Culture in Crisis: Preservation by Design

Preservation by Design is an eight-part podcast exploring 'designed solutions' to threats posed to our cultural heritage.

Drawing from a wide spectrum of different practitioners and the designed systems they are using, we look at the broader ecosystem of preservation efforts which are taking place around the globe. From the architectural design of cities to the formation of military units specifically responsible for protecting heritage in conflict zones; from cutting edge technologies for tracing looted antiquities to projects merging ancient craft and modern design processes, join us to learn more about the practitioners at the cutting edge of cultural heritage preservation today.

S1 E1 – The Architectural Impact of cities: Social Cohesion and Crisis in Syria

How do the cities we build influence the communities who live within them? Can conflict be built into the very fabric of our urban spaces? Syrian architect and author of 'The Battle for Home' Marwa al Sabouni is joined by Lyse Doucet, Chief International Correspondent for the BBC, to discusses her experiences of living and working within Homs, throughout the Syrian conflict.

Marwa's has also written a powerful article 'Heritage under Reconstruction', in which she shares her ambitions and concerns for what reconstruction might entail in post-conflict Syria, as well as the lasting impact it could have for the future of her country.

S1 E2 – Bridging the Gap: Uniting Heritage Craft Skills with Digital Technologies

Donn Holohan, Fabrication Lab Manager in the Faculty of Architecture, University of Hong Kong, is joined by Glenn Adamson, Curator of the Design Museum's 2017 Beazley Awards, to discuss Holohan's nominated project 'The Wind and Rain Bridge'. This remarkable construction blends historic craft practices with modern technology, preserving heritage skills and creating sustainable social and physical infrastructure in the Fujian province of China.

Working with rural communities striving for modern development, whilst simultaneously fighting to retain vestiges of their cultural heritage, in this exploration of evolving craft practices in rural China we discuss alternative modes of community redevelopment, sustainable materials and methods, and the negotiation between the pitfalls of dereliction and 'disney-fication' in these spaces.

S1 E3 – Recruiting the Modern Day Monuments Men... and Women!

The V&A's Director of Cultural Heritage Protection and Security, Vernon Rapley, is joined by Lieutenant-Colonel Tim Purbrick to discuss the reforming of the 'Monuments Men' unit within the British Armed Forces.

Not seen in active duty for over 70 years, the women and men of the historic (officially titled) 'Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives programme', worked to help protect cultural property in conflict zones during and after World War II.

Lt Colonel Tim Purbrick, an Army Reservist and former tank commander during Desert Storm, is Chairman of the Military Cultural Property Protection Working Group and has been working since early 2014 towards the return of this specialist unit to the frontline of the British Army.

Speaking directly with the man who coordinated the revival of this special unit, we discuss what has happened behind the scenes, along the road to redeployment.

S1 E4 – Treasure Hunting in the UK

Dr Michael Lewis, Head of Portable Antiquities & Treasure, at the British Museum's Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS), joins Culture in Crisis International Coordinator, Laura Jones, to discuss the UK's rich archaeological heritage and the ways and means we go about exploring and protecting it.

Each year tens of thousands of important archaeological objects are discovered across the country by metal detectorists and other members of the public. The discussion explores the different groups involved, their different motivations for searching, and the different ways the PAS works with these people to ensure that this cultural treasure is not lost through looting or unconscious destruction.

Exploring some of the important treasure discoveries of the past 20 years, we will hear more about the valuable work of the PAS and their ongoing efforts to protect our shared heritage.

S1 E5 – Food for Thought

Sofia Casarin, Co-founder of TAMOA joins May Rosenthal Sloan, co-curator of the V&A's upcoming 2019 exhibition; Food: Bigger than the Plate to discuss the promotion and preservation of traditional heritage corn varieties in Mexico.

Working directly with local farmers, we hear how TAMOA is pushing against the grain of mass-importation of corn from the US to support local, sustainable production of traditional varieties of this Mexican staple.

Working to improve the livelihoods of rural communities, whilst simultaneously helping preserve a tradition of corn production in the region which stretches back 8,000 years, we investigate the links between food, culture and identity in this engaging discussion.

S1 E6 – Weaving in Practice: Preserving Textile Crafts in Guatemala

Guatemalan artist, weaver and educator, Hellen Ascoli, is joined by Ana Baeza Ruiz, Researcher for the V&A's blockbuster exhibition Frida Kahlo: Making herself Up (16 June – 18 November 2018), to discuss Hellen's ongoing work to protect endangered textile heritage and weaving practices in her native country.

Taken directly from her experiences working alongside Guatemala's indigenous communities, Hellen shares her concerns about the appropriation and exploitation of this cultural traditional, which sits at the intersection of tangible and intangible heritage.

Together in this discussion, Ana and Hellen explore themes such as the role of the weaver as both a designer and a producer, the difficulties of 'preserving' a dynamic living culture, the international fashion market and exploitation, as well as Hellen's broader ambition to promote the continuation of the tradition of weaving in Guatemala, within a system that is fair to all.

S1 E7 – Keeping Heritage Afloat: Reviving ancient boat building techniques in Iraq

Rashad Salim, Project Director of Safina Projects, is joined by Carine Harmand, Curator in the British Museum's Middle East Department, to discuss Rashad’s ongoing work to revive the ancient craft of boat building across Iraq.

For thousands of years boats have been integral symbols of national identity and heritage within the region, with unique designs evolving to suit the specific nature of different local cultures. Yet, over the past few decades, this knowledge has all but disappeared and the role of craft as a link between communities and their environment is greatly diminished. In the discussion, we hear about how Rashad’s work is not only reviving these millennia-old techniques, but also a whole social eco-system around them, too.

Safina Projects is a creative studio that works to protect and revive the endangered craft heritage of Iraq, particularly its maritime heritage and traditional boatmaking, through art and cultural research projects that engage the public in Iraq and internationally.

S1 E8 – Searching for Nazi Spoliation: Provenance Research at the V&A

The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Collection is pioneering provenance research at the V&A, with its dedicated Provenance and Spoliation Research Curator, Jacques Schuhmacher. Jacques is joined in the discussion by Alice Minter, Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Collection Curator, to discuss their progressive work. Exploring the development of the provenance research profession and its growing importance within museum practices, the speakers reveal the proactive steps they are taking to locate and remove Nazi-looted art from the collection.

As the demand from museum audiences for a richer and more nuanced understanding of historical objects grows, our speakers explore key issues such as; locating Nazi-looted objects in collections, legal and moral claims for restitution, how best to present research to audiences, and fitting provenance research into the curatorial practice.