Culture in Crisis

The V&A is an International organisation with collections from around the globe. We are committed to protecting the world’s cultural heritage and supporting communities that suffer cultural loss, whether through criminal acts or natural disaster.

Culture in Crisis programme

Culture in Crisis programme

Our Culture in Crisis programme brings together institutions with a shared interest in protecting cultural heritage. It provides a forum for sharing information, inspiring and supporting action and raising public awareness.

Our Mission Statement

  • We understand the impact of cultural heritage loss on communities and the contrasting positive role that nature conservation and heritage protection can have in rebuilding and recovering these areas following wars and disasters. As such we aim to encourage a cross-disciplinary approach to protecting cultural heritage around the globe. Raising public awareness and working with organisations from a variety of backgrounds to take a holistic approach to the protection of heritage in all its forms.
  • The V&A and the Yale Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage, in collaboration with the National Museums of Rwanda and the Museum für Naturkunde in Berlin, are preparing for a major international conference in late in 2017, to be held in Kigali, Rwanda with a unique focus on nature and cultural heritage conservation.
  • In collaboration with the British Museum the V&A have created a European Museum Security Group. The group considers strategic security issues, looking at innovative and safe ways for museums to assist in the protection of cultural heritage, while ensuring the safety and security of visitors, staff and collections.
  • Working closely to support law-enforcement, nationally and internationally, and the British Armed forces to develop strategies to prevent the illicit trade of cultural goods.
Conferences

Conferences

Culture in Crisis 2017: Our Current Priorities

The V&A and the Yale Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage, in collaboration with the National Museums of Rwanda and the Museum für Naturkunde in Berlin, are preparing for a major international conference, to be held in Kigali, Rwanda with a unique focus on the benefits of both Wildlife and Heritage Conservation during the post-conflict recovery of a nation. The output of this conference will be the creation of a series of workshops in which Rwandan experiences can pave the way for the creation of ‘road maps to recovery’ within more contemporaneous conflict zones.

The conference will serve to highlight the value of these two parallel branches of conservation; demonstrating that through their adoption successful sustainable development on a national level can be achieved.

Culture in crisis rwanda
Delegates from the Workshop on Nature and Culture Conservation in Karongi, Rwanda (29 -31 August 2016)

We understand the profound and long-lasting impact of both environmental and cultural heritage loss on communities, and the contrasting positive role that nature conservation and heritage protection can have in rebuilding and recovering these areas following war or disaster. As such, the project aims to encourage a cross-disciplinary approach; raising public awareness and working with organisations from a variety of backgrounds to take a holistic approach to the protection of heritage in all its forms.

The recovery of Rwanda makes it a worthy case study for success. Following the genocide of 1994 the country invested heavily in the promotion of wildlife conservation as a way to reinvigorate its ecosystems, economy and people. The results have been; greater social cohesion amongst local populations, the development of a thriving international eco-tourism industry and the world’s largest population of Mountain Gorillas – to date the only primate species anywhere in the world that is increasing in number.

Over 20 years after the restoration of peace in Rwanda, the conference will look back on the experiences of the nation, considered within a wider African context, to reflect on the value of Wildlife and Heritage Conservation during recovery from conflict. Through shared discussion we hope to isolate key successes and identify templates which other countries could use as they recover and rebuild. This will lead to the development of ‘road maps to recovery’; strategies which we hope to share and replicate within other nations emerging from conflict; specifically those in the Middle-East.

Through developing academic and professional partnerships first in Africa and then in the Middle-East, we hope to construct a network of individuals and organisations who are unified in their resolve to protect the world’s heritage. Uniting and comparing the experiences of these two regions is a core ambition of the project; with a view to ultimately develop better links through which mutual learning may be achieved. Through discussion and the sharing of expertise across a variety of disciplines we hope to combat the global threat to heritage using a multi-lateral approach which can be enacted from community to governmental level.

This conference will not only be a chance to learn from the experiences of a country recovering from internal conflict, which will serve to inform post-conflict recovery efforts elsewhere in the world, but it is also a chance to draw parallels between the two conservation practices which, though harmonious in ethos, rarely collaborate to share practices. Through studying mechanisms used within Wildlife Conservation, such as the IUCN’s Endangered Species Red Lists, Cultural Heritage Preservation professionals may one day be able to create their own priority lists for conserving the world’s shared heritage too. This ‘prioritising’ of heritage protection is intrinsically valuable in that it will provide a framework for identifying, categorising and targeting conservation efforts in a more objective and international manner, following the success of models used in Wildlife Conservation.

Culture in Crisis, April 2016

On 11th April 2016 the Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage, Yale University, in collaboration with the V&A, under the patronage of UNESCO, hosted a satellite event to the UN Global Colloquium of University Presidents at Yale University.

This conference, the second annual instalment for the Culture in Crisis programme, focused on the ongoing destruction and loss of cultural heritage in North Africa and the Middle East, which is a cause for worldwide concern and condemnation. As is the exodus of people and talent from some parts of the region resulting in the loss of cultural knowledge as well as local arts and crafts.

The principle aim of the workshop was to convene stakeholders and decision-makers from the most affected regions to discuss relevant questions to help inform the Global Colloquium of the current situation, especially on efficient responses to looting, illicit trade, the destruction of sites and urban fabric, the humanitarian impact and loss of local skills, crafts and indigenous knowledge.

The workshop was free to attend and its outcome informed the discussions at the UN global colloquium about gaps in research and training and possible focal areas of institutional collaboration. The conclusions of the workshop were presented by a rapporteur to the UN Global Colloquium Plenary on April 13th 2016.

The entire conference was filmed and a playlist is available on YouTube

Culture in Crisis, April 2015

On 14 April 2015 the V&A hosted an international conference to discuss the issue of Culture in Crisis. We partnered with the Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage at Yale University and operated under the patronage of UNESCO.

The conference was presented in three parts:

  • Lessons from the past
    Reminding ourselves of damage caused in countries such as Afghanistan, Bosnia, Cyprus, Korea and Nigeria. Exploring not just the extent of the loss of cultural heritage, but the impact that these crimes had on the local people and on their ability to recover and forgive.
  • Current concerns
    Experts described what is really happening on the ground at the moment.
  • The future
    We heard from those involved in protection and detection efforts worldwide. A panel of experts discussed the role of museums and the wider international cultural community.

The conference was free to attend. The audience was formed from a mixture of the public and invited international guests from museums, universities, embassies, governments, legislators, law enforcement, NGO’s, Charities, the Art Trade and the media.

The entire conference was filmed and is available on the V&A YouTube Channel

The participants of the conference have agreed to a number of recommendations. They have been approved by UNESCO and presented at the World Heritage Council Meeting in Bonn, June 2015.

Conflict and Cultural Heritage Conference, 31 October 2015

The V&A supported the Conflict and Cultural Heritage Conference at St John’s College Auditorium, Oxford University on 31 October 2015. This conference aimed to raise public awareness and develop understanding of the issues surrounding the protection of cultural heritage at risk from armed conflict.

It explored the material heritage of the Middle Eastern region from international and local perspectives, and the living heritage of communities with rich and longstanding traditions, before discussing why destruction is happening in the region, and the beliefs that underlie extremist practices. Focus then moved to an overview of what is being done already, and what more the international community can do.

The conference provided information from a variety of cultures, perspectives, and organisations, including academics, archaeologists, the military, and the media, raising awareness of the multi-cultural nature of Middle Eastern heritage, and its global relevance in the past and today.