Satellite imagery shows evidence of looting in an archaeological site in Mari, Syria
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We aim to expand the knowledge and understanding of the causes and responses to cultural heritage destruction, informing strategic solutions and investments in action.

Developing effective approaches to address cultural heritage emergencies requires a nuanced understanding of the risks involved. Is there a way to predict when and where destruction of cultural heritage will occur? Will changes in our climate place more treasures in harm’s way? When is ethnic and sectarian violence likely to result in intentional destruction of cultural heritage? As a research organization with deep academic roots and an authoritative reputation, the Smithsonian is poised to ask and answer questions like these, which are largely unaddressed by current scholarship. We are building an interdisciplinary network of scholars to conduct impartial research investigations, and sharing the findings and best practices with experts, policymakers, and students, to inform the preparation and response to future hazards threatening cultural heritage.

Having the right tool for the job can often mean the difference between failure and success. The effective deployment of technologies such as Geographic Information Systems and Remote Sensing could aid in the mapping of cultural sites and the impact of disasters. Salvage and stabilization techniques developed especially for use in the field could better position local cultural heritage professionals to address crises on their own. The Smithsonian’s experience in developing and implementing these tools and techniques can turn knowledge into action.

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SCRI Research Reports

Meet the team harnessing satellite imagery in a new way to help protect cultural heritage sites worldwide.

Researcher Profiles


Dr Katharyn Hanson

Katharyn Hanson, Ph.D., is the Head of Research at the Smithsonian's Cultural Rescue Initiative (SCRI) and a Smithsonian Secretary's Scholar. Dr. Hanson is an archaeologist specializing in the protection of cultural heritage. Previously she served as a Heritage Preservation Scholar at the Smithsonian’s Museum Conservation Institute (MCI), Executive Director of The Academic Research Institute in Iraq (TARII), a visiting researcher at the Geospatial Technologies Team at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and held post-doctoral fellowships at the University of Pennsylvania Museum and MCI. She previously directed archaeological site preservation training at the Iraqi Institute for the Conservation of Antiquities and Heritage in Erbil, Iraq. She received her doctorate from the University of Chicago with a dissertation entitled “Considerations of Cultural Heritage: Threats to Mesopotamian Archaeological Sites.” She currently serves on the Board of TARII and she has been involved in various archaeological fieldwork projects for over 25 years and has curated museum exhibits and published on damage to cultural heritage sites. Dr. Hanson's research combines archaeology, remote sensing, and cultural heritage protection methodology and policy with on-the-ground action to protect culture.

Dr. Brian I Daniels

Brian I. Daniels is the director of research and programs for the Penn Cultural Heritage Center at the University of Pennsylvania Museum and a research associate at the Smithsonian Institution. Dr. Daniels co-directs the Safeguarding the Heritage of Syria and Iraq Project, which aims to enhance the protection of cultural heritage by supporting professionals and activists in conflict areas, and leads a National Science Foundation-supported study about the intentional destruction of cultural heritage in conflict. He has also worked with local communities on issues surrounding heritage rights and repatriation for over fifteen years. Previously, he served as the manager of the National Endowment for the Humanities regional center initiative at San Francisco State University, where he worked on strategies for community engagement and folklore documentation. Dr. Daniels received his doctoral degree from the University of Pennsylvania.

Dr. Hayden Bassett

Hayden Bassett is a research associate at the Smithsonian Institution, the archaeology curator at the Virginia Museum of Natural History, and the director of the Cultural Heritage Monitoring Lab (CHML). The CHML is a collaborative lab operated by the Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative and the Virginia Museum of Natural History. Through this lab, Dr. Bassett conducts global satellite monitoring and analysis to identify and safeguard cultural heritage threatened by armed conflict and natural disaster. Dr. Bassett is closely involved with the SCRI-supported U.S. Army Monuments Officer Training (AMOT) program, and through the CHML, provides support to U.S. Government agencies and international cultural heritage NGOs. Previously, he served as an archaeologist for the U.S. Department of Defense, where he directed archaeological fieldwork and cultural property protection in East Africa, the Middle East, southern Europe, and throughout the United States. Dr. Bassett received his doctoral degree from the College of William & Mary.

Dr Nana Kaneko

Dr. Nana Kaneko supports the coordination of the Heritage Emergency National Task Force (HENTF). The HENTF, co-sponsored by SCRI and FEMA’s Office of Environmental Planning and Historic Preservation (OEHP), is a public-private partnership of 60 national service organizations and federal agencies working to protect cultural heritage in our nation’s states, tribes, territories, and local communities from the damaging effects of natural disasters and other emergencies. Prior to joining FEMA’s OEHP, Kaneko was the SCRI Mellon/ACLS Public Fellow and Program Manager for Cultural Disaster Analysis where she monitored, organized, coordinated, and evaluated program implementation, operations, and administration to meet the needs of cultural heritage organizations working on response. Kaneko completed her Ph.D. in Ethnomusicology at the University of California, Riverside, in 2017. Her dissertation, entitled “Performing Recovery: Music and Disaster Relief in Post-3.11 Japan,” examines the role of music in recovery efforts following the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear fallout that struck Northeast Japan on March 11, 2011. Kaneko conducted two years of fieldwork while based in Sendai as a visiting researcher at Miyagi University of Education.

SCRI Director, Cori Wegener

Corine Wegener is director of the Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative (SCRI), an outreach program dedicated to the preservation of cultural heritage in crisis situations in the U.S. and abroad. SCRI’s work includes projects in Syria, Iraq, Haiti, Nepal, and around the world. SCRI also co-chairs, with FEMA’s Office of Environmental and Historic Preservation, the Heritage Emergency National Task Force, part of the U.S. National Disaster Recovery Framework. Before coming to the Smithsonian in 2012, Wegener was an associate curator in the department of Decorative Arts, Textiles, and Sculpture at the Minneapolis Institute of Art. During a concurrent career as a US Army Reserve officer, she served on several military deployments, including as an Arts, Monuments, and Archives Officer assigned to assist after the 2003 looting of the Iraq National Museum. Wegener has a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the University of Nebraska Omaha and MA degrees in Political Science and Art History from the University of Kansas.