“After a disaster of course the humanitarian response absolutely has to come first – it’s number one. But people often make the mistake of assuming that there’s nothing that can be done for cultural heritage in that environment during the humanitarian assistance phase. And that’s just not true; you have a ‘golden hour’ to save cultural heritage just as you do human life. And you really can’t separate the cultural heritage from the people.”
– Corine Wegener, Cultural Heritage Preservation Officer, Smithsonian Institution, August 2015
When natural disasters strike, Smithsonian preservation experts, in support of the Heritage Emergency National Task Force, conduct workshops to teach the public simple techniques for preserving damaged personal heirlooms.
Following the destruction of Hurricane Sandy, the Smithsonian provided critical expertise to the cultural community. Learn how conservators were deployed to New York City after Hurricane Sandy to supplement the work of an existing disaster response network.
Since 2013, the Safeguarding the Heritage of Syria and Iraq (SHOSI) Project has provided much-needed emergency preservation work, conservation materials, and training to our Syrian and Iraqi colleagues in the hopes of salvaging damaged collections and sites.
The earthquake that struck near the Kathmandu Valley in Nepal in April 2015 killed more than 9,000 people, injured more than 23,000, and left hundreds of thousands homeless. Read how the Smithsonian helped assemble a team of professionals that assisted in the recovery efforts.
Post-Conflict Assessment and Recovery in Mali
In 2012, armed Islamic extremist groups occupied northern Mali and destroyed many Sufi religious shrines and heritage sites in and around Timbuktu, labeling them as idolatrous. Read how the Smithsonian helped organize a week-long workshop.
Egyptian Museum of Islamic Art Joint Mission
On January 24, 2014, the Museum of Islamic Art in Cairo, Egypt, was heavily damaged by a truck bomb directed at the police station directly across the street. Read how staff from the Smithsonian Institution responded to the situation to help stabilize and conserve collections.
The earthquake that struck Haiti on January 12, 2010, devastated its capital region, killing more than 250,000 and leaving over 1.5 million people homeless. Read how the Smithsonian helped with the 18-month recovery process.
Nimrud Rescue Project
In November 2016, Iraqi forces liberated the ancient city of Nimrud in Northern Iraq, where buildings, monuments, and artifacts were intentionally destroyed. Read how staff from the Smithsonian are working to stabilize and recover endangered antiquities at Nimrud.