Unesco verifies damage to 343 cultural sites as war in Ukraine enters third year - Museums Association

Unesco verifies damage to 343 cultural sites as war in Ukraine enters third year

Exhibition opens in Kyiv to tell story of the conflict through civilian voices
Conflict Ukraine Unesco
The Odesa Fine Arts Museum suffered extensive damage after being hit by a Russian missile strike in November 2023. This image shows the museum before the strike
The Odesa Fine Arts Museum suffered extensive damage after being hit by a Russian missile strike in November 2023. This image shows the museum before the strike Wikimedia Commons

Unesco has published a list of 343 cultural sites verified to have suffered damage since Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February 2022.

The list includes 31 museums, along with 127 religious sites, 151 buildings of historical and/or artistic interest, 19 monuments, 14 libraries and one archive.

The list has grown by nearly 100 since Unesco published a previous assessment in spring last year.

The damage is worse in regions that have seen the heaviest fighting; the Donetsk region, on the frontline of the war, has suffered the most damage to its cultural sites, with 88 listed, following by the Kharkiv region with 56 and the Odesa region with 49.  

The country's capital Kyiv and its surrounding region have also suffered significant damage, with 39 sites listed, as has the Luhansk region, with 34 sites listed.

Among the museums and galleries on the list are the Memorial House-Museum and Estate of Mykhailo Kotsiubynskyi in the Chernihiv region, the Ivankiv Museum and the Kyiv Art Gallery in the Kyiv region, as well as Kharkiv Art Museum and Odesa's art, maritime, archaeological and literary museums.


The list does not detail the extent of damage to each site; media reports indicate that many have suffered extensive damage, such as Odesa Fine Arts Museum, which was hit by a missile strike last November, while a number have been completely destroyed.

Unesco carries out preliminary damage assessment for cultural properties by cross-checking reported incidents with multiple credible sources. The international body says it is also working with partners organisations to develop a mechanism for "independent coordinated assessment of data in Ukraine, including satellite image analysis".

The cost of rebuilding Ukraine’s culture and tourism sectors is estimated at $9bn, up from a projected $6bn last year. Unesco has pledged $10m towards the eventual rehabilitation of the country's cultural sector.

Capturing stories

Meanwhile, an immersive exhibition has opened at the Museum of the History of the City of Kyiv to tell the story of the conflict through the voices of civilians.

The multimedia Voices exhibition features video, audio and physical art and wartime artefacts, aiming to capture both the horror and tragedy of the conflict, and the strength and dignity of the civilians who have lived through it.


The exhibition includes a five-channel surround sound installation by the composer Yana Shliabanska.

The installation was created by the organisers of Gogolfest, the international art festival, and the Museum of Civilian Voices, a digital museum founded in 2014 by the Rinat Akhmetov Foundation, which has collected 100,000 stories about the war since Russia’s annexation of Crimea a decade ago.

The Museum of Civilian Voices works with partners in Europe and Ukraine and supports documentary filmmaking in order to tell the world about the experience of Ukrainians.

Speaking at the opening of the exhibition last week, Natalia Yemchenko, a board member at the Rinat Akhmetov Foundation, said: "Today is a very important event for us: The Museum of Civilian Voices has gone offline for the first time. We believe that the idea will be successful.

"The museum is the largest project in terms of preserving data about the war. Since 2014, we have accumulated more than 100,000 live stories."

Yemchenko said the museum hopes to create a platform "where these initiatives can talk, look for common answers, and combine huge amounts of data into systems".


The museum's current partners are the Oral History Association (US); the USC Shoah Foundation; the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum; Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv and Maria Curie-Skłodowska University in Lublin; and the Museum of the History of Kyiv.

In the UK, work has begun on a Ukraine-focused decolonisation guide for museums, which aims to help curators better represent and contextualise the country's history.

The initiative is led by the Ukrainian Institute in collaboration with the Museums Association (MA), the United Kingdom and Ukraine National Committees of the International Council of Museums (ICOM UK and ICOM Ukraine), and supported by the British Council. The guidance is due to be published this summer.

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