Saturday, January 29, 2011

Cairo Museum Looting: A Wake-Up Call to Heritage Protection Organizations

Bad, but it could have been much, much worse. Photos here and here and here (thanks to Chuck Jones).

What is disconcerting is that it could have happened at all, given the fate of the Iraq Museum. One would have expected that Zahi Hawass would have anticipated some such eventuality and that the museum would have had the wherewithal to lock itself down. That does not appear to have been the case. 

This should be a wake up call. Right now, the national and international agencies and NGOs who make it their business to save our vanishing heritage -- the Smithsonian, the State Department's Bureau of Economic and Cultural Affairs, UNESCO's World Heritage Centre, INTERPOL, ICCROM, ICOM, AAMD, AAM, AIA, Blue Shield, World Monument Fund, Global Heritage Fund, World Heritage Foundation, the Getty, etc. etc. -- should be on the phone to museum officials in all countries where there is the chance of unrest, asking them if they have in place a plan to secure their buildings and holdings, and offering immediate assistance to create and/or beef up these plans. 

1 comment:

Mark said...

The Egyptian Ministry of Culture has been reviewing its museums' security protocols since the theft of a Van Gogh from the Mahmoud Khalil Museum. Clearly, no one expected the Cairo environs to grow so hostile so fast. Even with a lock down, which it appears the Museum instituted, there was little it could do without the support of the army, which was clearly focusing its attention elsewhere. What alternative steps could have been taken to prevent this from happening since only six days ago the protests were much less volatile?