New user-friendly guidelines launched by UNESCO and ICCROM help save heritage collections in emergencies

15 December 2016

Armed conflicts and natural disasters causing deliberate or collateral damage to heritage are more prominent than ever. To help strengthen efforts to save collections from imminent threats, UNESCO and ICCROM have joined forces to produce Endangered Heritage: Emergency Evacuation of Heritage Collections, (link) a practical guideline available for free download.

Built upon years of experience and real-life situations, this practical handbook offers a field-tested, simple workflow for the emergency evacuation of valuable objects that is easy to replicate in any context.

A multi-purpose guide, it is created with a variety of users in mind, with simple language and layout intended for heritage personnel, emergency responders and civilians alike. It offers guidance on when and how to intervene to protect endangered heritage, its illustrations and charts helping readers to understand quickly and begin working.

In crisis situations already underway, it is a fast and easy read that covers the emergency documentation of collections, evacuation, the salvage of damaged collections and temporary storage.

For institutions that are either in vulnerable areas or generally seeking to create an emergency plan, this booklet will be a valuable aid in disaster preparedness. It will assist users in prioritizing  needs and in planning for realistic action within specific circumstances, using limited resources.

Created within the framework of UNESCO’s Emergency Response Actions and ICCROM’s First Aid to Cultural Heritage in Times of Crisis, this tool has been developed with training and learning at the centre of its focus. It is based on the unique body of knowledge amassed through numerous training activities relating to heritage and actual emergencies that have taken place worldwide.

This is what cultural emergency responders, trainers and heritage professionals have to say about it...

For museum and heritage personnel:

“The easy and adaptable workflow in this handbook makes it an important tool for all heritage institutions. User friendly diagrams make this a truly unique publication as it streamlines the evacuation process while maintaining professional standards”

Rebecca Kennedy, Preservation Specialist and Emergency Responder at the Smithsonian Postal Museum, USA

For emergency response and civil protection workers:

“The manual is a very concise step-by-step guide into a very complex process. I have used it for training young volunteers as well as museum professionals and plan to use it for training the military and emergency rescuers, as it is easily understandable by professionals of all backgrounds. Cultural institutions in the countries facing threats of armed conflict should make this handbook as their core field guide.”

Manana Tevzadze, Chairman, Blue Shield Georgia

“After the 2015 earthquake in Nepal, we had to evacuate collections from several buildings that had become unsafe. The Nepal military helped us, but they needed training. This handbook is therefore, an important resource. It will help us to train others and prepare for future disasters.”

Yamuna Maharjan, Curator, National Museum of Nepal

Coming soon - This book has been translated into Arabic and will be available in coming weeks.