In an effort to increase our training, response, and research capabilities, we host or assist in programming multiple conferences around the globe, convening experts to study and actively support the protection of cultural heritage in crisis.

Current Approaches to the Conservation of Conflict-Affected Heritage

Symposium Hosted at The Ring Auditorium, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden on February 28, 2020

Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative (SCRI) is sharing the presentations on our YouTube channel, beginning May 11, 2020.

Armed conflicts result in damage, destruction, and theft of cultural heritage. This tragic loss raises new and challenging questions to the fields of heritage preservation and conservation. How do we respond to ongoing threats? What support is appropriate for colleagues in conflict-affected areas? What forms of salvage, stabilization, conservation interventions, and commemoration are needed? Are there new or speculative scientific methods that can assist in conservation or tracking the theft of objects? Scholars and practitioners alike are working through these concerns in real time as they are faced with global crises and increased public attention about the post-conflict futures of heritage sites, museum collections, and cultural traditions.

The Smithsonian Institution hosted the symposium, “Current Approaches to the Conservation of Conflict-Affected Heritage” on February 28, 2020. Panelists, who have addressed conflict-affected heritage through collaborative interventions, developing on-the-ground responses, or conducting much needed basic scientific studies, presented ongoing cases from Ukraine, Yemen, Syria, and Iraq, as well as cutting-edge conservation approaches that show great promise in assisting the global effort to restore what has been damaged and recover what has been lost.

This symposium was organized by the Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative, the Smithsonian’s Museum Conservation Institute, and the International Council of Museums Disaster Resilient Museums Committee (DRMC), and supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.


Available May 11, 2020

Session 1: International Heritage Needs and Responses During and After Conflict

Addressing the Conflict-Affected Heritage in Ukraine: Challenges and Responses
Ihor Poshyvailo, National Memorial and the Revolution of Dignity Museum

The Responsive Preservation Initiative: Meeting Urgent Cultural Heritage Needs through the American Overseas Research Centers
Glenn Corbett, Council of American Overseas Research Centers (CAORC)

Preservation Efforts in Northwest Syria
Salam Al Kuntar, Rutgers University/Syrians for Heritage (SIMAT)


Available June 8, 2020

Session 2: International Exchange, Conservation Training, and Salvage in Iraq and Beyond

Livestream TBA

Reconstructing Iraq’s Heritage Sector: Reflections on a Decade of Partnerships and Programs
Brian Michael Lione, Smithsonian's Museum Conservation Institute

Capacity Building After Conflict: Case Studies from The Iraqi Institute for the Conservation of Antiquities and Heritage
Jessica S. Johnson, Smithsonian's Museum Conservation Institute

Nimrud Rescue
Kent Severson, Shangri La Museum of Islamic Art, Culture & Design


Available June 22, 2020

Session 3: New Methodological Approaches to the Heritage Conservation After Conflict

Livestream TBA

Heritage in the Crossfire
Lisa Mol, University of the West of England, Bristol

Macro to Nano: A Multiscale Approach to Characterising Ballistic Damage to Stone
Oliver Campbell, Cardiff University

Cuneiform Tablets After Crisis: The Potential for Better Protection Through Technical Analysis
Katharyn Hanson, Smithsonian's Museum Conservation Institute

March 18, 2020

As a public health precaution, the Smithsonian is postponing or cancelling all large public events, programming and gatherings through May 3, 2020. Please consult our calendar of events, museum websites, and si.edu for the latest updates. Unfortunately this means postponing the Army Monuments Officer Training and all concurrent events, which includes the screening of Stout Hearted: George Stout and the Guardians of Art. The Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative and U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command are planning to reschedule the training and related events later in the year.

Past Events

February 28, 2020

Current Approaches to the Conservation of Conflict-Affected Heritage

Present day armed conflicts have resulted in damage, destruction, and theft of cultural heritage. This loss raises new and challenging questions to the fields of heritage preservation and conservation. How do we respond to ongoing threats? What support is appropriate for colleagues in conflictaffected areas? What forms of salvage, stabilization, conservation interventions, and commemoration are needed? Are there new or speculative scientific methods that can assist in conservation or tracking the theft of objects? Scholars and practitioners alike are working through these concerns in real time as they are faced with a moment of both real global crisis and great public attention about the post-conflict futures of heritage sites, museum collections, and cultural traditions.

Organized by the Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative, the Smithsonian’s Museum Conservation Institute, and the International Council of Museums Disaster Resilient Museums Committee (DRMC), and supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, this symposium brings together panelists who have each addressed conflict-affected heritage through collaborative interventions, developing on-the-ground responses, or conducting much needed basic scientific studies. Participants will discuss on-going cases from Ukraine, Yemen, Syria, and Iraq as well as cuttingedge conservation approaches that show great promise in assisting the global effort to restore what has been damaged and recover what has been lost. This state-of-the-field gathering intends to assess the good work occurring now in conflict and post-conflict spaces and to prompt reflection on what projects will be needed in years to come.

Location: The Ring Auditorium, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Independence Ave and 7th St, Washington, D.C.

August 31, 2019

Are You Ready? Introduction to Disaster Risk Management for Museum Professionals

ICOM’s Disaster Risk Management Committee (DRMC) invites ICOM members for a pre-conference workshop on disaster readiness, response, and resilience, hosted by the Kyoto National Museum. Participants will learn the basic principles and terminology of DRM, an overview of disaster planning and preparedness, with practical exercises for documentation, evacuation, and salvage of museum collections.

Lead instructors for the workshop are Corine Wegener, ICOM DRMC / Director, Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative and Samuel Franco Arce, ICOM DRMC / Program Coordinator, Blue Shield Guatemala.

