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Current Approaches to the Conservation of Conflict-Affected Heritage

Presentations from Current Approaches to the Conservation of Conflict-Affected Heritage are now available on SCRI's YouTube channel

Armed conflicts result in damage, destruction, and theft of cultural heritage. This tragic loss raises new and challenging questions to the fields of heritage preservation and conservation. How do we respond to ongoing threats? What support is appropriate for colleagues in conflict-affected areas? What forms of salvage, stabilization, conservation interventions, and commemoration are needed? Are there new or speculative scientific methods that can assist in conservation or tracking the theft of objects? Scholars and practitioners alike are working through these concerns in real time as they are faced with global crises and increased public attention about the post-conflict futures of heritage sites, museum collections, and cultural traditions.

The Smithsonian Institution hosted the symposium, “Current Approaches to the Conservation of Conflict-Affected Heritage” on February 28, 2020. Panelists, who have addressed conflict-affected heritage through collaborative interventions, developing on-the-ground responses, or conducting much needed basic scientific studies, presented ongoing cases from Ukraine, Yemen, Syria, and Iraq, as well as cutting-edge conservation approaches that show great promise in assisting the global effort to restore what has been damaged and recover what has been lost.

This symposium was organized by the Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative, the Smithsonian’s Museum Conservation Institute, and the International Council of Museums Disaster Resilient Museums Committee (DRMC), and supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Session 1: International Heritage Needs and Responses During and After Conflict

  • Addressing the Conflict-Affected Heritage in Ukraine: Challenges and Responses 
    Ihor Poshyvailo, National Memorial and the Revolution of Dignity Museum
  • The Responsive Preservation Initiative: Meeting Urgent Cultural Heritage Needs through the American Overseas Research Centers
    Glenn Corbett, Council of American Overseas Research Centers (CAORC)
  • Preservation Efforts in Northwest Syria
    Salam Al Kuntar, Rutgers University/Syrians for Heritage (SIMAT)
  • National Museum of Afghanistan (Current Initiatives for Preservation of Movable Heritages in Afghanistan) 
    Fahim Rahimi, National Museum of Afghanistan

Session 2: International Exchange, Conservation Training, and Salvage in Iraq and Beyond

  • Reconstructing Iraq’s Heritage Sector: Reflections on a Decade of Partnerships and Programs
    Brian Michael Lione, Smithsonian’s Museum Conservation Institute
  • Capacity Building After Conflict: Case Studies from The Iraqi Institute
    Jessica S. Johnson, Head of Conservation, Smithsonian Museum Conservation Institute

  • Nimrud Rescue
    Kent Severson, Shangri La Museum of Islamic Art, Culture & Design

Session 3: New Methodological Approaches to Heritage Conservation After Conflict

  • Heritage in the Crossfire
    Lisa Mol, University of the West of England, Bristol
  • Macro to Nano: A Multiscale Approach to Characterising Ballistic Damage to Stone
    Oliver Campbell, Cardiff University
  • Cuneiform Tablets After Crisis
    Katharyn Hanson, Smithsonian Institution