Today, irreplaceable collections, cultural heritage sites, and cultural traditions face unprecedented hazards. Not since World War II has the record of human artistic and social endeavor been at such risk of destruction from armed conflict and sectarian violence. Beyond this violence, earthquakes, superstorms, climate change, and other threats render people and their heritage increasingly vulnerable. Cultural heritage is not a renewable commodity. When it is gone, communities lose resources for economic development, tourism, and commerce, as well as knowledge, inspiration for creativity, and a sense of historically shared or connected identity.
To combat these risks, the Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative (SCRI) represents a recently emerging national and international effort to ensure that cultural heritage survives natural disasters and human conflicts and can be used as a resource for a community’s or nation’s future civic and economic well-being. It employs a collaborative approach and serves as a trusted resource for the cultural heritage disaster risk management community by supporting cultural heritage stewards in the U.S. and abroad.