The catastrophic earthquake that struck Haiti on January 12, 2010, killed more than 250,000 people, left over 1.5 million homeless, and destroyed much of the nation’s infrastructure. It also devastated Haiti’s rich cultural heritage. Historic buildings, museums, libraries, archives, galleries, churches, theaters, artists’ workshops, and marketplaces were damaged and ruined. Thanks to many brave and concerned Haitians, some cultural collections were saved, but most had been stored in poor conditions and many are still under the rubble.

The Smithsonian’s contemporary international efforts to preserve cultural heritage began during the aftermath of the devastating 2010 Haiti earthquake. The Smithsonian partnered with multiple organizations to create the Haiti Cultural Recovery Project (HCRP). Led by Dr. Richard Kurin, then Under Secretary for History, Art, and Culture, HCRP partners included the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, the Haitian Ministry of Culture, the American Institute for Conservation Cultural Emergency Response Team (AIC-CERT), the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM), the U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield, and many others. Through these cooperative efforts, the project stabilized and rehoused more than 30,000 objects, including artifacts, paintings, sculptures, architectural fragments, and historical documents, and trained more than 150 Haitian cultural heritage professionals in disaster risk management and collections conservation.

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  • (Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative)