Museum Leaders Condemn Destruction of Cultural Heritage in Ukraine

  • February 28, 2022 15:57

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Maria Prymachenko, Our Army, Our Protectors (1978)

Curators and museum leaders are speaking out against the cultural consequences of Russia's violent attack on Ukraine.

One known casualty has been the Ivankiv Historical and Local History Museum, northwest of Kyiv, which Russian forces burned down, along with around 25 works by famed Ukrainian folk artist Maria Prymachenko, reports Hyperallergic.

“Numerous historical and architectural monuments and archaeological sites are under threat of artillery shelling and uncontrolled movement of heavy military trucks,” Vlada Litovchenko, director of the Vyshhorod Historical and Cultural Reserve, wrote in a statement on Facebook, translated into English. Litovchenko also noted Ukraine has called for UNESCO to remove Russia from the organization.

The Association of Art Museum Curators (AAMC), which serves an international community and is the foremost voice for all art curators, released a statement saying it "strongly condemns the violation of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine. We are concerned for all people affected by the invasion, and have our colleagues, across the art, historical, and cultural sector living and working in Ukraine, at the forefront of our minds and hearts.  As the situation continues to unfold, we also hope that any deliberate targeting of art, architectural, archaeological and cultural sites does not occur as it is against international treaties to which the United States Government is a signatory, including the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2347 (2017), and 1972 UNESCO Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage."
In a statement, James Cuno, president and CEO of the J. Paul Getty Trust, says: "News reports indicate that among the many atrocities being committed in Ukraine over the past few days of Putin’s War, Russian forces have begun destroying Ukrainian cultural heritage. Russia has deliberately burned to the ground the Ivankiv Museum north of Kyiv, which housed precious Ukrainian folk art, in what Ukrainian scholars call an unfolding cultural catastrophe.'

At risk in Ukraine are millions of artworks and monuments, including monuments representing centuries of history from the Byzantine to the Baroque periods, as well as UNESCO World Heritage sites.

The material cultural legacy of the world is our common heritage, the identity and inspiration for all humanity. Cultural heritage has the power to unite us and is critical for achieving peace. It is also too often the target of war, another way to destroy and overtake a society by erasing its memory.

What precious little remains in the world of our ancient heritage is already suffering from wanton destruction, looting, neglect, reckless overdevelopment, and climate change. To have even more lost to senseless war is unconscionable. Instead of destroying our common heritage, we should be celebrating its existence, working to enhance protections and strengthen our international laws, and moving toward a more textured understanding of the world’s cultures and their contributions to our shared experience.

The Getty Trust works to call attention to the loss of cultural heritage worldwide. We condemn the cultural atrocities being committed now in Ukraine, together with the unfathomable human and environmental losses. We stand in solidarity with our Ukrainian colleagues. Protecting and preserving our cultural heritage is a core value of civilized societies. What is taking place in Ukraine is a tragedy of monumental proportions." 


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