Protection of Cultural Heritage from Natural and Man-made Disasters: Zagreb and Šibenik, Croatia: 8-10 May 2014
Organised by the National and University Library Preservation Department, this significant and timely International Conference was held in Zagreb on 8-9th May, with associated workshops in Šibenik, on 10th May 2014. Offering 41 presentations and 9 related posters it addressed the needs of tangible heritage assets, documentation, collections, and the intangible heritage; 104 delegates attended from 15 countries.
As part of the Preservation Departments’ three-year project aimed at the development of strategic guidelines for the protection of cultural heritage from disaster, and the formulation of proposals for introducing amendments into existing legislation, the Conference resolved that:
• Cultural Heritage is the manifestation of a wide range of surviving assets and identities that provide important communications with the past. These are currently placed in our temporary custodianship with a commitment to safeguard them for the future and following generations.
• There is an obligation to use relevant technologies, including a variety of digital and virtual means, to preserve and archive all aspects of that Heritage as part of the World Memory and its various nationally important archives.
• The Heritage consists of creating a ‘Triple I’ effect, being: International, Interdisciplinary and Inter-sectorial in nature.
The Conference also resolved that:
• To underline the importance of risk-based decisions, there is a need to urgently address the widespread lack of awareness and understanding of disasters and risks through incorporating Cultural Heritage requirements in National Disaster Plans.
• Some man-made disasters inadvertently result from legislation, and politicians and key decision-makers often have little awareness of this consequential risk. Promoting an understanding and consciousness of this concern is required to inform and influence emerging policy, without diminishing the value of the Heritage.
• Creating a common proactive and risk-based approach is an essential tool for good Cultural Heritage management, as is the need to have secure retention, recording and archival arrangements in place for Cultural Heritage that is deemed at risk.
The Conference further resolved that:
• The Cultural Heritage sector needs move out of its ‘comfort zone’ and change its approach to improve communications and influence though exercising more integrated and lateral thinking in the exchange of knowledge, networking and informative dialogue.
• The range of multidisciplinary involvements in safeguarding the Cultural Heritage must be far-reaching. Cross-sectorial challenges should address the lack of integrated awareness and inclusion in related fields such as climate change, and the policy, presentation, visualisation, digitisation, research, education, training and archiving sectors.
• There is a conflict between Cultural Heritage criteria and that of other sectors, whilst there is a lack of specific standards for the breadth of that Heritage. This should be based on appropriate values, significance, performance and procedural approaches.
In considering the relevance of the various presentations and plenary session findings, the Conference proposed the need to create an “International Conservation Agreement on the Amelioration of Loss to the Cultural Heritage from Natural and Man-made Disasters” that:
• Recognised that the value and significance of retaining original cultural heritage assets was at risk of being diminished and lost from the accumulative detrimental actions of earth, wind, fire, water and man.
• Acknowledged the benefits of digital recording, archiving and related emerging virtual technologies to ameliorate that obliteration and loss.
In addition, the Agreement should seek the integration of both elements to:
• Develop and agree an effective strategy and standard to archive and access such digital libraries.
• Enable true digital reproductions, at all levels of need, to readily aid and encourage:
• Disseminating awareness.
• Informing policy
• Developing knowledge and understanding.
• Promoting education and training.
• Appreciating conservation requirements.
• Promoting preventative and remedial activities.