Preserving Cultural Heritage in Natural and Manmade Disasters


Malka Pattison:  [0:02] Good afternoon, I'm Malka Pattison, and I would like to welcome you to: '"The office of policy analysis seminar series".

[0:09] We usually talk about natural resources but today we're going to change course and talk about cultural resources. And we have reached out to the Smithsonian Institute, Corine Wegener, the cultural resource heritage preservation officer it's with us today to talk about international cases and domestic implications. Thank you.

Corine Wegener:  [0:37] Good afternoon everybody. Thank you very much for inviting me, Malka, I'm very pleased to be here. And pleased to see some of my colleagues in the audience that I worked with over the years on cultural heritage preservation issues, both domestically and internationally.

[0:54] That's what I want to talk to about a little today. But first I thought it might be good if we just had a few words about what's Smithsonian and I think a lot of people who are here, in the DC area probably know that we are not just a one museum, the Castle. But a lot of people don't.

[1:11] We are for the increase and diffusion of knowledge. We're quasi‑governmental, so we are a United States government trust instrumentality, meaning we are a little federal and a little not.

[1:24] I myself am a federal employee and then we have quite a number of us who are foundation trust employees. John Smithson gave us a bequest to the United States government who was a British citizen back in 18th century and that was later years to create the Smithsonian as an institution of knowledge, learning and sharing that knowledge.

[1:53] We have a number of museums that are on the mall and in other parts to the DC are storage, locations and we have also museums in New York City and we have a number of research institutes. We have 19 museums, 9 research centers and a zoo.

[2:12] We are about preserving America's treasures but also about the world's cultural and scientific legacy, we hold a lot of natural history collections including type specimen from all over the world. Millions of objects actually and then also a number of cultural heritage and art collections as well.

[2:34] How does the Smithsonian get involved in emergency response for cultural heritage? Well, of course, we have our own museums and collections that we have emergency planning for.

[2:46] Obviously we've had a few emergencies at Smithsonian overtime, starting with the fire at the Castle in 19th century. What a tragedy, we lost a lot of important collections during that period. But today we have a robust disaster planning mechanism at the Smithsonian. We were actually called upon in 2010 after the Haiti earthquake to assist our colleagues.

[3:10] Some of you may have heard of the Folklife festival that happens every year in the mall that focuses on in different country every year. Around 2005 there was a focus on Haiti. Colleagues who had done fellowships here in Washington DC who were part of the ministry of culture in Haiti called upon this Smithsonian forces after the 2010 earthquake.

[3:33] You can see here an image of the holy, National Cathedral, National Catholic Cathedral and Port of Prince after the earthquake. A number of collections were damaged. This is one of the important paintings collections. Haiti experienced [inaudible 0:03:49] renaissance in its painting, culture and expertise in the 1950s and 60s.

[3:57] The [inaudible 0:03:57] has thousands of examples from that Haitian renosance period all the way up to contemporary painting. Thousands of those paintings were trapped under rubble and evacuated by the staff there into containers to protect them from the elements because of course earthquakes always have to happen right before the monsoon and hurricane season hits.

[4:22] Here is the close‑up you can see that it's like for the rescuers, here those paintings are just within reach but in too dangerous and area to go. Sorry that's a little blurry.

[4:34] This is a photo I think a phone photo of our international team that we developed. Early in the project we sent a group of conservators from the Smithsonian to do assessment on what would take to stabilize many of these collections.

[4:49] They weren't from that museum they were from all type of collections around, in and around Port of Prince libraries, archival collections. We were able to establish a rotation working with our colleagues at the American Institute for the conservation of artistic and historic works and others.

[5:09] We were able to get a group of volunteers so that we had a rotation of a group of different types of conservators. Every couple of weeks we established the Center for Cultural Heritage Recovery in a compound of Port of Prince where we made make shift conservation labs. We set up a triage system for these thousands of historic works and artistic works where we just stabilized and re‑housed these objects.

[5:39] We had colleagues from the International Conservation Center in Rome come up and help us set up training first aid training we call it for cultural heritage collections in Haiti. Doing that we were able to basically stabilize and re‑house more than 30,000 objects over about an 18‑month period.

