two women carry a beam in Nepal
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International Response

The priority in the wake of any disaster is the preservation of human life. As something that is both reflective of and integral to living, the preservation of cultural heritage should also receive proactive assistance from first responders. By swiftly mobilizing and deploying expertise, the Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative can follow military and humanitarian organizations and  join local experts in assessing damage, prioritizing critical needs and developing an action plan for stabilizing, securing and repairing damaged treasures, icons and symbols of cultural heritage. The Smithsonian has already proven its ability to lead responses to cultural heritage crises in challenging locations, as evidenced by its past work in Haiti, Mali, Egypt, Syria, Nepal, and Iraq.

We coordinate closely with partners on the ground. 

We do this through:

Deploying Expertise

  • Answer the call to respond to disasters affecting cultural heritage when we are invited, the situation is safe and secure, and we have the resources to assist.
  • Maintain trained emergency response personnel for consultation with local stakeholders help prevent permanent damage and harm to important cultural heritage.
  • Coordinate Smithsonian interventions with other humanitarian organizations, governments, funders, and international agencies for successful and cost-effective emergency responses.

Needs Assessment, Salvage, and Emergency Stabilization

  • By listening to the needs and priorities of local communities and working collaboratively with them to stabilize and conserve the items of cultural heritage that mean the most to them.

Building  Capacity

  • Invest in long-term, on-the-ground training initiatives that grow the skills, capabilities and capacity of local cultural heritage professionals to protect and conserve their own cultural heritage.
  • Consult with and raise awareness of the efforts of the work of our alumni in international cultural heritage rescue.

Developing Tools and Techniques

  • Through our Research priority, we will work collaboratively with university, government, corporate and philanthropic partners to develop innovative tools that can build on existing technologies and can be deployed during a response.
  • Create and contribute to datasets of cultural heritage sites in high risk environments and cultural destruction  to monitor damage and plan for recovery.  


Our strategies and tactics for the response priority will ensure that through swift intervention and action, important objects of cultural heritage are spared from destruction and continue to be accessible to the communities they represent.