Floods - Fire - Funding. Summer2018

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Heritage sites receive $1M from American Express

NEW YORK, NY.- American Express and World Monuments Fund today announced $1 million in funding to support preservation efforts at eight endangered cultural heritage sites included on the 2018 World Monuments Watch.
The funded sites face threats from the effects of natural disaster, climate change, urbanization, and neglect, and date from prehistory to the twentieth century. They were included on the biennial Watch to identify opportunities for collaboration and positive impact. Now, grants from American Express will make projects possible at the following places:
Potager du Roi in Versailles, France; Grand Theater of Prince Kung’s Mansion in Beijing, China; the town of Amatrice, Italy; Kagawa Prefectural Gymnasium in Takamatsu, Japan; Tebaida Leonesa in León, Spain; Blackpool Piers in Blackpool, England; Matobo Hills Cultural Landscape in Matobo, Zimbabwe; and Monte Albán Archaeological Site in Oaxaca, Mexico.
“As the founding sponsor of the World Monuments Watch, American Express is committed to advocating for the protection of our most treasured landmarks around the globe,” said Timothy J. McClimon, President of the American Express Foundation. “We recognize these sites as symbols of national and local identity, and value the role that their preservation can play in attracting visitors and revitalizing communities.”
“For more than 20 years, American Express has been an unmatched champion of the world’s most treasured places.” said Joshua David, President and CEO, World Monument Fund. “Their leadership and support of the World Monuments Watch allows us to support international partners in the protection, conservation, and stewardship of sites of cultural heritage, helping to strengthen communities around the world.”
The World Monuments Watch works with local communities to bring their treasured cultural heritage sites to an international stage. Announced in October 2017 with founding sponsor American Express, the 2018 Watch includes a diverse group of 25 sites spanning more than 30 countries and territories that face daunting threats or present unique conservation opportunities.
Over the past 20 years, American Express has given nearly $18 million to help preserve 166 World Monuments Watch sites in 71 countries. It has also partnered with a number of leading organizations to help preserve sites in need, build awareness, and engage the public in preservation efforts across the world. Through these partnerships and other individual grants, American Express has granted more than $60 million to support hundreds of preservation projects.
Potager du Roi; Versailles, France
The historic kitchen garden of the Palace of Versailles was created more than 300 years ago to fulfill King Louis XIV’s vision of creating the most impressive palace in the world. The garden has been at the cutting edge ever since, introducing new microclimates and methods for producing harvests in and out of season, and developing hybrid fruits and vegetables. Today, stewards of Potager du Roi are looking for new ways to engage visitors and address maintenance challenges.
Grand Theater of Prince Kung’s Mansion; Beijing, China
The Grand Theater at Prince Kung’s Mansion is the largest and only imperial mansion theater open to the public in Beijing, China. The theater was added to the celebrated eighteenth-century residence as part of a pleasure garden, staging plays and entertaining guests. Today, the residence operates as a museum and the theater continues to be used for performances. Funds will be used to build an international, scientific conservation partnership aimed at recovering the original appearance and historic authenticity of the theater during Prince Kung’s era.
Amatrice, Italy
The hill town of Amatrice, Italy, suffered a series of devastating earthquakes in 2016, destroying the majority of the town and causing 299 deaths and approximately 400 injuries. Amatrice was included on the Watch to bring awareness to its state and the need for better disaster prevention and preparedness. Funds will be used towards restoration efforts at the Museo Cola Filotesio, whose bell tower survived but requires comprehensive stabilization and conservation.
Kagawa Prefectural Gymnasium; Takamatsu, Japan
The beloved modern landmark was built by renowned architect Kenzo Tange in the 1960s and hosted local sports events for 50 years until its suspended roof began to leak. The facility was closed to the public in 2014 as a result of these structural issues; it also no longer meets current gymnasium requirements. Funds will be used to support local advocates in their campaign to preserve and repurpose the structure to meet a community need.