[6:01] We worked also with our military colleagues. We find it in many parts of the world, the military becomes that de facto or first responder for cultural heritage.

[6:10] We had the MINUSTAH peace keeping force from the UN working there, group of Japanese engineers, we were able to talk them into helping us with the salvage exercises, Sand radar. We, even six months after the earthquake, recovered many, many pieces of art from the rubble of that building.

[6:35] We did a lot of training. We trained more than a hundred Haitian cultural heritage professional staff from the different museums and institutions around Haiti, in different types of objects, paintings, and paper conservation so that they would be more resilient for the next time they experience a disaster like this and better able to create a network for response.

[7:02] Our biggest project was probably the Holy Trinity murals at the Episcopal cathedral in Port‑au‑Prince. This was a series of 14 murals of which, after the earthquake, only three survived. We're able to stabilize them and cut them into small pieces so that it can be reassembled when they are able to rebuild the church.

[7:27] It symbolizes everything about the disaster response for Haiti since we protect our patrimony. This was spray painted on buildings to prevent their immediate demolition. It signaled that the Ministry of Culture wanted to keep this building intact until it could be thoughtfully disassembled, saved, or stabilized, whatever they were going to do.

[7:50] We did a book related to the overall project which came out, I guess, probably 2011 or '12. Pretty rapid response for writing a book, I have to say. It's available online in a PDF format, If you don't find it there, check back later under the book title, "Saving Haiti's Heritage," because we're migrating websites.

[8:21] The good news is, this is just taken a couple of weeks ago, using all the stay behind conservation equipment and materials that we shipped to Haiti over several month period. Quisqueya University wanted to start a conservation training program, they're on Port‑au‑Prince.

[8:41] The Ben Stiller Foundation gave us funding to add a building to the existing campus. This is my boss, Richard Kurin, on the left, and our project manager, Olsen Jean Julien, on the right.

[8:54] At the grand opening of the center just a couple of weeks ago, which is where I got the cold that I clearly still have when I'm trying to talk, this is the laboratory, the work tables, and secure storage areas, areas where you can sequester off collections before they are worked on, et cetera.

[9:17] There are all kinds of good, up‑to‑date equipments in the conservation lab so we're really excited about that opportunity. We're going to have an ongoing relationship between the Smithsonian and Quisqueya University to make sure that happens.

[9:34] When I was working on that project, I was actually still working at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts as a curator and just going back and forth to Haiti on a regular basis. It wasn't until 2012 that I started working at Smithsonian and my very first day of work was the Monday after superstorm Sandy went through the East Coast.

[9:58] I didn't even have a desk yet and my boss said, "We're on Heritage Preservation, Heritage Emergency National Task Force Conference Call. At 10:00 o'clock, be in my office." I was. Some of my colleagues who are here in the room Laurie Foley, John Caching from FEMA were on the call. Also Jane Yeagley here from Interior.

[10:21] I was like a deer in the headlights. I was just like, "OK. Never really doubt with anything quite the scale before."

[10:31] What was Smithsonian able to do where one member of the Heritage Emergency National Task Force, which is a group of organizations, both public and private that look at cultural heritage issues during US domestic disasters. We're able to send some of our conservation staff to look at collections that were damaged in the flooding.

[10:54] This is a warehouse where they had shifted collections from the Martha Graham Dance Company, which were flooded for many, many days. There're fabulous sum on Gucci sets, much of their archival collections.

[11:09] Luckily, their most important collections had already been given to collecting institutions in the past, but this was stuff that they needed for their operation of their dance company.

[11:18] We send conservators, to advise them on how to prevent mold growth, get things dried out in a safe way, and help them assess the damage to their collections, overall. Get things in a freezer.

[11:31] We paid for them, to have everything frozen, by one of the disaster mitigation companies. Then, we created the super storm, Sandy Cultural Recovery Center. The American Institute for Conservation really drove this process with their volunteers from the AIC‑CERT, their Collections Emergency Response Team members.

