A number of initiatives have been launched to help prevent a catastrophic loss of Ukrainian heritage as the Russian invasion intensifies.
The Centre to Rescue Ukraine's Cultural Heritage has been set up in Lviv, Ukraine, and is urgently asking international organisations, museums and cultural institutions for help with equipment and materials, which are being collected in Lviv Polytechnic National University for further distribution.
The centre is seeking material including cardboard boxes, rolls of bubble wrap, scotch and masking tape and other packing and fireproofing materials. More details are available on the Institute of Conservation website.
Lviv City Council and the Board for the Protection of the Historic Environment of Lviv are also appealing for support to protect Ukraine’s cultural property. A fundraiser is collecting international donations.
Representatives from 26 Polish museums have established the Committee for Aid to Museums of Ukraine in order to support the protection of museums and cultural institutions.
The committee aims to support museum colleagues in Ukraine by helping them to secure their collections, providing support in object documentation, digitisation and inventory, transferring materials needed to transport and hide collections, enabling staff to share their experiences, and documenting any plunder and destruction of Ukrainian cultural property. The committee is currently seeking logistics partners and sponsors.
Museums in neighbouring countries are involved in efforts to evacuate art, objects, books and archives. Ukraine’s Ministry of Culture has requested that specific institutions and staff are not named, and methods of protection, location or movement of collections are not disseminated.
Many cultural institutions in eastern Europe are also launching humanitarian efforts to assist the thousands of refugees arriving daily. Polin Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw is running a soup kitchen while other institutions have been transformed into volunteer hubs.
“The situation is getting more intense as more people arrive,” said Jack Lohman, a museum leader and curator based in Warsaw. “Everyone I know is hosting people, whole families, those trying to move on somewhere else, those trying to reach others. There is a strong spirit of solidarity on the streets. People here have strong connections with the Ukraine and feel their suffering viscerally.”
Unesco says it has reinforced protective measures for endangered heritage in Ukraine, and is in contact with Ukrainian authorities to mark cultural sites and monuments with the Blue Shield emblem of the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict to avoid deliberate or accidental damages.
The international body is analysing satellite imagery for a dozen priority sites, including world heritage sites, in order to assess damage. It was due to hold online meetings with Ukrainian culture professionals this week to assess their urgent needs.
In a statement this week, the International Council of Museums (Icom) emphasised the “the role of museums, culture, and international cooperation in building lasting peace among nations”.
It said: “As we continue our work to assist our Ukrainian colleagues in securing their safety, and that of their museums and collections, we wish to express our gratitude to the international museum community, who has shown an outpouring of support to Ukraine, and our solidarity with Russian citizens who are raising their concerns, often at great personal risk […]
“In the face of terror and tragedy, we must choose unity and solidarity. As we have done in the past, Icom and the global museum community join the efforts to protect heritage, keep cultural relations alive between the museum communities of different nations, and advocate for culture as a means in building lasting peace, in Ukraine as well as in all other nations across the globe.”
More ways to help
- An online initiative, Save Ukrainian Cultural Heritage, has been launched to identify and archive at-risk sites, digital content and data in Ukrainian cultural heritage institutions. Cultural heritage professionals are invited to volunteer.
- The Nordic Museum in Sweden has launched a fundraiser to provide financial support to the National Museum of Ukrainian History in Kyiv.
- The Network of European Museum Organisations (Nemo) has appealed for any museums involved in activities and initiatives in aid of Ukraine to share their work in order to demonstrate the levels of support for Ukraine and encourage others to get involved.
- Artists at Risk supports art practitioners whose freedom and lives are at risk. Cultural institutions can put themselves forward to provide temporary accommodation and relocation to artists and cultural workers. The organisation also accepts donations.
- Scholars and academics in the US and Europe have formed a taskforce to leverage their positions at academic institutions to mitigate the impact of displacement for colleagues in Ukraine.