Ukraine, international museum community condemns Russian invasion

The international museum community takes a stand against the Russian invasion of Ukraine and calls for a ceasefire. Concerns for the country's cultural heritage.

The international museum community stands by museum professionals working in Ukraine. All major acronyms have taken a stand.ICOM - International Council of Museums expressed on Feb. 24 its strong condemnation of “this violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.” ICOM says it is “particularly concerned about the risks to museum professionals and threats to cultural heritage from this armed conflict. ICOM expects both countries, as States Parties to the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and its First Protocol , to comply with their international legal obligations to protect heritage.” This conflict, ICOM continues, “is already deeply distressing and risks unacceptable loss of life, so ICOM calls for a rapid ceasefire, immediate mediation between the belligerents, and coordinated efforts to ensure the safety of museum personnel and protect cultural heritage. In times of conflict and uncertainty such as these, ICOM must also express its deep concern about the implications this uncertainty will have on the safety of ICOM members, museum staff and cultural heritage in Ukraine.”

ICOM also advises “all its members to recall their professional obligations under the ICOM Code of Ethics for Museums to preserve, maintain and promote heritage and to ensure that their museums and collections are protected against all kinds of risks, including in the event of conflict.” ICOM informs all stakeholders that there are many free and accessible online tools that can help in crises such as this one including ICOM and UNESCO’s Guide to Museum Security and Disaster Preparedness, Museums Security and Disaster Preparedness in Running a Museum: Practice Handbook, ICCROM’s First Aid to Cultural Heritage in Times of Crisis, and UNESCO and ICCROM’s document for evacuating collections in emergencies.

ICOM also urges “members of civil society to turn to their local museums to assist them, if possible, with ways and means to protect their buildings and collections. As important centers of education, study and enjoyment in local communities, it is important that museums (crucial landmarks for local communities) are supported by their local communities.” Finally, according to ICOM, the crisis “will provide an opportunity for unscrupulous individuals to profit from threats to heritage. ICOM warns all stakeholders to be vigilant about the potential increase in smuggling of cultural materials from the region, and ICOM reminds all national governments in the region of their international legal obligations to protect movable cultural heritage under the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibition and Prevention of the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of of cultural property and the 1995 UNIDROIT Convention on Stolen or Illegally Exported Cultural Objects, not to mention other international cultural conventions for the protection of the common cultural heritage of the humanities.” ICOM concludes by assuring that it is working “with its international partners and stakeholders in the region and is monitoring the situation as it evolves. ICOM will continue to offer all possible support to alleviate any threats Ukraine’s heritage may face in the uncertain days and weeks ahead.”

CIMAM, the International Committee of Museums of Modern and Contemporary Art, sends a message of support to museum professionals in Ukraine, CIMAM’s Museum Watch Committee expresses “its absolute condemnation of the invasion of Ukraine by the military forces of the current Russian regime, solidarity with all the Ukrainian people, and deep concern for the well-being of our CIMAM colleagues in Ukraine at this terrible time. CIMAM represents a global community of arts and museum professionals, and we actively reach out to our colleagues in Ukraine to offer support as they face unprecedented challenges not only to ensure their own personal safety and that of their families and friends, but also to safeguard the future of the collections and institutions for which they are responsible.” CIMAM’s Museum Watch Committee “is investigating the immediate needs of our colleagues and ways we can help. Today it has reached out to CIMAM members in Ukraine to offer any practical support that will help them at this critical time, and we ask all CIMAM members to actively consider ways in which they can act to show solidarity with our colleagues.” Recognizing the importance of the work of modern and contemporary art museums in building a more peaceful and secure society, the committee concludes, “is central to CIMAM’s core mission, and through its activities, CIMAM actively supports global networks that promote cultural understanding and connectivity and the articulation of solidarity in times of crisis. It is critical to activate these networks now to support all our colleagues in Ukraine and neighboring countries affected by these devastating events.”

Finally,ICOMOS - International Council on Monuments and Sites issued a note saying it deplores “the lives already lost and threatened by the deteriorating situation on Ukrainian territory.” In addition, ICOMOS also “fears that serious threats weigh on Ukraine’s heritage. As one of the leading organizations in the field of heritage and an advisory body to the World Heritage Committee, it reminds all stakeholders of the extreme fragility of cultural heritage during armed conflicts, including to unintentional damage, and the commitments of care they have made under the UNESCO Cultural Conventions, particularly the 1954 Hague Convention and its two Protocols, the 1972 World Heritage Convention and the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, and their absolute duty to do everything in their power to preserve all heritage, in all its components and layers, from harm. ICOMOS is at the disposal of its colleagues and the authorities in Ukraine for any support or advice it might be able to provide in safeguarding cultural heritage or risk preparedness measures.”

Image: Kiev, St. Michael’s Monastery

Ukraine, international museum community condemns Russian invasion
Ukraine, international museum community condemns Russian invasion

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