[11:50] We paid for some of the materials and equipment, but it was very much based along the lines of what we did in Haiti, because a lot of the same people came to work with us in Haiti.

[11:59] This was open over a period of several weeks, to help with stabilization and treatment of mostly paintings collections, but all kinds of materials. What I'm more used to doing is, working on an international basis.

[12:19] Unfortunately these days, it seems the most prevalent type of disaster that we're dealing with, is armed conflict and the distraction of cultural heritage, during armed conflict.

[12:30] A lot of you remember the Jihadists occupation of Northern Mali, a couple of years ago. As the Jihadists were driven out by French forces, they burned and pillaged in their way, because they left Northern Mali, especially in the City of Timbuktu.

[12:49] Here, you see these important medieval manuscripts collections. Many were burned by them. On the way out, they destroyed the Sufi saint's tombs, which were so important to the people's religious worship and cultural heritage, and to tourism in Timbuktu. Who doesn't want to say, "I've been to Timbuktu and back?"

[13:10] Unfortunately, for those of us, who've never been to Timbuktu, it's never going to be quite the same, as it was before this. Also, people's cultural heritage, their way of life was also damaged by the Jihadists.

[13:24] They were prevented from worshipping as they chose, prevented from doing traditional dance, song, poetry, costume, everything about the way they practice their daily lives, and cultural heritage was prevented by the Jihadists.

[13:39] For the Malians I met, they were angrier about that, almost than the physical destruction of objects and monuments. There's a great story, because what I finds is, it's the people who take care of collections every day, who were the ones who saved them, when there's a disaster. It's not the people, who swoop in, parachute in, and fix it for them. It's the people who cared for it every day.

[14:04] This is the story of the people caring for these manuscripts collections in Timbuktu, over time. Right under the noses of these Jihadists, they snuck these manuscripts collections down South, to the capital in Bamako, to protect them.

[14:19] This is where I first got to see these pieces, or these trunks and trunks of these manuscripts collections, both from private collections and national collections down in Bamako, being preserved.

[14:35] The manuscripts got a lot of international attention and a lot of donor attention. It seemed to us, as well as the Malian Ministry of Culture and our UNESCO colleagues in Bamako that, it was the museum that had been damaged by the Jihadists, that didn't get a lot of attention.

[14:55] They asked the Smithsonian and the International Council of Museums, to organize a workshop for Mali's Museum Professionals.

[15:03] As the project developed, it became West African Museum Professionals from eight different countries, who gathered together at the National Museum of Mali in Bamako, to share their experiences about how they've overcome the problems of Jihadists of looting, of security for their collections, or how they didn't, and what they wished they had done differently.

[15:26] We had a five‑day workshop that was successful at doing that. I learned as much from these colleagues, who were able to save their collections, as they learned from us.

[15:38] A couple of my colleagues from Smithsonian, came also to talk about, exhibitions that better connect with the communities that you serve, because we feel like we do a good job of this at the Smithsonian, especially with our Folklife Festival.

[15:53] It's one of the biggest community connecting events that happens here in Washington DC every year. That's the story of our workshop in Mali. We have an ongoing relationship with our colleagues there, keeping in touch, keeping the network alive.

[16:09] This is a big part of the battle of disaster response, as having networks that you constantly keep refreshed. Syria, this has been an ongoing terrible problem.

[16:23] Nowadays, you just say Syria and Iraq, because the problem is definitely a trans‑border issue. We've seen a lot of destruction of cultural heritage in Syria, from the civil war that started more than four years ago, but then that begin to shift to intentional destruction of cultural heritage by extremist groups, like ISIL, combined with the collateral damage of the civil war.

[16:52] Then, this is also crossing back and forth over the border into Iraq, as ISIL expands its territory. Right after I started at Smithsonian, we started a partnership with a group of organizations, who wanted to try to do something to help our colleagues working in a non‑government controlled parts of Syria.

[17:11] We felt the government controlled parts had the Ministry of Culture to help them, but who was helping those who decided to side with the opposition, and no longer how to paycheck from the Ministry of Culture. We're controlling territory, then included museums and archaeological sites.