What is the aim of the activity?
To provide museum professionals an introduction to disaster risk management principles specific to museums and collecting institutions.

Why is Disaster Risk Management important for the future of tradition?
It is the ethical and professional responsibility of museum professional to prepare to protect collections from damage in disasters and preserve them for future generations.

Why attend?
Museum professionals are by necessity the first responders when disasters threaten collections. The 'Are You Ready?' workshop will help museum professionals better understand their risks and how to contribute to planning at their own institutions.

Venue: Kyoto National Museum
Registration: Free (Pre-registration is required)

More info here: http://icom-kyoto-2019.org/other-event.html

August 1, 2018

Preventing Looting and Cultural Destruction: A Dialog with the Carabinieri

Please join the Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative and the Antiquities Coalition for a discussion on current work by leaders in the cultural heritage field, in addition to delving into the importance of multilateral coordination in increasing art market transparency and cultural preservation.

Welcoming remarks from:

Richard Kurin
Smithsonian Distinguished Scholar and Ambassador-at-Large; Acting Director, Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and Freer Gallery of Art

Followed by remarks, discussion, and Q&A with:

Brigadier General Fabrizio Parrulli
Carabinieri Commander for the Protection of Cultural Heritage

November 2, 2017​

Human Rights and Cultural Heritage: A New Paradigm

Join DePaul University College of Law's Center for Art, Museum & Cultural Heritage Law on November 1 and 2, 2017, for our conference Human Rights and Cultural Heritage: A New Paradigm. The conference will begin the evening of Nov. 1 with a screening and panel discussion of the documentary The Destruction of Memory and will continue on Nov. 2 with a full day of exciting panels and lectures (separate registration is required for each day). In the past year, the United Nations Special Rapporteur in the field of Cultural Rights has illustrated clearly the important tie between local communities and cultural heritage, as well as the better known paradigm of a universal interest in the preservation of our shared global heritage. The conference will bring together experts from the fields of anthropology and law to examine the connection between a just society and the protection of cultural heritage for the benefit of all. It will feature the following panels and speakers:

June 2016

Conflict Culture Research Network

On Thursday, June 23, 2016, the Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery hosted the launch of the Conflict Culture Research Network, the next development in the partnership between the University of Pennsylvania Museum, the Smithsonian Institution, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The network supports rigorous, interdisciplinary research that examines how conflict impacts the culture of communities experiencing violence.

Opening statements at the launch event came from Karima Bennoune, the UN Special Rapporteur in the Field of Cultural Rights, followed by a film titled “The Destruction of Memory,” a documentary directed by Tim Slade and based upon the book of the same name by Robert Bevan. The documentary traced the historical efforts to protect cultural property in times of conflict as part of the broader international legal movement to condemn genocide and crimes against humanity.

Click here for more information about the launch of the Conflict Culture Research Network.

October 2015

Death of History: Witnessing Heritage Destruction in Syria and Iraq

On October 28, 2015, in the Kennedy Caucus Room at the Russell Senate Office Building, a luncheon and panel discussion was hosted by the Penn Cultural Heritage Center of the University of Pennsylvania Museum. Accompanying the discussion was an educational exhibit concurrently showcased in the Russell Rotunda. Speakers included Senator Bob Casey, Senator David Perdue, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Edward Royce, and House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Eliot Engel.

Read a press release about the event.​

The expert panel discussion featured:

Click here for more information about the Death of History exhibition and the ongoing digitization projects of the Smithsonian.


Uniting to Save World Cultures Conference: Investigating the Attributes of Successful Emergency Cultural Heritage Interventions

With the financial support from the John and Carolyn Peterson Family Fund and the Smithsonian Grand Challenges Consortia, the Smithsonian Office of the Under Secretary for History, Art, and Culture hosted a two-and-a-half day conference highlighting illustrative case studies that can assist in identifying the key attributes associated with the successful protection of cultural heritage during complex emergencies.

"Collaboration in this field is critical, which is why this symposium, I believe, is such a giant step forward. Too often, the protection and recovery of cultural heritage has been ad hoc and fragmented. Emergency responses to protect cultural heritage have been treated as temporary engagements, for understandable reasons, rather than an ongoing discipline. The result, at times, has been that best practices and protocols and standards are frequently based on circumstantial evidence or conventional expert wisdom. By coming together for this symposium, you are establishing a new body of disaster management data formed by evidence-based analysis and detailed case studies. You are beginning to build capacity and in-depth interdisciplinary research, setting the stage, eventually, for better coordination and collaboration before the next disaster occurs."

– Smithsonian Institution Secretary David Skorton, Oct. 7, 2015

Twelve presentations were delivered on the following four themes: risk reduction; building the capacity for resilience; local leadership during crises; and negotiations and collaborations during and after a crisis.

Watch the presentations and other conference agenda items, including lectures and panel discussions.

September 2015

Vulnerable Heritage: Planning Responses in Iraq and Beyond Workshop, sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution, Penn Cultural Heritage Center at the University of Pennsylvania Museum, the Council of American Overseas Research Centers, and The American Academic Research Institute in Iraq. 

7th Annual Workshop for the U.S. Army Combatant Command Heritage Action Group, sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution and Combatant Command Heritage Action Group (CCHAG).

September 2014

Annual Meeting of the U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield, sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden.

6th Annual Workshop for the U.S. Army COCOM Cultural Heritage Action Group, sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution and Combatant Command Cultural Heritage Action Group (CCHAG).

August 2014

Uniting to Save World Cultures Workshop, held at the National Museum of Natural History, supported with Smithsonian Institution funds from the Consortium for Valuing World Cultures.