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Monday, May 16 • 5:00pm - 5:30pm
(General Session: GO - Emergency Response) Building a Foundation for Cultural Recovery, Resilience and Future Conservation Efforts in Haiti after the 2010 Earthquake

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From 2010 – 2015, multi-disciplinary efforts have been progressing to build capacity to protect cultural heritage in Haiti after the major earthquake that struck the Port-au-Prince region in 2010. The Smithsonian Institution Haiti Cultural Recovery Project was formed in partnership with the government of Haiti to assist Haitian culture professionals in the recovery of their gravely damaged cultural heritage. This project evolved into a longer-term effort to formally establish cultural conservation in Haiti, culminating in this year’s inauguration of the Cultural Conservation Center at Quisqueya University. The authors collaborated in the recovery mission as chief conservator and cultural recovery center director respectively; our paper aims to present the transition from a cultural recovery project to the foundation of a national conservation center in Haiti. The 7.1 magnitude earthquake, yielded horrific humanitarian consequences, as well as widespread destruction of built heritage and dramatic damage to collections. An estimated 280,000 people perished and 1.5 million others left homeless. The response to the cultural devastation was secondary, although deemed of importance by international cultural organizations. In March 2010, the Haiti Cultural Recovery Project was proposed whereby the Smithsonian Institution would support the efforts of Haitian colleagues. The project faced such serious challenges that the success of our mission seemed elusive. We had to build a cultural recovery infrastructure to address a catastrophe of devastating proportions in a tropical climate, while simultaneously training a local base of preservation professionals. A combination of key variables turned our mission into a successful model of disaster recovery and building resilience. Successful heritage recovery involves a collaborative effort among different people and institutions sharing common values. Collaboration with various partners was crucial for this project to succeed: the Haitian Government; Haitian, U.S., and international institutions that could provide human resources and a knowledge base needed to solve technical and practical problems; Haitian cultural agencies and private organizations which own collections; training institutions and universities; and the media. By the means of a series of differentiated agreements, collaborative conservation strategies, and through constant communication, our project bridged these partners to achieve meaningful results. Approximately 30,000 artworks, books, documents, monuments and wall paintings from 20 institutions were recovered. AIC was an important partner, contributing significant logistics coordination of both volunteer deployments and critical supply procurement. Fifty conservators and collection managers from the United States, Canada and Europe participated in our project in various capacities. The June 2015 inauguration of the purpose-built Quisqueya University conservation center in Port-au-Prince demonstrates a serious commitment by Haitian culture professionals to heritage preservation. Moreover, this Center is the first francophone conservation center in the Caribbean and only the second center in the region. As Haiti sits on two seismic faults and is regularly subjected to other disasters, primarily tropical storms and hurricanes, future disaster recovery activities will likely occupy the Center. The aftermath of a major catastrophe requires years of dedication because damage is both severe and widespread. In Haiti, perhaps a quarter century of work remains. Going forward, we have new challenges and opportunities.

avatar for Stephanie Hornbeck, [PA]

Stephanie Hornbeck, [PA]

Chief Conservator, The Field Museum
Stephanie Hornbeck is Chief Conservator at the Field Museum. From 2010-2017 she was Director of Conservation at Caryatid Conservation Services, her Miami-based private practice specializing in the professional care of three-dimensional objects. From 2010-2012,she served as Chief Conservator... Read More →
avatar for Olsen Jean Julien

Olsen Jean Julien

Director, Phenixience, Consultation and Development Firm
Olsen Jean Julien is an engineer-architect from the State University of Haiti. He also holds a Master's Degree in the Conservation of Monuments and Cultural Property from the Universidad Nacional Pedro Henríquez Ureña (UNPHU, Dominican Republic) and a Post-Graduate Certificate in... Read More →

Monday May 16, 2016 5:00pm - 5:30pm EDT
Room 710 B