Tebaida Leonesa; León, Spain
The rural communities of the Tebaida Leonesa, a rugged, mountainous area, originated in the seventh century. Since then, the valley has preserved its cultural, natural, and immaterial values as well as much of its exceptional medieval architecture. Now, the communities face the challenges of preserving the character of their villages and landscape in the face of growing tourism and development. Funds will be used to restore the original wall paintings of the Church of Santiago de Peñalba, a tenth century masterpiece of Mozarabic architecture.
Blackpool Piers; Blackpool, England
For more than a century, generations of working-class Britons have vacationed at Blackpool and visited its three iconic piers on the Irish Sea coast of England. Today, the piers are threatened by dangerous sea-level rise as a result of climate change. Privately owned, they are ineligible to receive public funding for rehabilitation. Funds will be used to facilitate expanded dialogue between local groups and the pier owners and explore new models for their rehabilitation.
Matobo Hills Cultural Landscape; Matobo, Zimbabwe
The dramatic cultural landscape, home to one of the world’s great rock art collections, marks critical stages in human history and evolution, reaching back 100,000 years. The World Heritage Site continues to be deeply associated with cultural and religious traditions. Today, its important rock art is threatened by deforestation, the risk of fires, and other human activities. Funds will be used to work with local heritage authorities on improved documentation and conservation plans at the site.
Monte Albán Archaeological Site; Oaxaca, Mexico
Known for its unique hieroglyphic inscriptions, the sixth-century metropolis provides insight into the ancient Zapotec civilization. Fifteen structures were affected following a September 2017 earthquake, with five showing severe damage that requires emergency structural shoring to prevent collapse. Funds will be used for a project in partnership with INAH to address the long-term stability of Monte Albán, including physical conservation, documentation, and geological assessment. The program will also emphasize training and capacity building, giving local technicians the skills they need to effectively repair and prepare Monte Albán for future natural disasters.

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Heritage Responders and Caribbean Museums in Crisis Heroic Work By Museum Staff, NGOs, and Residents Saves Museum Collections

Between August 18th and September 18th, 2017, one hurricane after another ravaged the Caribbean. First Hurricane Harvey, then Irma, Jose, and finally Maria slammed into many of the 28 Caribbean island nations. Puerto Rico, Cuba, Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda, St. Martin and Saint Barthélemy, Anguilla, the Leeward Islands, Turks and Caicos, the Dominican Republic and Haiti, the Virgin Islands, and Guadeloupe were all in the cross hairs. Hurricanes Irma and Maria were two of the strongest storms to hit the region in recorded history, each reaching an astounding category-5 status along their path. In addition to the destruction wrought on homes and businesses, the month of storms damaged museum buildings and left widespread power outages in their wake, retarding post-storm recovery efforts and further endangering museum collections.
In the immediate aftermath of the storms, as people reeled from the loss of life and personal property, there was already significant concern about the endangered cultural infrastructure of the Caribbean. The damage to the museums represented a significant problem for the islanders, both psychologically and economically. Caribbean cultural heritage sites are not only safe keepers of the islanders’ history and identity – they also contribute to the tourist economy on which most of these islands survive.
After fire and flood, heat and humidity pose the greatest threats to art and artifacts in collections. Conservators recommend that collections maintain a humidity of less than 65% and a temperature below 68 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent mold growth and insects damage to collections. These standards are impossible for museums in the Caribbean to maintain without electrical power. Puerto Rico, for example, enjoys the climate of a tropical rainforest; the average temperature in the city of San Juan during the day is above 80 degrees year-round and humidity averages 75%. In these conditions, only a short time need elapse before mold growth can damage or destroy precious objects.
Without power, working in damaged buildings without the electricity necessary to restore safe temperature and humidity levels, Caribbean museum staff were faced with an almost impossible task of preserving the artifacts in their care. There was widespread structural damage and power outages on most of the affected island nations – nearly the entire territory of Puerto Rico lost power, over 90% of the structures on the island of Barbuda were destroyed and the whole population was evacuated to Antiqua. Surprisingly, in most cases the museums and cultural institutions were soon able to protect their collections and shore up their heritage sites to guard against further damage. Their remarkable recovery was thanks to the ingenuity of on-site museum staff and the assistance of NGOs, and offers a wealth of lessons in disaster response for museums worldwide.