[17:30] We created a network, starting with the Penn Cultural Heritage Center, because they have Syrian expats, who are serving as professors there, living here in the United States, with a whole, huge network of their colleagues, who have left Syria in the past several years, because it's not safe for them to be there.

[17:53] We started working with these colleagues, who have maintained those networks and connections on the ground in Syria.

[17:59] You can see the long list of colleagues there. One of the first things we wanted to do was, do one of these first‑aid training courses for Syrian colleagues. We couldn't go to Syria to do this, so we did it in Turkey. Our colleagues came across the border, to work with us for a week‑long seminar on first‑aid.

[18:19] For collections, emergency packing and creating, how to protect collections in‑situ that can't be moved, how to better secure our archeological sites, how to decide when your collection should be evacuated, or when it's better staying in place and hiding, all of these kinds of questions, and we had a lot of back and forth discussion about that.

[18:42] Here's what I just said. To create a dialogue, because a lot of these colleagues were from different cities in opposition‑controlled Syria, and hadn't seen one another in a long time. It was renewing their network.

[18:58] Here are some of my colleagues, Robert Patterson from national museum, American‑Indian, an expert extraordinaire on packing. He helped move the entire collection for that museum from New York City to Washington DC.

[19:11] He was able to shift his thinking after talking with me a little bit about, "How do you do this kind of packing if you don't have the resources of the Smithsonian. What can you substitute for ethafoam and all these nice materials that we're used to having?" [inaudible 0:19:27] the archaeologist from UPAN who basically helped get all these people there and they trust her and know her.

[19:37] We were able to have this dialogue with theses colleagues, their biggest concern was having materials to protect a particular museum that they were in control of. The Marra museum which houses one of the most important mosaics collections in the world.

[19:53] We bought a lot of materials for them. It's not always easy to find what you need in little hardware stores around in small towns in Turkey. We were amazed that you could actually buy a non‑brand name of Tyvek there, Spun Polyester all the things we needed we were able to locate.

[20:13] They took these materials. They went back to Syria. They did the work to secure these collections all monuments meant of World War II. They used water based glue to face these mosaics that are made out of tiny stone [inaudible 0:20:33] .

[20:34] They are phenomenal. You can get an idea of how detailed and amazing they are. They just line all the walls of the old caravan [inaudible 0:20:42] which is a historic place in and of itself. You can see they did the hard work of filling these sandbags and protecting these mosaics all around...focused on more important ones.

[20:56] Unfortunately about a month ago the museum was barrel bombed which is one of the risks, one of the hazards that we were worried about. You can see here it's pretty serious. We don't think it was intentionally targeted. Nonetheless the damage was extensive but the good news was that our strategy worked.

[21:17] You can see here, this is the interior wall where one of the mosaics had been sandbagged. The blast on the exterior, literally the impact blew the sandbags off of the wall on the inside but the mosaic is intact. It didn't burst through the wall. The pressure on the backside was able to shield the mosaics.

[21:42] That's one thing when you have an unintentional collateral damage like that, it's another thing when you have utterly unintentional damage where they are seeking out cultural heritage to destroy people's identity. To destroy their will to fight.

[21:59] This is the ancient side of Nimrud, it's one of the best known archaeological sites in Iraq. I'm very familiar with that material having worked at the Iraq museum during the US occupation there. Museums all over the United States have these winged genius. Amazing freezes and a lot of you have probably seen these at university art museums and places like that.

[22:28] Couple of months ago they utterly destroyed the site and everything in it. Intentionally blowing up each freeze, each sculpture and then blowing up the entire site. This is what we are dealing with.

[22:43] The last case I'd like to talk to you a little bit about is the Nepal Earthquake. International colleagues and I were literally in the Netherlands finishing up a first aid course for international participants that we were having in Amsterdam which was very much focused on floods as you might imagine being in the Netherlands.

[23:07] When we heard about the Nepal Earthquake and we immediately started calling our colleagues. I'm the chair of the international council of museums disaster relief task force. It's my job to try to connect with our colleagues at museums on the ground there and find out what the damage was and unfortunately it was pretty extensive.

