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Constance Domenech representing KulturGutRetter and PROCUTLEHR-NET

KulturGutRetter and PROCULTHER-NET approaches shared in Budapest

By project PROCULTHER-NET staffPublished on

On November 23rd-24th, 2023, experts from several countries met in Budapest to discuss the challenges facing cultural institutions in protecting and safeguarding cultural heritage from theft, looting, illegal trafficking, destruction, and crises. The international conference was organized by the Hungarian National Museum and the Ludovika University of Public Service.

Author: Constance Domenech de Cellès, German Archaeological Institute – DAI

Cultural Property Protection (CPP) encompasses a wide range of threats, ranging from opportunistic robbery in a museum, to destructions in the wake of conflict or natural hazards, or to degradation of conservation conditions in the event of a large-scale power cut. The international conference held at the Hungarian National Museum provided a broad overview of the situation through a series of thematic sessions and round-tables, devoted to museum security, military involvement in CPP, post-conflict recovery, disaster risk management, law enforcement, and peacebuilding. This event was part of an ongoing reflection led by the Hungarian National Museum on safeguarding cultural heritage and follows national workshops organized to strengthen this sector in Hungary.

One of the event’s strong points was to foster international and interdisciplinary dialogue by mixing and sharing points of view. Museum professionals (Belvedere, Victoria & Albert Museum – Culture in Crisis, Maidan Museum…), and academics (Center for CPP - University for Continuing Education Krems, Budapest University of Technology and Economics…) thus discussed the protection of cultural heritage alongside French, Hungarian, British, American and Dutch military personnel, police and customs forces (from Bavaria, Romania, Hungary…), and representatives of NGOs and foundations – such as ALIPH, Cultural Emergency Response - CER, Blue Shield International, ICCROM, or ICOMOS-ICORP.

The German Archaeological Institute - DAI brought insight into the collaboration between civil protection and cultural heritage experts through the presentation of two projects: PROCULTHER-NET – which aims to create a new thematic community on this subject within the UCPKN – and KulturGutRetter (1), implemented by the DAI, the Leibniz Research Institute for Archaeology - LEIZA, and the German Federal Agency for Technical Relief - THW. The latter focuses on developing an integrated cultural heritage response unit to provide first aid in the event of a crisis, anywhere in the world, within the framework of international disaster relief. KulturGutRetter is supported by the German Federal Foreign Office (Auswärtiges Amt) and by the German Parliament (Bundestag). The latest developments in the project were presented, in particular the field test carried out in Dresden in October to test the project’s workflows for the assessment and stabilization of both immovable and movable heritage.

The urgent need for better integration of the cultural heritage and civil protection sectors was further illustrated by a case study on the Turkey-Syria earthquake of February 6th, 2023. On the other hand, the necessity to work at a European level to meet the challenges posed by the protection of cultural heritage was underlined by another EU-funded initiative (2) which aims to develop a practical, non-destructive solution for the process of verifying the authenticity of works of art and their traceability. Such contributions confirm the relevance of cross-sectoral projects like KulturGutRetter and PROCULTHER-NET, and the need to continue working together, at both national and European levels, to protect cultural heritage in the event of disasters.

(1) See the article “KulturGutRetter (KGR): technical characteristics of a cultural heritage response unit” in the PROCULTHER-NET Project. Technical Bulletin N. 1, March 2023

(2) AURORA project