cultural resources, environment, and members.
  • For First Nation, advocate for protection of cultural resources in Federal Energy Regulatory Commission relicensing proceeding for a major hydroelectric project.
  • For an American Indian tribe, advise Tribe on child custody case involving the Indian Child Welfare Act.
  • For artist, handle contract dispute litigation in D.C. Superior Court and successfully negotiate settlement. 
  • For a property owner, provide advice on process and potential impacts of pursuing eligibility determination for the National Register of Historic Places.
  • For the world’s leading auction house, handle major litigation regarding ownership of a high-value antiquity.

PRESENTATIONS

  • Presenter, Supreme Court of Virginia, Indian Child Welfare Act: What You Need to Know, December 2022.
  • Program Faculty, Georgetown Law Executive Education Program on Cultural Heritage and Art Law, “Whose Law Is It Anyway? Foreign countries’ efforts to regain stolen objects,” December 2021.
  • Panelist, University of California Gould School of Law’s Art Law Society and Black Law Students Association, “African Art Restitution Panel,” February 2021 (recording available here).
  • Presenter, College of William & Mary’s Muscarelle Museum of Art, Speaker Series, “Culture Interrupted: The Pursuit of Looted Art & Antiquities,” Williamsburg, VA, 2019.

SELECTED PUBLICATIONS

MEMBERSHIPS

  • Lawyers’ Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation (LCCHP), Conference Committee
  • Mentor, Avocate