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Monday, May 16 • 3:00pm - 3:30pm
(General Session: Lead by Example - Models to Follow) Damage and Destruction of Cultural Heritage in Poland: Lessons from the Past, Initiatives for the Future

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Polish cultural and natural heritage has been threatened with destruction due to physico-chemical causes of decay as well as to social and economic conditions. Human impact and natural disasters have clear consequences on the environment and on objects of cultural interest. Although Poland has generally been included in the group of low risk countries, natural disasters have caused serious problems to cultural property. An example of this was the 1997 Central European flood, in which numerous museums, libraries, archives and historic buildings were affected. The increasing number of natural disasters in Europe during the 1990s shows the vulnerability of significant cultural assets and the lack of preparedness of local emergency services. Although many efforts are still underway, many European cities are still not prepared to protect their cultural heritage against these catastrophes. ICOMOS Poland has listed the principal types of threats faced by the country’s monuments and sites. These include fire hazard, danger due to modernization of industrial sites, threats to military cultural heritage places, deterioration due to lack of use or insufficient funding, as well as theft and smuggling. As a result of previous devastations, a series of evaluations have been carried out with the aim of developing guidelines and regional coordination programs to be ready for future disasters. Risk management plans have been devised focusing on natural disasters, but little attention has been paid to human-made disasters. For instance, Poland has experienced a number of human-made disasters of which those produced during the Second World War are worth remembering. Some of the measures that embrace the protection of Poland’s natural and cultural heritage will be presented, from national to regional initiatives. An example at the national scale is the case of Warsaw, a city that was deliberately annihilated by enemy troops during WWII in an attempt to destroy the identity of Polish people. Nonetheless, after the war, Poland decided to rebuild the city on the basis of available photographic and written sources. Likewise, an important earlier regional initiative was the establishment of the National Museum in Krakow in October 7, 1879 by a resolution of the Krakow City Council. This was the first National Museum at a time when the Polish people were deprived of their own statehood and country. Since its foundation, the National Museum has always been committed to protecting the cultural heritage objects entrusted to it. A more recent goal of the Museum is to develop and implement adequate preventive conservation practices that are aimed at lowering the risks and minimizing the damage to its collections, associated with natural and human-made disasters. A series of case studies will show how the collections have benefitted from the collaboration between museum administrators, collection managers, conservators, and scientists. The result of these partnerships have allowed devising and implementing collection care strategies within various museum areas including exhibition, loans, transport, and storage.

avatar for Julio M. del Hoyo-Meléndez

Julio M. del Hoyo-Meléndez

Research Scientist, National Museum in Krakow
Julio M. del Hoyo-Meléndez holds a PhD in science and conservation of cultural heritage from the Department of Conservation and Restoration of Cultural Heritage of the Polytechnic University of Valencia, Spain. He received a bachelor's and a master's degree in chemistry from the... Read More →

avatar for Joanna Sobczyk

Joanna Sobczyk

Conservation Scientist, National Museum in Krakow
Joanna Sobczyk works as a conservation scientist in the Laboratory of Analysis and Non-Destructive Investigation of Heritage Objects (LANBOZ) of the National Museum in Krakow. She is responsible for coordinating, overseeing, and documenting all preventive conservation activities for... Read More →

Monday May 16, 2016 3:00pm - 3:30pm EDT
Room 516 CD