First Aid to Cultural Heritage in Times of Crisis

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Initiated in 2009, ICCROM’s ‘First Aid in Times of Conflict’ (FAC) course ran successfully for three installments and focused specifically on training international cultural heritage professionals who work in areas prone to conflicts and need training in critical competencies to take action. After partnering with the Smithsonian and the Prince Claus Fund, the course was re-developed in 2015 with a newly expanded aim of ensuring that the heritage caretakers within any type of crisis-affected community have the ability to participate in their own cultural recovery, which in turn can become a driver for peace and holistic development. This revamped course was hosted first by the Netherlands National Commission for UNESCO in 2015 and by the Smithsonian Institution in 2016. In total, the FAC courses have created a growing network of nearly 100 professionals and have led to 27 additional regional trainings in 21 risk-prone countries.

Are you a domestic heritage professional who wants to learn more about improving your organization’s capacity to prepare for and respond to a disaster involving heritage in the U.S.? Check out SCRI’s Heritage Emergency and Response Training program, known as HEART.

2018 First Aid to Cultural Heritage in Times of Crisis

Press Release

First Aid for Cultural Heritage: international training in the Netherlands to prepare for disaster

In a crisis situation, when there is a natural disaster or violent conflict, the Red Cross is on the scene to rescue and protect people. The Prince Claus Fund together with its partners, ICCROM (Rome, Italy), the Smithsonian Institution (Washington, USA) and the Netherlands Commission for Unesco, can also quickly respond, helping people rescue and protect their cultural heritage.

In this European Year for Cultural Heritage, an international course ‘First Aid to Cultural Heritage in Times of Crisis’ (FAC) will be organised to train professionals from all over the world in the protection of cultural heritage. The course, which will take place in Brabant, the Netherlands, from 6 to 24 August 2018, includes modules on prevention, safe evacuation, stabilisation and protection of cultural heritage at risk.

Twenty-four conservators, archaeologists and archivists will take part, as well as people involved in humanitarian assistance including aid coordinators and military officials. At the end of the course, trainees will apply their skills in a large-scale disaster simulation exercise on 22 August.

A multiplier effect

Since 2010, international FAC training courses have been given in Rome, Amsterdam and Washington DC. Trainees are urged to pass on their knowledge by organising local courses. So far more than 100 ‘cultural first aiders’ have been trained and officially certified in Serbia, Iraq, Egypt and Georgia. They form the core of a growing international network of professionals who are equipped to respond when a natural or manmade disaster threatens to destroy irreplaceable cultural heritage.


The 2018 FAC training has been organised by the Prince Claus Fund together with its partners, ICCROM, the Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative, and the Netherlands Commission for Unesco, as well as local partners: the Province of North Brabant, Brabant Heritage, and the municipalities of Breda and ’s Hertogenbosch.

About the Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative

The Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative (SCRI) works to protect cultural heritage threatened or impacted by disasters and to help U.S. and international communities preserve their identities and history. Guided by four objectives, SCRI: brings recognition and awareness to the scope and impact of cultural heritage loss, ensuring that leaders, policymakers, and citizens understand its value to humanity and the steps needed to protect it; fosters resilience among heritage organizations through training programs that instill a consistent and routine practice of preparedness to safeguard cultural heritage; supports response when disasters place heritage at risk, as invited and as resources allow; and conducts high quality research about at-risk heritage and the experience of cultural loss to infuse data-driven decision making into cultural heritage rescue operations.


For more information, please contact:
Martine Willekens, Prince Claus Fund PR Manager +31(0)653600431

2016 First Aid to Cultural Heritage in Times of Crisis

The first time a FAC course was held in the U.S., FAC brought 21 participants from 18 different countries to the Smithsonian in June 2016. Watch the course video produced by our colleagues at the Office of International Relations.

2015 First Aid to Cultural Heritage in Times of Crisis

In honor of the 60th anniversary of the Hague Convention, an inaugural partnership of The Netherlands National Commission for UNESCO, the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM), and the Smithsonian Institution led to an expanded and redeveloped course. Watch the final simulation exercise of the First Aid to Cultural Heritage in Times of Crisis (FAC) training course held in the Netherlands in April 2015.

FAC Resources

Click the links below to learn more about the FAC framework, guiding principles, as well as other educational resources for heritage professionals dealing with disaster preparedness.

FAC Guiding Principles




For more disaster preparedness resources, check out our general Resources page.