Spotlight on Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico was severely affected by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Six months after the category-5 hurricanes pummeled the island, some areas still did not have electricity.
There are many questions to be asked about Puerto Rico’s ongoing crisis: about US culpability for the clumsy and inadequate recovery process following the devastation of Hurricane Maria: underreported death tolls, slow response times, a crumbling electrical infrastructure, and the prior financial bankrupting of the country partially attributable to questionable mainland banking and investment practices. We should also look at the vulnerability of art and cultural heritage during natural disasters and why the preservation of heritage matters for a community in times of public disaster.
In the days following Hurricane Maria the reports rolled in: the Museum of Contemporary Art in San Juan had lost power, had no backup generator and was therefore without climate control. The copper exterior on a wall at the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico (MAPR) had been torn away by the wind and rain and almost all of the landscaping in its sculpture garden was destroyed. The museum had a backup generator that was able to run the climate control system, but procuring diesel could become a problem. Nearly all of the 1840s doors, window frames and shutters at the Spanish Colonial headquarters of the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture in Old San Juan were significantly damaged. The Museum of Art at the Mayaguez campus of the University of Puerto Rico had lost a portion of its roof, as had the Museo Casa Roig. Miraculously, the Museo de Arte de Ponce sustained minor damage and was actually able to reopen a week after the hurricane.
Almost before the winds ceased, the museums came together to protect Puerto Rico’s art and cultural heritage. Both the Museo de Arte de Ponce and the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico (MAPR) reached out to other museums to help protect and restore their collections. According to Victoria Stapley-Brown at the Art Newspaper, MAPR became a “communications and conservation hub for local cultural institutions” and the Museo de Arte de Ponce worked with the museum at the University of Puerto Rico in Cayey to assess the damage and conserve pieces from their collection.
The Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico also opened its doors to store over 220 artworks and artifacts from a half a dozen institutions until it was safe for the works to return.  Some of the institutions that MAPR has assisted include: Santa Catalina Palace (the official residence of the Governor of Puerto Rico), Sacred Heart University, the José M. Lazaro Library at the University of Puerto Rico, Caguas Art Museum, Luis Muñoz Marín Foundation, Ateneo Puertorriqueño, and Casa Roig Museum.
Sometimes museum directors had to take dramatic, not to say creative, steps to save their collections. The director of the Museum of Contemporary Art of Puerto Rico in San Juan, Marianne Ramírez Aponte, described how she had to “hack big, rectangular vents” into their gallery walls to create cross-ventilation to fight the high temperatures and humidity [to prevent mold growth and water damage] until power could be restored.” Due to these astounding efforts the museums lost very little of their art and artifacts.
NGOs: Aid from Abroad and Help on the Ground
Emergency heritage conservation organizations from the United States – groups trained in art and cultural heritage rescue and recovery – donated money or came to lend a hand in Puerto Rico. One of the groups to dispatch assistance to the island was the National Heritage Responders (NHR). Cultural Property News spoke via email with one of NHR’s responders, Molly O’Guinness Carlson, a high school teacher in the Northeast with a background in archaeological conservation and wet-site conservation (think shipwrecks).
The National Heritage Responders sent two deployments to Puerto Rico to assist the museums with conserving their collections. The team from NHR that Molly was on arrived in Puerto Rico over 70 days after Hurricane Maria.
This was Molly’s first deployment with NHR, but not her first time in Puerto Rico: “I was thrilled to do so because once as a sailor I went through a hurricane on a square topsail schooner and we got pretty beat up. We limped into Puerto Rico by following a radio direction beacon right under El Morro National Park to the inner harbor. The people of PR took very good care of us and it was great to give something back to them.”
Molly described the herculean efforts of museum staff throughout the island in conserving their collections: “Directors, curators and cultural agency staff were very, very challenged to protect what they curated while without building integrity, security and climate control.
