In 1982, after graduating high school in Fremont, Nebraska, Wegener joined the U.S. Army Reserve. She joined the Army ROTC at the University of Nebraska Omaha, where she was studying for a bachelor’s degree in Political Science. While there she also met and married her husband, Paul Wegener, a fellow classmate, and both earned officer’s commissions on graduation.
Wegener decided to study for a Master’s degree in Political Science at the University of Kansas. She became interested in art history after taking an Intro class, and it was soon after that she discovered the Civil Affairs role of Arts, Monuments, and Archives Officer. She applied to do a second Master’s, this time in Art History, and it was during this period, 1997, that her reserve unit was sent to Bosnia. After she returned to the United States in 1998, she joined the Minneapolis Institute of Arts as an intern, working her way up until she became associate curator of Decorative Arts, Textiles, and Sculpture in 2001.
It was due to Wegener’s persistence and tenacity that she was sent to Iraq in 2003 as an Arts, Monuments, and Archives Officer. After repeated requests, her commanding officers relented. She arrived in Baghdad in May 2003, in the wake of the looting of the Iraqi National Museum. During the nine months she was stationed there, Wegener and her team helped to restore and stabilize the museum and its collections, as well as the Iraqi Jewish Archive collection. She co-authored a guide for soldiers on cultural heritage protection during war, the GTA 410-1002 Civil Affairs Arts, Monuments, and Archives.
Upon her return to the United States, Wegener and her husband decided it was the time to retire from the Army Reserve. She returned to her work at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, and also began work on her next project; the USA’s ratification of the 1954 Hague Convention. In 2006, Wegener founded the US Committee of the Blue Shield, and along with a coalition of art world professionals, the treaty was ratified by the US Senate in 2009. She would continue to serve as the USCBS’s President until 2013.
Her work with Blue Shield took her to Haiti in 2010, after the earthquake that devastated the country. She became the International Project Coordinator of the Haiti Cultural Recovery Project, liaising with American agencies including the Smithsonian and with Haitians on the ground. Her work helped preserve more than 30,000 objects of Haitian heritage that were in danger.
Her work in Haiti brought her to the attention of the Smithsonian Institution, and after her work was done she was hired as the director of the Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative (SCRI). This department is dedicated to the preservation of cultural heritage in crisis, whether conflict, weather, or natural disasters. Recent projects include working in New York after Hurricane Sandy, and training workshops for heritage professionals in Mali, Iraq, Syria, and Nepal.
Corine Wegener is also the co-chair of the Heritage Emergency National Task Force, a part of the U.S. National Disaster Recovery Framework. She also regularly speaks at lectures and writes about the importance of cultural property protection during crisis.