Emergency fund to protect cultural heritage
The Prince Claus Fund presented the new Cultural Emergency Response
(CER) fund for the protection of cultural heritage during times
of war in the Prinsenhof in Delft. The CER was established after
cultural treasures and libraries were destroyed during the war
in Iraq. The fund is intended to provide emergency assistance for
the protection, maintenance and restoration of cultural heritage
that is threatened by war or natural disaster.
The Prince Claus Fund established the CER in cooperation with
the International Committee of the Blue Shields (ICBS), an organisation
involved in the protection of cultural heritage since 1996. 'Thanks
to the existence of the CER, we will be able to take more concrete
action,' explained chairman Ross Shimmon during the meeting in
the Prinsenhof. Blue Shields does not have its own funds and has
focused its activities to date on making the general public aware
of the importance of protecting monuments and on urging governments
and organisations to take measures.
Iraq archaeologist Selma Al-Radi held a presentation on
what can happen to a museum during a war. She presented examples
in Lebanon, Kuwait and Iraq.
The Beirut museum was in the front line of action during that
country's civil war. The museum staff was able to bring the smaller
objects to safety in Damascus. Larger pieces were protected on-site:
sarcophagi were encased in concrete, transforming them into unrecognisable
blocks. Mosaics were hidden under a layer of plastic, board and
concrete. Although the museum and its collection suffered extensive
damages, many valuable pieces were saved.
Entrance to the Kabul Museum, Kabul, 2002
The staff of the Iraq museum in Baghdad started bringing a large
part of the collection to safety a few weeks before the war erupted,
but the museum was extensively looted. 'Professionals' gained access
with glass cutters and keys they had found; other gangs soon followed.
Striking is the fact that the looters primarily took objects from
a period that specialists call 'popular on the market'.
Selma Al-Radi: 'Iraq is an example of a country that has extraordinarily
many art treasures but that has also been victimised regularly
by wars and looting. Destruction is a known theme, and protection
is absolutely vital.'
The afternoon was concluded by the announcement of the CER's first
activity. From the EURO 120,000.00 fund, a gift of EURO 25,000.00
has been donated to the library of the Baghdad university.
Marrigje de Bok