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Monday, May 16 • 2:00pm - 2:30pm
(General Session: GO - Emergency Response) Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition: Developing protocols for protecting Israeli museum collections from armed conflict

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The loss of cultural property in the Middle East has received intense news coverage over the past few years. Publications that address the complexities of protecting heritage in the face of armed conflict or examine previous failures and successes from World War II through to the 2003 Iraq war are increasing. However, in the summer of 2014 in the midst of a military offensive named "Operation Protective Edge" by the Israeli government, the current literature failed to usefully address the issues experienced by conservators in Israeli museums. Since 2000 Israel has been involved in, or the site of, five armed conflicts. These short wars or "operations" have occurred every two to three years and result in the puncturing of the rhythms of what is normally a Western-style culture and lifestyle with intermittent bombings and missile attacks. Unlike the long-running armed conflicts that have consumed Israel's Middle Eastern neighbors where museums and sites suffer from targeted and sustained damage, within Israel, cultural institutions have not been specifically targeted for attack. However, the weapons and tactics in use are not precise enough for institutions to feel that they need not prepare for a catastrophic event. While some Israeli museums have emergency and disaster plans that consider terrorism and war events, the intense push seen in North America in developing emergency protocols has not reached Israel despite the obvious need. Many institutions have lists of their most important or valuable artifacts and a few have plans for what to do in the event of a war. But deciding when to implement these protocols in the face of sporadic attacks is often a difficult judgement call resulting in delays that make them ineffective considering the fast-moving nature of the conflicts. In fact, most nations have not been proactive in developing emergency protocols for situations of armed conflict and acts of terrorism, in spite of recent current events. This paper will outline the challenges noted during a conservator-led initiative for developing stronger emergency protocols for Israeli museums with moveable cultural heritage. Recommendations for linking implementation of emergency preparation steps to local security alert levels will be discussed, as well as other recommendations for exhibition and renovation that facilitate speedy action and long-term protection of art and artifacts in a volatile area.

avatar for Rachael Perkins Arenstein

Rachael Perkins Arenstein

Conservator & Principal, A.M. Art Conservation, LLC
Rachael Perkins Arenstein is a partner of A.M. Art Conservation, LLC, the private practice she co-founded in 2009. She spent the last three years working in Israel as the Conservator at the Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem, an archaeological collection with ceramics from pre-history to the Islamic period and as the conservator for Tel Gezer excavations overseeing the care of finds and protocols for ceramic restoration. Prior to that she worked at the... Read More →


Irit Lev Beyth

Head of Chemistry Conservation Lab, Israel Museum Jerusalem
Irit Lev Beyth was trained at the Queen's program, Kingston, Canada (object stream), and received her M.A.C. in 1994. Through the years she has interned and worked for the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, The Tel Aviv Museum of Art and The Israel Museum, Jerusalem. She is currently the Head of the Chemistry Conservation Department at The Israel Museum in Jerusalem. She is also a partner and co-founder at the Hod... Read More →

Sharon Tager

Conservator, Hod Hasharon Conservation Studio
Sharon Tager is a 2001 graduate of the painting conservation program at the Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London and has an MA in Contemporary Art and Theory obtained in 1998 at Goldsmiths College, University of London, UK. Since her graduation she interned at the V&A's painting conservation department and worked for the National Trust (UK) on several on-site projects for two years. After her return to Israel in 2003, she worked as... Read More →

Monday May 16, 2016 2:00pm - 2:30pm
Room 710 B

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