Protecting Cultural Heritage in an Uncertain Time

October 26, 2016

Protecting Cultural Heritage

New York University, in partnership with Friends of Florence and the City of Florence convened two meetings to commemorate the anniversary of “L’Alluvione,” a flood that ravaged the city of Florence and damaged countless pieces of art of immeasurable value, some irreparably. On the occasion of that commemoration, the two conferences, one in Washington, DC and the other in Florence, Italy called attention to an equally devastating contemporary challenge to our cultural patrimony: intentional destruction of cultural property for ideological reasons.

This symposium brought together regional actors together with international experts and scholars from the fields of art, conservation and museums, international culture, law and law enforcement agencies and organizations to discuss the challenges and solutions to protecting our cultural heritage.

Cultural heritage is increasingly in danger of intentional destruction or incidental damage in the context of war and terrorism. The attack on the temples and burial towers of Palmyra in Syria is the latest shocking example of a systematic campaign of bombing, smashing, bulldozing and otherwise destroying irreplaceable cultural properties, for ideological reasons, across the Middle East and North Africa. In addition, extremist groups are generating income trafficking items looted from archaeological sites and museums in these conflict areas. The international community is struggling to cope with the destruction, which seems to be continuing unabated. The United Nations Security Council, in a resolution addressed to the destruction by ISIL and the Al-Nusrah Front of cultural heritage in Iraq and Syria, called upon the international community to take steps, in cooperation with Interpol, UNESCO and other international organizations, to prevent the trafficking in items of cultural, scientific and religious importance illegally removed from either country during periods of conflict.

View the second convening of Protecting Cultural Heritage in an Uncertain Time, hosted by NYU Florence's La Pietra Dialogues, here.


Opening Remarks

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Mayor Dario Nardella

Mayor Dario Nardella

Ambassador Armando Varricchio

Amb. Armando Varricchio

Michele Marincola

Michele Marincola

Panel 1

Conservation Challenges in Emergency Preparation: This panel will consider the challenges and methods in use to conserve items facing immediate threat by human catastrophes.

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Stephanie Hornbeck

Stephanie Hornbeck

Norbert Baer

Norbert Baer

Alda Benjamen

Alda Benjamen

Panel 2

Methods of Documentation: This panel will discuss the existing and developing technologies being used to reconstruct and document destroyed objects, artifacts, heritage sites and architecture, in order to preserve a digital copy of the past that is lost to the elements, human conflict and the passing of time.  

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Khaled Hiatlih

Khaled Hiatlih

Scott Branting

Scott Branting

Donald H. Sanders

Donald H. Sanders

Panel 3

The Feasibility, Desirability and Ethics of Reconstructing Destroyed Cultural Properties

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James Janowski

James Janowski

Anna Paolini

Anna Paolini

John Childs

John Childs

Friends of Florence is a U.S. 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to preserving and enhancing the cultural and historical integrity of the arts in the city and surrounding area of Florence, Italy. Its most recent major project, funding of the restored Botticelli Rooms at the Uffizi, was opened to the public on October 18th.

The non-profit provides financial support directly to the city’s restoration laboratories to restore, safeguard, and make available to the public a broad range of art from paintings and sculptures, to architectural elements and collections of smaller objects. Through educational travel programs and events, Friends of Florence strives to increase public understanding and an appreciation of the glorious city of Florence and its abundant treasures.