Culture Secretary John Whittingdale will make an announcement today about a government-backed plan to protect cultural landmarks from war and ISIL terrorists.
At a major cultural conference in central London, co-hosted by DCMS and the FCO, the £3 million Iraqi Emergency Heritage Management Project will be unveiled. The British Museum will manage the project over a five-year period.
Iraqi professionals will be recruited to help assess, document and stabilise damaged sites so that the restoration and preservation of priceless cultural treasures may begin.
The British Museum’s Neil MacGregor and UNESCO’s Mechtild Rössler will be among the dignitaries in attendance to discuss the specifics of the Cultural Protection Fund, which the British Chancellor unveiled earlier this year.
He will also reiterate the government’s commitment to ratifying the Hague Convention on Cultural Property Protection in Armed Conflict, with an aim to putting it on the books as soon as possible.
Terrorism, conflict, or natural disasters aren’t the only threats to old sites and items, as evidenced by the notifications made today.
Humanitarian help to people in need is a top concern for UK Foreign Secretary Tobias Ellwood, who just announced his resignation as Middle East and North Africa minister. But we cannot stand by and overlook this horrible, deliberate attempt to obliterate the rich cultural history and sense of belonging for all populations in Iraq and Syria.
The new funding for the British Museum to train Iraqi professionals in rescue archaeology will build on the efforts we are already making to protect art and archaeological sites for future generations and develop a sense of Iraqi national identity.
Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum said: “We are thankful to DCMS for their crucial support on this important programme. This training builds on our cooperation with peers in the region and will make a genuine difference in recording and safeguarding the cultural assets currently under threat in Iraq.”
“We welcome the Government’s decision to develop a Cultural Protection Fund,” British Council CEO Sir Ciarán Devane stated. We and our partner organisations will be able to do more to safeguard cultural heritage sites all across the world. In particular we will be able to offer training in afflicted nations so that local specialists can conserve their own cultural heritage for future generations.”
“I am delighted the Government is supporting the brave men and women on the ground who are protecting our collective heritage and ensuring that these special sites can play a part in rebuilding shattered economies and societies when the current conflict eventually ends,” Robert Jenrick MP said.
“With world class museums and institutions like the British Museum and with deep links throughout the Middle East, the UK should lead the world in protecting culture from danger.”