a group of people in red hardhats sit in front of a red flag
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NEPAL: Earthquake Mission

The 2015 earthquake that struck near the Kathmandu Valley in Nepal in April 2015 took an enormous toll on human life, killing and injuring thousands of people. The earthquake also destroyed many of the region’s important cultural sites which hold the historical legacy of the country. The Smithsonian was honored to serve as part of an international team. In partnership with the Nepal Department of Archaeology, the International Council of Museums (ICOM), the International Centre for the Study of Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM), and the International Council of Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), the team responded to the disaster and assisted in the recovery efforts by salvaging and rehousing vital collections.

They conducted a coordinated damage assessment followed by on- site training for emergency documentation, salvage, stabilization, and storage of collections and built heritage. The team worked with all members of the community, including staff of the Department of Archaeology, the Nepalese Army and Police, engineers and craftsmen, young volunteers, and aid workers.  They organized a series of “on-demand” cultural heritage trainings which included actual salvage operations at impacted museums and temples, for staff of the Nepal Ministry of Culture as well as the Nepal Army and Police.

For longer term work, the Smithsonian National Museum of Asian Art shared research and documentation of traditional Nepali woodwork from its collections. This information was used as reference material for the rebuilding efforts in Kathmandu’s historic center. 

Image: Cultural First Aiders complete their final salvage exercise in Kathmandu at Hanuman Dhoka Dubar Square. Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative/ Corine Wegener