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Tuesday, May 17 • 2:30pm - 3:00pm
(Emergency) Emergency Preservation during Armed Conflict: Protecting the Ma’arra Museum in Syria

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In the past several years we have seen the destruction of cultural heritage around the world increase to a level not seen since World War II. We have witnessed irreversible damage to collections and sites in Mali, Libya, Egypt, Iraq, and several other countries. Amidst the atrocities of Syria’s civil war, Syrian curators, heritage professionals, and activists courageously risk their lives to protect the country’s cultural heritage. Working in areas outside of the Assad regime’s control, these individuals have managed to safeguard collections salvaged from damaged museums, religious institutions, and looted sites. This paper will discuss the efforts of these colleague to learn emergency protection methods and successfully apply them in an actual conflict situation. Last year, a group of Syrian colleagues working in opposition controlled areas of Northern Syria met at a workshop in Turkey to discuss emergency response for cultural heritage in armed conflict. The workshop was organized by the Smithsonian Institution, the Penn Cultural Heritage Center at the University of Pennsylvania Museum, and The Day After Association. The workshop focused on emergency documentation, crating and packing, evacuation, and temporary storage, along with methods for protecting objects in situ. Participants were provided with equipment and supplies for their work back in Syria. Their projects included protection of the Ma’arra Museum in Idlib Province. The historic caravanserai holds a magnificent collection of well-preserved Roman and early Christian mosaics and has suffered collateral damage from aerial barrel bombings and repeated attacks from Jihadi militants. The emergency protection project aimed to secure the mosaics from further harm during the conflict. Altogether, some 1,600 square feet of mosaics were protected with facing and sandbags. The effectiveness of this work was proven in June 2015, when a barrel bomb severely damaged the museum building. The sandbag barriers held, protecting the mosaics and providing a positive example of protective efforts for other sites at risk in the future.

avatar for Dr. Brian Daniels

Dr. Brian Daniels

Director of Research and Programs, Penn Cultural Heritage Center, University of Pennsylvania Museum
Brian Daniels is Director of Research and Programs for the Penn Cultural Heritage Center at the University of Pennsylvania Museum. He co-directs the Safeguarding the Heritage of Syria and Iraq Project, which aims to protect cultural heritage by supporting professionals and activists... Read More →
avatar for Corine Wegener

Corine Wegener

Cultural Heritage Preservation Officer, Smithsonian Institution
Corine Wegener is Cultural Heritage Preservation Officer in the Office of the Under Secretary for History, Art, and Culture at the Smithsonian Institution. She coordinates Smithsonian’s disaster outreach programs for cultural heritage, including in Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Mali, Haiti... Read More →

Tuesday May 17, 2016 2:30pm - 3:00pm EDT
Room 513 A/C