Workshop: 13th International Training Course (ITC) on Disaster Risk Management of Cultural Heritage

Towards Integrated Protection of Immovable and Movable Cultural Heritage from Disasters

Cultural heritage is increasingly exposed to disasters caused by natural and human-induced activities such as earthquakes, floods, fires, typhoons, theft, terrorism, etc. Recent examples include earthquakes in Central Mexico in 2017, Central Italy and Myanmar in 2016, Nepal in 2015, the UK floods in 2015, the Balkan floods in 2014, and ongoing conflicts in Syria and Yemen. These disasters not only affect immovable heritage such as monuments, archaeological sites and historic urban areas, but also cause damage to movable components:  museum collections and heritage objects that are in active use within a local community, for example, religious and other artefacts of significance.

Both these movable and immovable components are exposed to various hazards that require appropriate measures to reduce disaster risks. Also, in the aftermath of a disaster, many architectural fragments of damaged or collapsed buildings need documentation, handling and storage similar to movable heritage collections. Thus, an integrated approach for movable and immovable heritage is needed for the risk assessment of heritage sites, as well as museums and its collections before, during and after a disaster situation. The limited availability of human and financial resources also calls for closer coordination between professionals and institutions dealing with heritage sites, museums and external agencies.

Moreover, integrated disaster risk management involves appropriate mitigation and adaptation strategies aimed at reducing various risks to movable and immovable heritage by taking into consideration their often-interdependent values. It is also important to recognize that many examples of traditional knowledge, evolved by communities through trial and error, demonstrate that movable and immovable cultural heritage can be an effective source of resilience against disaster risks. This traditional knowledge should therefore be integrated into larger disaster risk management strategies.

Japan is home to a variety of frequently-occurring disasters, which can cause wide-range damage to its cultural resources. For this reason, the country has taken specialized measures in establishing a disaster risk management system and methodology for post-disaster emergency response and recovery.

Together with the preservation of historical townscapes and buildings, professionals aim to protect the objects and implements long-used in the daily lives of people of the region, as well as objects that serve as clues to understanding the lives and achievements of past generations. 

Seasonal festivals and rituals, as well as local celebrations and customs also help to make people's lives more enriched in the local community. Thus, another significant task is the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage from natural hazards.

These various cultural heritage disaster mitigation measures, many developed in response to Japan's special circumstances, will be covered in this training.

The 13th International Training Course will give special focus on the Integrated Protection of Immovable and Movable Cultural Heritage from Disasters.

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