[23:27] This is the side of the Hanuman Dokha museum where some of these temples collapsed entirely. As you see that what I said earlier, who are the first responders, the army. The army was the first responders for much of these disasters and the police.

[23:43] This is the interior courtyard of the Hanuman Dokha palace museum being and sort of not so safe ways. People still coming to these sites to worship at these temples even as the walls are starting to collapse because it's part of their daily lives and it's a part of their daily routines and they are not willing to give it up.

[24:06] This is the national museum of Nepal. One of the storage, one of the buildings that stored the collections and here you see this extensive damage. One of the things that I was asked to talk about is damage assessment and putting dollar amounts to damage assessments in order to allow recovery.

[24:29] I think that a lot of us who are focus on collections feel it's really easy to do that for buildings, people but I know a big area of concern for those of us involved with collections is that it's a lot harder to put that dollar amount on. Because first of all you have to see what extent the collections are damaged.

[24:50] I am not a conservator, I'm a curator so I feel like I need a conservator looking over my shoulder saying, "If I have to conserve that object it's going to take me 32 hours and it's going to cost however many hundred dollars an hour to do that and to do that assessment."

[25:09] It takes some time to work it out and that's just one object out of the thousand that you're talking about in this collection. That puts people around the world...we had a discussion at the UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Japan back in march and there were a whole group of collections people talking about this issue.

[25:30] For people that are coming from countries where there is a ministry of culture and you have to work with your colleagues to provide the government and estimate of how much money it's going to take to do the recovery of these museums and places.

[25:46] They say we're at such a disadvantage. Our colleagues in other parts of government can whip out this estimate for recovering schools or whatever in a very short amount of time and we can't do that.

[25:59] We need tools to enable us to do that. That's what a lot of us in the field are hoping that we can achieve in the future. So what did we do in Nepal?

[26:12] I think you will see a recurring theme here. These are museum professionals, most of them young museum professionals. Mid‑career folks who were selected by the department of archaeology of Nepal who are responsible for the museum system there.

[26:29] We did a first aid course with them. We talked to them about rapid documentation of the disaster and assessment. We talked about evacuation versus salvage.

[26:40] When you're doing salvage, how did you triage of the objects that you salvage. How to plan for the transportation and rehousing of those collections on and on. They were from several different museums around the Kathmandu valley from Bhaktapur, from Patan, from Hanuman Dokha, couple I can't remember right now.

[27:06] The idea behind this frame work which is not my idea. It's the international conservation centre in Rome that developed the first aid framework.

[27:17] The ideas that we are training the trainers, they are going to go back to their institutions, tell people what they learned and make a plan for how they are going to use that knowledge in their institutions. So that we can rapidly provide this for 20 people who go teach 20 people and then they start working together as a network to do this work.

[27:37] This is the first day of each of them getting to know each other better because they are expected to become a team that will stay a network for years to come. They were selected for their ability to make this happen.

[27:53] Here we are getting our safety equipment, learning how to put together our helmets and getting ready to go into one of the damaged buildings at the Hanuman Dokha museum to actually do a rapid assessment and come back out and report to their colleagues what they saw. How much time, transportation and rehousing that one gallery of collections is going to take.

[28:18] We worked closely with structural engineers to make sure nobody got hurt doing this but there's always a risk nonetheless.

[28:26] You see the Hanuman Dokha museum in the background heavily damaged, people cannot really operate inside that building. There are still collections in that building.

[28:37] Here they are salvaging important architectural fragments of one of the collapsed temple. Those are our participants that have the pretty colored aprons on because that was the only aprons we could find in Kathmandu. [laughs] .

[28:51] Working very closely with the military, so the military said, "Hey, how come we don't get this training. We're the ones handling these objects and being sent into these dangerous buildings. I don't have a helmet."

[29:03] I was like, "Well that's on your military. I used to be military and they give you a helmet usually." We gave one afternoon of quick and dirty basic how to do this, don't do that, objects handling, talk to them about transportation of objects because they are the ones being tasked by museum staff. Often the museum staff don't necessarily get in there in time to give this knowledge and information.

