With continued news of the destruction of heritage in Syria, UNESCO joined efforts with French and Swiss heritage and archeology professionals in the summer of 2015 to assess the material needs of players on the ground to help them pursue their work. A particular need emerged for packaging materials essential for the evacuation and safekeeping of collections, conservation materials to preserve fragile items and restore damaged parts, as well as study and registration tools to help professionals complete the inventories and scientific documentation of Syria’s heritage to facilitate its identification, management and the safeguarding of data.
A vast collection of material has been undertaken under the coordination of the European Archaeological Center and Bibracte EPCC Museum (France). More than 50 institutions, associations and independent professionals from the world of culture, archives, libraries, museums, archeology, restoration and art from all parts of France and Switzerland contributed donations. In total, nearly seven tons of material were collected and sent to UNESCO’s Beirut Office. UNESCO has decided to donate this collection to professionals working for the Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums of Syria, who have received the equipment on 7 March.
This material will help support professionals’ ability to carry out their work in the field. It also brings encouragement through the actual support for heritage that is of clear value, not only for the history of the people of Syria but for humanity as a whole.
In addition to the significant reinforcement in terms of materials essential to support capacities in the field, this remarkable mobilization of international solidarity reflects moral support for those working to safeguard heritage whose importance to the history of the Syrian people and of humanity at large is well recognized.
Syria’s exceptionally rich cultural heritage has since 2011 been seriously affected by the conflict taking place in the country with the destruction of major monuments, including those inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. Many archaeological sites have been raided and looted by armed groups aiming to export archaeological objects and artefacts illegally and sell them on the international art market.
Since 2011, and even more so since the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 2199 (12 February 2015), UNESCO has been entrusted with the mission to counter the serious damage inflicted on Suyria’s millennial heritage. UNESCO has entrusted its Office in Beirut, Lebanon, with the implementation of action plans mobilizing local actors, NGOs and partners from the international community through the Emergency Safeguarding of the Syrian Cultural Heritage project, funded by the European Union, the Flemish Government and Austria.