How Ukrainians are saving art during the war

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And the long history of why protecting physical culture matters.

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Despite the fact that it’s a war crime to target cultural heritage, cultural sites are often treated as a second front: looted, damaged, or destroyed as a way for an aggressor to assert power, demoralize an enemy, and control — or even erase — a cultural narrative.

From the very beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, identity has been at the center of Putin’s agenda. And as cultural sites all over the country sustain damage, it is becoming increasingly clear that erasing the cultural and historical markers of Ukraine are a key facet of Russia’s plan.

Ukraine is home to a vast array of visual and material culture — museums, monuments, archives, and architecture — all of which is at grave risk of destruction, both collateral and intentional.

We spoke with three experts actively working to safeguard Ukraine’s artistic treasures:
Dr. Hayden Bassett, director of the Virginia Museum of Natural History’s Cultural Heritage Monitoring Lab (CHML) https://www.vmnh.net/research-collections/chml;

Vasyl Mystko, director of communications for Lviv’s Gallery of Art http://lvivgallery.org.ua/museums?fbclid=IwAR2HXxBPUoL7UWtAZ34avtatrSFpKDjyC1r8ghZOAugCUz2-UlSnAGtbKps ;

and Catarina Buchatskiy, co-founder of the Shadows Project https://beacons.page/shadows.project
https://www.instagram.com/shadows.project/

Here’s the link to the Ukrainian Cultural Ministry’s repository for cultural crimes that we mentioned in the video: https://culturecrimes.mkip.gov.ua/

If you’re interested in volunteering remotely, Saving Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Online (SUCHO) is working to identify and archive at-risk sites, digital content, and data in Ukrainian cultural heritage institutions. https://www.sucho.org/

Or check out the Network of European Museum Organizations (NEMO). They’re collecting a list of some organizations in contact with Ukrainians on the ground: https://www.ne-mo.org/advocacy/our-advocacy-work/museums-support-ukraine.html

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