In the 1980s, looters stole an ancient stele from Patan, Nepal that represented eight centuries of Nepalese history.
The theft was one of many that would shape Nepal’s cultural and religious identity, and the piece would likely have remained missing forever if not for an American benefactor who purchased it and then loaned it to the Dallas Museum of Art in Texas. The statue was there for 31 years before the FBI caught up with it.
Like so many other cultural and religious artifacts from Nepal, it was wrongfully taken, setting in motion an effort to return it to its rightful home in the mountainous and remote country on the other side of the world.
UPS was there to deliver.
UPSer Jackson Carter, product director for UPS Global Freight Forwarding, took what amounted to a crash course in the history of Nepal and the sacred artifacts that began to go missing in the 1950s, when the previously closed country opened to tourism.
“During the course of the project, and through my interactions with Nepal’s embassy, I developed an appreciation of how meaningful this statue was to them and how big of a deal it is for them to have it back home in their country,” Jackson said.
The Nepalese embassy contacted the U.S. State Department to find a trusted logistics partner to return the stele from Washington, DC (where it ended up after the FBI investigation) to Kathmandu, Nepal.
A member of the State Department reached out to UPS Public Affairs, which then connected with Global Freight Forwarding leadership. And then to Jackson.
“I made sure all the details were taken care of at origin (packaging, pickup, paperwork), during transportation (line-haul and air-haul movements) and at the destination (delivery and customs),” Jackson said.
If that sounds like a lot, well, it was a lot to coordinate. Jackson shrugged it off like most UPSers do and gave credit to others.
“I really just facilitated the movement, and our operations team did all of the heavy lifting,” he said. “Additionally, much credit needs to go to The UPS Foundation for funding the transportation.”
Delivering what matters
Estimates point to thousands of sacred statues and sculptures pillaged during the past 70 years, many of which end up in private collections in the U.S.
The more Jackson learned, the more it didn’t sit right with him. He was more than happy to play an instrumental role in the return of at least one of these sacred pieces.
“The statue was stolen from them, and we helped right that wrong from decades ago,” he said. “This statue has been worshipped for over 800 years and is an irreplaceable national treasure of Nepal – helping return it home is the ultimate definition of UPS delivering what matters.”