On the 26th of March, I was invited by the French NGO « Mémoires du patrimoine » to attend a seminar dedicated to cultural heritage during war at the Louvre’s school located in the heart of the museum. 

In August 2012, former and current students of the « Ecole du Louvre » in Paris founded this small NGO dedicated to acting on behalf of at risk cultural heritage. This initiative emerged following the call from UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova to support Mali’s efforts to safeguard the world heritage properties affected by the armed conflict in the north of the country. It was only natural that the school decided to focus their first seminar on cultural heritage and conflict issues. 

The first morning session was dedicated to the case study of Timbuktu, with a general introduction by Mounir Bouchnaki, the former director general of ICCROM. The presentations, led by Gaëlle Beaujean-Baltzer, Head of African Collections in the Quai Branly Museum, addressed Timbuktu’s intellectual and cultural role in Islamic and African civilizations, and also featured journalist Jean-Michel Dijan, author of The Manuscripts of Timbuktu: Secrets, Myths and Realities, on the topic of the manuscripts and their fate during the conflict. 

The second panel placed a broader focus on actors and legislation. I was invited to take part in this session as a representative of Culture Conflict Cooperation and as a former member of the NGO Patrimoine sans frontières. I delivered a co-written submission on the role of social media and Web 2.0. technologies in the protection of cultural heritage, originally presented by Mario H. Ramirez in Istanbul in November 2012 at the ICOMOS-ICORP International Symposium “Cultural Heritage Protection in Times of Risk: Challenges and Opportunities.” During part of the panel, I was joined by Dr. Arnaud Bertinet who made a brilliant presentation on the evacuation of the Louvre’s collections during Napoleon’s fall and the two World Wars. In addition, Dr. Vincent Négri gave us a comprehensive view on the evolution of the penal status of cultural heritage destruction within international law. 

The presentation was well received by both students and external auditors who noted in their questions the potential dangers involved in reporting on the looting artifacts and at risk sites. Their concern being that greater exposure, although aiding in the protection of cultural heritage by raising public awareness, could also put these materials at greater risk to the very forces that one is trying to save them from.

The afternoon lectures were focused on cultural heritage in the aftermath of conflict with a case study on Dresden by Denis Bocquet, and a presentation on the memorial dimensions of artifacts by Dr François Mairesse. 

To learn more on Mémoires du patrimoine, join their facebook page

Laurence Lepetit
 


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