Symposium Heritage under Attack


On the 14th of November 2014, ICOM Netherlands and Blue Shield Netherlands organised the Symposium Heritage under Attack. The symposium focused on the protection of cultural heritage during times of war or disasters. In dangerous situations like these, the protection of people is the first need and priority. However, the destruction or looting of cultural heritage as part of the human identity, is also a loss for human kind. "There is no culture without people and no society without culture."(UNESCO)

The occasion of the symposium was the 60th anniversary of UNESCO's 1954 The Hague Convention on the protection of cultural heritage in the event of an armed conflict. Dutch Culture supported the symposium with the visitors programm fund for the two key note speakers, from Mali and the Ukraine.  

For most of the cultural heritage professionals, this topic seems far off. Unfortunately, destroyment and looting of cultural heritage is in recent years occurring in areas of Syria, Iraq and Mali, amongst others. This symposium is organized to raise awareness about this topic amongst heritage professionals and to pose ourselves the question: could we safeguard our heritage in the occurrence of conflict or disasters?

Almost 130 participants (of which a fifth from abroad) joined the symposium at the Van Braam Houckgeest barracks in Doorn. Five speakers held pecha kucha’s on for example the role of the Army in the protection of heritage, a rescue mission for the collapsed archives in Cologne and illicit traffic of cultural heritage, that is occurring in unstable situations. Quite emotional was Yvette Shamiers presentation, a Syrian who lives in the Netherlands and has been closely involved with the tourism branche of Syria. She called for help in the protection of the rich Syrian heritage, including six World Heritage Sites that are severely damaged. And Deborah Stolk informed us on the Cultural Emerency Programm of the Prince Claus Fund. Deborah: “A country lives as long as its culture lives".

Click here for the full programm.
Click here for the biographies of the speakers.

In the Volkskrant, (a Dutch newspaper) a journalist who visited the symposium, examines the issue of plundering archeological sites and trading archaeological objects from Syria, by IS, amongst others. Click here for the article (in Dutch).

The two key note speakers were Kateryna Chuyeva from the recently established Blue Shield Ukraine and Samuel Sidibé , director from the Museé National du Mali. Ukraine encountered three conflicts last year in which heritage was, and still is, in danger. The revolts in Kiev, the Krim and East Ukraine. Kateryna plead for involvement of the community, since that turend out to be very important in protecting the museums. Blue Shield Ukraine was established during the conflicts, which made it less effective, but still productive in the protection of the heritage. Samuel also plead to include and inform the community about their heritage. Because in these non-state (for example religious) conflicts, “heritage might no longer be your identity, but it is still your history”, according to Samuel. Education on cultural heritage is therefore a crucial part in increasing the awareness on the importance of it and in the long- term help protecting it.

Another conclusion was that the The Hague Convention, ratified by 126 states, is a less effective tool for the non-state conflicts that were addressed in the presentations.

Moderator Louk de la Rive Box reflected on the presentations, with a profound knowledge on the subject. Louk de la Rive Box has a long-term interest in international cultural cooperation, which resulted in being a founding member of the Prince Claus Fund for Culture and Development and of its Cultural Emergency Response Program.

After the symposium, shuttle busses drove the participants to the exhibition on World War I at Huis Doorn, where we were welcomed by curator Cornelis van der Bas. Click here for the intriguing story on Huis Doorn, which has also been endangered several times in its history.

Follow us on Facebook and keep posted on the subject heritage under attack in general:

In case you have any questions, please contact one of us of the organizing team:

Arnoud van Aalst (ICOM NL)
ICOM-NLlogo middelgroot (2) blueshield



logo van Braam Houckgeest kazerne


Logo DutchCulture 

Angela Dellebeke (Blue Shield NL)       
Astrid Hertog (ICOM NL)
Andrea Kieskamp (Blue Shield NL)  en

Susan van 't Slot (ICOM NL)

Heritage Under Attack

  • Samuel Sidibe
  • Yvette Shamier
  • Kateryna Chuyeva
  • Louk de la Rive Box
  • Marjan Otter
  • Deborah Stolk
  • Edwin Maes
  • Ingestort Keuls archief
  • Jos van Beurden
  • De toehoorders

Huis Doorn

  • presentatie WOI
  • presentatie WOI
  • Huis Doorn
  • buitenkant WOI paviljoen
  • Huis Doorn