“The people who needed to work in this environment were isolated, not getting trauma help or advice on how to stay safe. They felt helpless yet were trying to carry the responsibility of managing the disaster. Mental exhaustion was very evident, yet they were loyal to their collections and were soldiering on.”
Molly recognized the impact of trauma and described her team’s response to the situation. “Sometimes the best gift we could give was just to listen… to let them tell the story of what they experienced and let them stop being in charge for just a little while… to give them an eddy where they could put down Atlas’s burden.”
“They were isolated and did not know why they were crying at home and did not realize they were having very real trauma reactions. We were the first to hear their story. We were able to acknowledge the exemplary efforts they took before the storms hit… and reassure them that their efforts to mitigate the damage in a system of island-wide chaos and loss of infrastructure were often exactly right.”
(For more about the National Heritage Responders see: EMTs for US Heritage: National Heritage Responders: An Interview with Jessica Unger of the the Foundation of the American Institute for Conservation, Cultural Property News, February 1, 2018)
How Other Museums Can Help
The response of Chicago’s National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts & Culture highlights how museums and cultural centers outside of the Caribbean helped the islands after the disaster. In an interview on Adelante Chicago, museum director Billy Ocasio described the museum’s efforts to help Puerto Rico rebuild. In recognition of their role as community leaders as well as cultural centers, the museum initially partnered with multiple relief organizations to help support over 20 mission trips bringing supplies to all 77 communities in Puerto Rico.
Once the basic needs of the people of Puerto Rico were met, the National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts & Culture began to assess what it could do to help the arts and culture of Puerto Rico. Ocasio said, “at the end of the day we are a Puerto Rican museum and our mission is to preserve the art and the culture and the traditions. So we looked at the creative economy of PR and we found that nothing was going to the creative economy of PR… so we partnered with the government of Puerto Rico through the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture which preserves the art and artifacts.” The Chicago museum opened a brand new gift shop that purchases all its goods directly from Puerto Rican artists. The money thus raised goes back to Puerto Rico to buy more goods from the Puerto Rican artists. Ocasio reports that the gift shop has been wildly successful and is helping to build the creative economy of Puerto Rico.
Focus on Barbuda
Hurricane Irma decimated the small island of Barbuda. Approximately 90% of the structures on the island were damaged or destroyed and the whole population of 1,800 inhabitants was evacuated. Among the casualties of the hurricane were the outdoor equipment and weather station of the Barbuda Archaeological Research Center.
Barbuda’s recovery has been halting and hampered by ongoing outages and resource shortages. The government’s website states: “Sadly we are not able to regularly update the website on a regular basis since we have been back in Barbuda. Nearly nine months now without electricity, we are still using expensive generators that cost too much to run for more than a few hours and gas is limited and is often rationed or runs out. The internet is slow and is no longer being provided free at the Fisheries building; often there is no signal. Most people have limited phone signal.”
Homes are gradually being repaired but the pace is slow, especially for those in the worst damage categories – still waiting patiently in tents as we approach the next hurricane season.”
We do not yet know what happened to the historical and archeological sites listed on Barbuda’s website. These include the remains of a 19th century castle, as well as an old government building and other early structures from Barbuda’s history.
At the Barbuda Archaeological Research Center, “much of the center’s outdoor equipment and weather station were destroyed,” reported the Science News Staff at Science. One of the Center’s dogs and a horse were killed by debris. Fortunately, the Barbudan staffer at the center and her family survived unscathed, despite minor damage to the main building.
Dr. Sophia Perdikaris, a professor at Brooklyn College in New York City and director of the Barbuda Archaeological Research Center, has been running the Brooklyn College archaeological field school to Barbuda for the past ten years. For a decade, she has worked with a team of local Barbudans studying pre-Columbian human remains on the island. Dr. Perdikaris told the staff at Science last autumn that, “I think I was in tears the entire week,” she says. “[The Barbudans] become like a family; it becomes like a second home.”
At the time of publication, Cultural Property News has been unable to reach Dr. Perdikaris or determine what has become of the Barbuda Archaeological Research Center.