[29:33] I was happy to work with them for an afternoon to give them this. They want more, they asked if we could come back and do a whole workshop just for military and police. There was also a second workshop.

[29:44] I came home before this happened but my very able structural engineer colleagues which I know nothing about did a similar workshop for stabilization of buildings.

[29:54] Here they focused on one small temple. With a group of 20 people they were able to stabilize this temple and the ideas that these people will go back to their communities and teach these techniques because we are all engineer, architect types.

[30:11] They will be able to go back and share the information because this is needed everywhere in the Kathmandu Valley there's all these temples and places that are collapsed.

[30:22] Basically I just wanted to say, at Smithsonian we realized that there's a place for disaster response for cultural heritage.

[30:32] It cannot interfere with the humanitarian response after a big disaster or during arm conflict obviously but often times we don't think about saving people's cultural heritage even a few weeks after the disaster, even months after the disaster and it's often too late by then.

[30:53] We decided to start doing outreach programmes like this and we are working up to the idea that we will have a centre for disaster response for cultural heritage and we want to contribute to academic research and education. Provide training, keep doing what we are doing but on a larger scale working with partners around the world and to collaborate with other institutions and the government in our agency.

[31:18] Just recently we were able to announce that the Smithsonian will become a co chair of the heritage emergency national task force with our colleagues at FEMA and we're really looking forward to that. We are really looking forward to that. We are talking about having our first meeting coming up here this fall I think.

[31:36] We're really very much looking forward to becoming more involved in what happens here in the US and preserving our cultural heritage in the face of disasters, in the face of global climate change and not to be too depressing because we do, we want to save these cultural heritage collections, art, our cultural identity for generations to come so thanks very much.

Malka:  [32:05] Questions in the room.

Male Participant 1:  [32:12] Thank you very much for that, that was interesting. So much of this is as you said responsive and you finished with some notes on looking to the future and some coordination to prepare for things that are happening.

[32:27] So much it's we can't predict but I think back to the invasion, 2003 invasion of Iraq and clearly in the hindsight it's easier to see but there were cultural resources that were put at risk at that time. Sounds like you had some first hand experience with that.

[32:44] One of the things that grew out of the invasion was in fits and starts, closer collaboration between DOD and civilian agencies. It's not clear to me that cultural resources became formal part of that at least in a permanent way.

[33:01] You talk about this collaboration with FEMA prepare domestically. Is there any apparatus within the US interagency structure to include cultural resources into DOD planning or foreign policy objectives as state departments so on and so forth?

Corine:  [33:14] I'm so glad you asked. I'm retired army reserve and worked as arts monuments and archives officer in civil affairs and went to Iraq after the museum was looted.

[33:28] It was my opportunity to learn first hand about...that was my introduction to disaster response for collections. Not a very fun one I have to say, so there is a role going back to World War II within DOD.

[33:47] It falls under civil affairs who serve as advisors to the commander on all aspects of working with the civilian community on the ground and liaising but the DOD's capabilities in that area are greatly reduced from what they were and they weren't even very big in the World War II considering the scale of that conflict.

[34:12] Because we haven't all volunteer military and perhaps, maybe art historians and archaeologist aren't that hip on joining the military these days.

[34:23] At any rate there are a number of dedicated individuals working in this area. We have a lot of archaeologist working within the area of instillations and environment at DOD. I think they are all eager provide vice and assistance on this.

[34:40] I think we all learned valuable lesson about...thinking about planning for cultural heritage protection during these types of arm conflicts. I'm happy to say that there has been a lot of collaboration.

[34:56] Group of us got together and created an NGO called the US Committee of the Blue Shield which is dedicated to implementing the 1954 Hague Convention for the protection of cultural property in armed conflict.

[35:09] The department of state recently created an interagency working group that's mainly for US government agencies for responding to international disasters, DOD is part of that.

[35:20] DOD is working harder on the implementation of the Hague Convention because in 2009 the United States government did ratify that treaty which took a little work. It took us only 60 years but now we are members of that treaty.

