The Cultural Property Protection Course: Anticipating and Dealing with Future Challenges In and Outside Europe
This 5-days-long pilot course was organised by the European Security and Defence College and the Cultural Property Protection Centre of the Danube University (1) in partnership with the Office for Culture for the Principality of Liechtenstein.
A trans-disciplinary approach being key to efficient actions in the field of cultural heritage protection, trainees came from multiple backgrounds and brought a wide range of perspectives: the police and armed forces, European Civilian missions under the Common Security and Defence Policy - CSDP, European agencies, the cultural sector, etc. As part of the PROCULTHER-NET Consortium, the German Archaeological Institute had the opportunity to present the project to 40 participants from various organisations and countries (France, Poland, Spain, the Netherlands, Italy, Austria, Hungary, Liechtenstein, UK, USA…), thus further extending PROCULTHER-NET’s network and visibility.
The course content was developed over a week, tackling the protection of cultural heritage in the event of armed conflicts, disasters caused by natural hazards, the trafficking of cultural goods, as well as cross-cutting subjects such as the value of cultural heritage for the future of Europe, satellite monitoring, legal framework and training. Three days were devoted to lectures, with insightful interventions from – among others – the European External Action Services -EEAS, UNESCO, the OSCE and the Cultural Heritage Monitoring Lab. Particular focus was given to current endeavours to develop cultural property protection awareness and “modern Monuments Men” specialised units among the armed forces, such as the Carabinieri Tutela Patrimonio Culturale in Italy, the Cultural Property Protection Unit in the UK, the Délégation du Patrimoine in France.
The German Archaeological Institute intervened on October 19th, along with the Foundation Fürst-Pückler-Museum, on the “Role of Cultural Property Protection experts”. This presentation asserted the central position of cultural experts as advisers to and an interface between the impacted cultural heritage institutions, local communities, the uniformed and the humanitarian sectors, during the whole Disaster Risk Management cycle. It was an opportunity to showcase both the German initiative Cultural Heritage Response Unit (KulturGutRetter) (2) and the PROCULTHER-NET project. A copy from the Key Elements of a European Methodology to address the Protection of Cultural Heritage during Emergencies was circulated among the participants and it aroused great interest.
The last two days of the Cultural Property Protection Course were dedicated to an exercise. The 2020 blast in Beirut provided a case study for a Syndicate Work in which participants were split into four groups: Police and Law Enforcement, Military, Civil Protection, Civil Administration. To gain insight on the perspective of other actors, trainees were encouraged to step out from their professional sector and to join groups with which they were less familiar. Each Syndicate was tasked with focusing on cultural heritage and its protection from its own perspective (assuming that the humanitarian aspect had already been taken care of). Over the course of the exercise, each group had to prepare and present three briefings:
- Situation assessment (based on online research): what actually happened in Beirut, which measures were implemented, by whom, following what timeline?
- What was missing: tasks, teams, coordination, logistics…?
- The ideal scenario: how should things have happened, which interactions are needed, who is responsible for what?
A joint presentation of the exercise’s results was organised at the Melk Monastery, followed by a Certificates Ceremony to conclude the Course.
Through a historical and philosophical approach, but also through concrete examples from the ongoing war in Ukraine, the Cultural Property Protection Course recalled why the protection of cultural heritage should be a common goal for the military, humanitarian, civil protection and cultural sector. This initiative helped strengthen the growing interdisciplinary network that the PROCULTHER-NET community is also committed to expanding.
Author: Constance Domenech de Cellès, Research Associate at the Deutsches Archäologisches Institut
(1) Cultural Property Protection Centre, Danube University: The Centre organises lectures, master courses as well as summer-universities. These events do not only promote the protection of cultural property through disaster-management, but also contribute to the international dialogue among scholars, students and experts. It has contributed to several European projects focusing on cultural heritage at risk such as ProteCHt2save and STRENCH.
(2) Cultural Heritage Response Unit (KulturGutRetter) Developed by the German Archaeological Institute-DAI, the Federal Agency for Technical Relief -THW and the Romano-Germanic Central Museum-Leibniz Research Institute for Archaeology- RGZM, the Cultural Heritage Response Unit leverages the German expertise in cultural heritage preservation and rapid response intervention. This emergency mechanism for cultural heritage in crisis situations combines an operational team and efficient procedures that can be quickly deployed worldwide, to assist in securing, preserving and salvaging cultural heritage objects and buildings. The mechanism builds on and expands well-functioning formats developed by its founding partners, such as digital registers of monuments, logistic and rescuing. It also designs new capacities in remote sensing, on-site assessment and minimal standard procedures. The Cultural Heritage Response Unit is developing a network of full-time and voluntary experts with a wide range of skills suitable and deployable in the event of a crisis.