Legislative Jetsam from the Storm
In addition to the damage sustained by Barbuda’s archaeological sites, the island’s contemporary cultural is undergoing changes incited by Hurricane Irma. Perhaps most significant are intensified challenges to the island’s communal land ownership practices that have been in place since the abolishment of slavery in the 1830s and legalized by the Barbuda Land Act of 2007.
According to Steve Sapienza of the Pulitzer Center in his article Hurricane Irma nearly destroyed Barbuda: will recovery destroy the island’s communal way of life?, the Prime Minister of Barbuda, Gaston Browne, declared an end to communal land ownership in a November 2017 United Nations donor conference in New York. Faced with a $200 million bill to rebuild the island, “he claimed that private land ownership is the only way to secure financing to rebuild Barbuda because collective ownership scares away foreign investors.”
Opposition to deconstruction of communal land ownership was already in the works with legal challenges to the Paradise Found (Project) Act, 2015. Paradise Found Nobu is a $250 million resort project spearheaded by actor Robert DeNiro and investor James Packer. The 2015 Act amended the 2007 Barbuda Land Act to allow developers to lease land beyond the 50-year maximum limit and to dispense with plebiscite approval for large developments – both amendments directly benefiting the resort. The Barbuda People’s Movement (BPM) has challenged the act’s constitutionality, but with so much of the island destroyed, it will be hard for the islanders to turn away from the possibility of foreign investment and increased tourism.
What Comes Next?
Hurricane season officially began June 1, 2018, while much of the Caribbean is still reeling from the 2017 season. This year the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) forecasts a “near or above-normal 2018 Atlantic hurricane season” meaning there could be more than 9 hurricanes, half of them quite as intense as those that struck the Caribbean last year.
There is no doubt that hurricanes are getting stronger and more destructive. Museums and cultural heritage sites need to know how to protect their staff, collections, and buildings from the danger posed by these storms, and how to recover post-hurricane. Moving forward, museum and institute staffers can look to the experiences of the cultural heritage safe keepers in the Caribbean to learn how to prepare, how to recover, and where to look for aid. The quick response of the wider arts community to the Caribbean crisis is a warming reminder of the sense of comradeship which ought to pervade the international art world. Cultural heritage institutions are essential to communities, even – or perhaps especially – at times of national crisis.
Bonnie Povolny - June 27, 2018

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Glasgow blaze guts one of world's top art schools - again
GLASGOW (AFP).- Fire devastated one of the world's top art schools once again on Saturday, destroying four years of restoration work after a previous blaze ripped through the historic Glasgow School of Art.
The famed Mackintosh Building in Scotland's biggest city has been "extensively damaged", fire chiefs said.
A restoration project, set to cost between £20 million and £35 million ($26.5 million and $46.5 million; 23 and 40 million euros), had been returning the world-renowned institution to its former glory following a fire in 2014.
But much of that work has been wrecked, firefighters confirmed, after rushing to tackle the inferno which broke out at around 11:20 pm (2220 GMT) on Friday.
No casualties were reported.
"This is a devastating loss for Glasgow," deputy assistant chief fire officer Peter Heath told a press conference.
He said firefighters who had battled to save the building four years ago were distraught to be back at the scene after it went up in flames again.
"The fire has had a good grip of this building and it's extensively damaged it, but the emotional attachment -- there is a sense of loss not just amongst the firefighters but I am sure the citizens of Glasgow."
Asked if any of the restoration work had been destroyed, Heath replied: "Given the extent of the fire, that would be a fair comment."
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said her heart "breaks for Glasgow's beloved" art school, which is housed in one of Britain's most cherished buildings.
"It is hard to find words to convey the utter devastation felt here and around the world for the iconic Mackintosh building," she said.
Local residents were evacuated from their homes with the glow from the blaze visible across the city centre.
The fire affected all floors of the art school and spread to a nearby campus and a nightclub.
Writing on Twitter, Paul Sweeney, a Glasgow MP, said: "It looks like the entire interior space is now fully alight. The best we can probably hope for is structural facade retention and a complete rebuild of the interior."
Britain's Scotland Secretary David Mundell said he was at the school only a fortnight ago to see the restoration work.