[35:34] I think that there is work underway by DOD to understand more about their responsibilities under that convention and then they now have some people who are specialized in cultural property working for brag right now.

[35:50] They are reaching out to create more public‑private partnerships and I think you will be hearing more about it in the next year or two. It was a long answer but it's a very dear question to my heart.

Malka:  [36:03] Questions from the Internet. We'll take more from the room. OK, I get to ask one.

[36:11] You showed us response to emergencies and you mentioned climate change. What are you doing to anticipate, guard and protect?

Corine:  [36:23] Yeah. Global climate change be honest next to armed conflict what scares me the most because such a huge percentage of our collective cultural heritage around the world is located within two miles of the coastline.

[36:41] Rising sea levels are putting that at risk everywhere. I think as far as identifying the risk, I think we have. A lot of US agencies are working on their plan to counter the effects of global climate change.

[37:03] For museum collections we're thinking about really basic stuff like, "Let's not store our collections in the basement anymore because they might get wet." It seems like a no brainer but just these basic mitigation measures are really huge but we have to start thinking that long term. As my boss says, "We are in the forever business."

[37:24] We really have to be thinking not about what's going to be our responsibility next week because we stored the things on the bottom shelf of collections storages but about what's it going to be like a hundred years from now.

[37:36] If we have to start thinking of questions like, "Do we need to start moving collections to alternate storage spaces?" questions like that. We were lucky that our two institutions the Cooper Hewitt and the George High Centre in New York City were OK during hurricane Sandy.

[37:53] But our colleagues at Statue of Liberty museum and Ellis Island weren't that lucky but they were forward looking and got their collections evacuated well ahead.

[38:05] We had good warning on that and fabulous teams from the park service to do that work but not everybody is so lucky to have those kinds of resources. We have to think twice about how close we have our valued cultural heritage to the water.

Malka:  [38:23] Questions in the audience.

Male Participant 2:  [38:27] Great, thank you. Disasters of any type have an emotional toll as well as affecting the built environment. You talked briefly about intangible cultural resources life ways, food ways, folk ways. How can cultural resource management address these intangible resources and personal emotional recovery?

Corine:  [38:46] Yeah. That's a good question and being a collections curator it's been a tough one for me thinking about intangible heritage as something that you have to have disaster plan for. But over the last few years I've really recognized that so much.

[39:02] Because it's about the people. You're thinking about the intangible heritage but you're really talking about people and how they live their lives and how they worship and how they have long view of the survival of their culture.

[39:19] I think the key is to not...Somebody said, "We're always being responsive." As we respond over and over again we are starting to realize that, "Gosh! That doesn't work." We have to be proactive in the planning and mitigation.

[39:34] I think bringing those communities together that are practitioners of this intangible heritage or purveyors of whatever kind, whether it's languages or religious practice, to bring them together to talk to them about emergency planning. What they would do if they're whole village is threatened by rising sea levels or what they'll do if Jihadists calm and try to take away their cultural heritage.

[40:01] This idea of bringing together networking communities to understand what their resources are to try to prevent this kind of damage to begin with I think is key.

Malka:  [40:16] Any questions in the audience, if not this concludes our seminar. Please join me in saying thank you very much.

Corine:  [40:24] Thank you.


Transcription by CastingWords


Cultural heritage, the legacy left behind for future generations, is the thread of continuity that people search for when the rhythm of everyday life has been shattered. When manmade or natural disasters strike, governments, international organizations and NGOs provide victims with vital rescue and humanitarian relief services. Salvage and stabilization of heritage is also important. It can strengthen the community and promote a sense of identity, hope, and resilience. How can we help vulnerable communities plan for and mitigate damage and permanent loss of their heritage after a disaster? Corine Wegener will share insights from the Smithsonian Haiti Cultural Recovery Project after 2010 Haiti earthquake, Hurricane Sandy, Smithsonian's current work in Mali, Iraq, and Syria, as well coordination efforts right here at home.

Corine Wegener, Smithsonian Cultural Heritage Preservation Officer
(photo credit: Corine Wegener)