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Cultural Heritage Coordinating Networks

Over the past ten years, the Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative has collaborated with two unifying U.S. cultural heritage disaster response networks and implemented projects that directly and positively impact communities engaged in heritage protection. The Heritage Emergency National Task Force (HENTF) is the domestic arm and the Cultural Heritage Coordinating Committee (CHCC) serves the international function

Domestic Collaboration

The Smithsonian, represented by SCRI, co-chairs with FEMA the HENTF, coordinating the work of more than 60 federal, state, and professional organizations responding to domestic disasters. With help from many Smithsonian units:

  • SCRI has coordinated deployment of experts from across the Smithsonian to numerous domestic disasters as part of the HENTF, including Texas, South Carolina, Louisiana, Nebraska, Iowa, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
  • With FEMA and HENTF, SCRI has fostered the growth of the Save Your Family Treasures (SYFT) program which demonstrates how to handle, dry and clean damaged objects and offers tips on personal safety, prioritization and preservation options. SCRI supports FEMA’s nation-wide effort to bring its Save Your Family Treasures demonstration program to FEMA Disaster Recovery Centers by offering train the trainers sessions to cohorts who will deploy.  We have also developed a video demonstration for our YouTube channel Save Your Family Treasures Demonstration
  • Working with HENTF, SCRI has also developed on-demand training for disaster response events to work with local heritage and emergency responders. The sessions are based on our Heritage Emergency and Response training (HEART) and are hosted by local cultural institutions. This model built local capacity after the 2017 hurricanes that devastated Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.  
  • In coordination with HENTF, SCRI helped compile and hosted the Covid-19 resource hub to help support disaster preparedness and response in cultural institutions. View it here: COVID-19 Resource Hub

Learn more about HENTF

International Collaboration

On the international side, the Smithsonian, through its Distinguished Scholar and Ambassador-at-Large and SCRI Director, is also a key member of the Cultural Heritage Coordinating Committee (CHCC) created by the Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act (PPICPA) of 2016. The CHCC consists of 13 US government agencies working toward a “whole-of-government” approach to international cultural heritage crisis response as directed by the PPICPA. Our contribution to committee work includes:

  • Providing training and advice for cultural property protection under the 1954 Hague Convention.
  • Developing heritage reference guides for U.S. military personnel preparing for operations in places like Iraq and Syria.
  • In collaboration with the Army, developing and delivering the first Army Monuments Officer Training program and graduated the first cohort in August 2022.  This historic program provides heritage expertise to the force for the first time since WW II.
  • As part of its work with the CHCC, SCRI and the FBI developed a training program to document evidence of criminal activity at damaged heritage sites.
  • Coordinating on projects such as the emergency response in the Bahamas that took place after Hurricane Dorian.  To learn more about the mission see, Rescuing Bahamian Culture