He said the government "stands ready to help, financially or otherwise".
Protected landmark
The previous blaze was in May 2014, badly damaging the building designed by the architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh.
A Glasgow-born architect and designer, Mackintosh (1868-1928) was a leading exponent of Art Nouveau, whose distinctive lines and lettering remain influential.
He won a competition to design the building in 1897 and it took around 10 years to complete. It is now a landmark in the city with special government-protected status.
The school's alumni include recent Turner Prize for art winners Simon Starling (2005), Richard Wright (2009) and Martin Boyce (2011).
Others include "Doctor Who" actor Peter Capaldi, Harry Potter and James Bond movie actor Robbie Coltrane, and members from the Scottish rock bands Travis and Franz Ferdinand.
"Can't believe what's happening to the art school. Terrible," said Franz Ferdinand frontman Alex Kapranos.
The 2014 blaze began when a projector ignited gases from expanding foam used in a student project, a fire investigation found.
© Agence France-Presse

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The Glasgow School of Art dilemma: rebuild, leave in ruins or design a whole new school?
Alumni at odds over how to move forward after fire gutted Mackintosh’s masterpiece
Gareth Harris
10th July 2018 10:27 GMT
The question of the next step for the Glasgow School of Art (GSA), which was ravaged by a fire last month, is dividing artists and architects who are torn over whether the landmark Art Nouveau building should be rebuilt, remain as ruins or be replaced by a new art school. The local artist and GSA alumnus Nathan Coley tells The Art Newspaper: “We have a great architect [Mackintosh], and a tested world-class design. The 'Mack' must be rebuilt. Imagine the signal it would send to the world if we didn't.”
The GSA, which is considered Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s masterpiece, was completed in 1909. More than 120 firefighters tackled the fire—the second blaze to hit the historic site in four years—the cause of which is still unknown.
“The investigations by Police Scotland, Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and the Health and Safety Executive [are] a hugely complex event so we wouldn’t expect to hear anything about the causes of the fire for some significant time,” a GSA spokeswoman tells us.
“We have been focusing on getting the building stable so that our local community can get back into their homes and business premises as soon as possible and making sure that the work of the GSA can continue,” she adds. Postgraduate students were back on campus last week and the commencement of work to stabilise the building is imminent, the spokeswoman says.
The high-profile architect David Chipperfield has called for the school to be rebuilt, adding that the school should be declared a “monument of national importance”. The challenge will be funding the project, he told Architects Journal. “In my opinion, the cost issue should be set aside and defined as a result of an acceptable approach,” he says. Reconstruction costs are currently estimated at £100m.
But the architect Alan Dunlop, a visiting professor at Aberdeen’s Robert Gordon University, disagrees. He believes that a public debate is now necessary. “After the fire, the general opinion seemed to be that a rebuild was necessary but I think that is now changing. The more the GSA learns about the condition [of the building], the more serious the situation seems to be. Exactly what remains and what needs to be demolished is unclear though the North elevation appears to be sound, but only to the first floor,” he says.
Dunlop, another alumnus of the GSA, says that replicating the school risks turning it into a “Mackintosh museum”, and now advocates launching a competition to build a new art school on the site. “This has the potential to be an important cultural debate, especially on the issue of creating a new school.”
The most radical solution comes from Ray McKenzie, an honorary professor at GSA. “Anybody who tells you they know what should happen next is either a fool or a clairvoyant. I certainly have no answers, but I do have a suggestion: it should be left as a ruin,” he writes in ArtForum. His love letter to the GSA includes some poignant observations. “After 34 years teaching in the Mack I never once tired of its life-enhancing generosity as a design, its continual reaffirmation of the ‘poetics of architecture’,” McKenzie says.
UPDATE (10 JULY): Tom Inns, the director of the Glasgow School of Art, told The Guardian that the school will be rebuilt. “We’re going to rebuild the Mackintosh building. There’s been a huge amount of speculation about what should happen with the site and quite rightly so, but from our point of view and that of the city of Glasgow, it is critically important that the building comes back as the Mackintosh building," he said.