Protecting heritage in conflict

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In light of recent events with the armed conflict in Ukraine, we felt we needed to share some resources on protecting heritage in conflict and postwar situations.

The devastating effects of war encompass heritage destruction; often, heritage assets are targeted as part of nationalistic narratives to obliterate one’s cultural identity and relation to values and places. The international bodies in charge of heritage protection and promotion have produced several publications and projects to mitigate the threat.

Notably, Endangered Heritage: Emergency Evacuation of Heritage Collections and Cultural Heritage in Postwar Recovery are two valuable publications that can help heritage professionals in areas of conflict protect our cultural goods.

Endangered Heritage: Emergency Evacuation of Heritage Collections, recently translated by UNESCO, ICCROM and the Maidan Museum in Ukraine, covers when and how to evacuate collections under threat. The chapters are:

1 Assess

  • Asses the threat
  • Block and prevent the threat from entering
  • Prioritise and prepare a list of objects first to be evacuated, based on their materials and size and weight

2 Prepare

  • Safe location and route (large, sanitised and with no pest/mould infestations, airy, secure against theft or vandalism, safe transportation of the objects)
  • Official Permission
  • Forming a team (documentation, handling and packing, transportation, temporary storage)
  • Assignment of a unique number and location code (the institution site code (letters), floor number, room number, cabinet or shelf number)
  • Prepare emergency evacuation inventory.
  • Gather supplies
  • Identify workspace
  • Safe transportation

3 Document, pack and move

4 Relocate and store

The publication is in an easy to read format, broken down into steps with helpful tips and resources.

Cultural Heritage in Postwar Recovery consists of papers from the ICCROM Forum of October 2005; the papers analyse the impact on cultural heritage, reconstruction and seven case studies. Below are some notable chapters that give further insight into the topic.

  1. The thread of continuity: cultural heritage in
  2. postwar recovery
  3. Cultural destruction by war, and its impact on group identities
  4. Postwar reconstruction and the recovery of cultural heritage: critical lessons from the last fifteen years
  5. Divided cities and ethnic conflict in the urban domain
  6. Hmong postwar identity production: heritage maintenance and cultural reinterpretation

Our take

War has always plagued humanity and brings utter destruction in its path; heritage signifies resilience and peace, maintaining collective memory and identity. Efforts to protect heritage in periods of conflict mark the perseverance of people during the hardest and ugliest of situations. We wish to see a world where war is a foreign topic and publications like this are not a necessity.

I want to learn more:

Endangered Heritage: Emergency Evacuation of Heritage Collections

Cultural Heritage in Postwar Recovery

UNESCO and ICCROM join forces with the Maidan Museum of Kyiv to support Ukraine’s museums

Protecting Cultural Heritage in Ukraine

ALIPH: an initial envelope of USD 2 million to protect Ukraine’s cultural heritage and support its heritage professionals

Building an Emergency Plan, A Guide for Museums and Other Cultural Institutions- Compiled by Valerie Dorge and Sharon L. Jones

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