Heritage & Conflict: Syria’s Battle to Protect its Past

© iStock RPMGas © iStock RPMGas

For the inaugural talk in World Monuments Fund Britain’s Heritage & Conflict series, we welcome Prof. Maamoun Abdulkarim, Director-General of Antiquities and Museums for Syria, to give the human story behind the global headlines, and James Davis from the Google Cultural Institute, to report on the latest international efforts to scan and document cultural heritage through advancing technology. The evening will be introduced by Lisa Ackerman, Executive Vice President of World Monuments Fund.

As conflict rages across the Middle East and North Africa, millions of people have been displaced, creating a refugee crisis of immense proportions. Alongside this human tragedy a cultural one is being played out, in which heritage is being deliberately targeted. We learn daily of the destruction of ancient monuments at places such as the World Heritage site of Palmyra, and elsewhere in the region.

With the loss of cultural heritage dominating the media, in his first visit to the UK, Professor Maamoun Abdulkarim will talk about Syria’s frontline efforts to protect its irreplaceable heritage from insurgent forces. The structures, whether caught in the crossfire, deliberately destroyed to gain the media spotlight or looted to fund extremist activity, are symbolic of a treasured cultural legacy and are simply irreplaceable. What if anything can be done to protect what remains?

World Monuments Fund is the leading independent organisation devoted to saving the world’s most treasured places and this series will bring speakers to London who are closest to the international heritage stories making the very latest news.

John Darlington, Executive Director of World Monuments Fund Britain says, The shocking images of events in Syria and beyond makes for difficult viewing. These are buildings, monuments and antiquities that define and enrich nations – their loss and destruction is a tragedy. Professor Maamoun and his team are in Syria seeing the crisis first-hand and we welcome him as a latter-day Monument’s Man to London to hear his personal insights and to ask how we can help.

Maamoun Abdulkarim, Director-General of Antiquities and Museums for Syria said, Having the support and backing of organisations like World Monuments Fund offers us some comfort at a distressing and uncertain time for Syria. WMF has, for many years championed our country’s cultural heritage and I have great respect for the organisation’s work across the world helping communities to save historic sites affected by disasters and conflict. It is an honour to be asked to come to London to talk about our crisis in Syria and the work that my team is doing to secure and record our country’s irreplaceable heritage.

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