Past Communications




12 May 2009

Earthquake Italy Abruzzi

The Earthquake

The earthquake of April 6th, 2009 was extremely violent, involving a far-ranging leopard-spot territory in the Provinces of Aquila, Pescara and Teramo. Damages provoked by the great number of strong quakes that followed in the days and weeks after the original event were heaped over the extremely serious damage produced by the first seism. The Abruzzo population was hard hit: there were 302 deaths 68,000 persons were evacuated and 50% of the homes were declared uninhabitable. The entity of the material damages is enormous, and it will take years for the work of reconstruction to permit a return to normal conditions.

The Cultural Heritage

The cultural heritage also suffered extremely serious damages. The historical centre of Aquila was so lacerated as to be considered lost for years to come. All of the churches and historical buildings in the Province of Aquila were damaged. Villages, castles, fountains, palaces, towers, villas, abbacies, bell towers, furnishings and fixtures, baroque organs, paintings and stuccoes were stricken: every branch of the artistic patrimony was damaged. The condition of the rural countryside is dramatic.
The Palace of the Prefecture, which housed the State Archives, was completely destroyed. Dr. Giovanna Lippi, an archivist, lost her life in the seism.

Initial Relief to Protect the Cultural Heritage

On the very morning of the earthquake, immediately after the event, the Department of Civil Defence activated their function to “Safeguard Cultural Assets”, instituting a joint committee made up of representatives of the Ministry of Cultural Activities and Assets, the Department of Civil Defence and Legambiente (The Italian League for Environmental Protection).
Following initial intervention to provide relief to the population, recovery of movable cultural assets began in order to conserve them in a safe place. The first work was recovered in Aquila on Easter Sunday, the 12th of April: a wooden statue of the Madonna dating from the Fifteenth Century, belonging to the Church of Our Lady of Paganica, was drawn miraculously unscathed from the ruins, in a thoroughly devastated city. At this writing some 1,476 works have been recovered and placed in safe custody.

Assessment of Museum Damage

ICOM Italia immediately offered its collaboration in this dramatic situation, with an operational team to “Safeguard Cultural Assets” in Abruzzo, accepting the task of performing assessments of damages to museum structures, and began efforts to collect resources for assistance, in collaboration with the Legambiente, with which ICOM Italia signed a Protocol of Collaboration for Emergency Intervention in 2003.
In collaboration with ICOM General Secretariat, ICOM’s Disaster Reporting Form was translated into Italian and the Voluntary Form was developed and translated into English for the collection of resources for intervention.

The Results of Damage Assessment

Starting from April 14th, ICOM Directors in Abruzzo, especially Paola Di Felice, Director of Civic Museums of Teramo, in collaboration with Antonella Nonnis, Coordinator of Legambiente Cultural Asset Relief Teams, began assessment of the damages. The initial report was published on April 18th, updated on the 21st and 28th of April and was virtually completed on May 7th: of
the 112 museums monitored, 22 were unfit for service (23%) and 30 were temporarily closed to the public (31%). Museum collections were damaged, especially in Aquila and its territory, as well as on the Teramo and Pescara slopes of the Gran Sasso.

Organisation of Future Intervention

On April 30th, with the coordination of the Regional Director of the Ministry of Cultural Assets, Anna Maria Reggiani, a meeting was held in Aquila to constitute an initial task force to realize a portal on Cultural Assets under custody after the seism, with the participation of ICOM (represented by President Daniele Jalla and by Paola Di Felice), and the ONLUS Legambiente (represented by Legambiente Abruzzo President Angelo Di Matteo).
On the same day, ICOM Italia and Legambiente refined the Protocol for Intervention for assistance to Abruzzo Museums in upcoming months, which will also involve other Italian Museum Associations that have joint in the Permanent Conference of Italian Museum Associations and all the other organisations and associations willing to participate.

“Museum of Abruzzo”

A proposal has been advanced to create a virtual museum capable of keeping the many diverse collections conserved in the museums open for virtual visits through the web, making them at least visible, although they cannot be directly visited; the idea was born with the desire to prevent the invisibility to the public of the cultural heritage conserved in Abruzzo museums.
ICOM Italia has accepted the task of supporting the realisation of the “Museum of Abruzzo” portal, as well as all the other initiatives to support reconstruction and revitalisation of Abruzzo museums, making an appeal to the national and international professional community for mobilisation to support the priority activities that our colleagues in Abruzzo are identifying.

Planned Intervention

The exact estimate of the intervention necessary in upcoming months (years, in some cases) is still underway and is being handled by the ICOM Italia Office through analysis of the information collected.
In collaboration with Legambiente, activities are envisioned to identify the workshops to be opened to support Abruzzo museums, together with the tasks to be performed, the time foreseen for realisation and the professional figures necessary.
Information about the workshops will be communicated on national and international levels – in collaboration with ICOM General Secretariat and the International Committee of the Blue Shield – to field intervention teams that will start work in the month of July 2009.
The logistical organisation will be defined within the framework of the Protocol being defined between the Ministry of Culture, ICOM Italy, Legambiente, the Department of Civil Defence, the Abruzzo Regional Council, the ANCI, UPI and others, to make the intervention operational.

For more information, please consult the ICOM Italy website:

Damaged Museums

February 2009

Museums in Gaza

        The Gaza Strip is an area full of relics of past Mediterranean cultures: Egyptian, Punic, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine and Islamic. Archaeological sites and museums are the region’s strong contribution to world heritage; three sites are listed as potential World Heritage Sites.

For a long time no big museum in Gaza existed, but there are two recent museum projects. Both of them are based of the activities of a collector of archaeological heritage: Jawdat N. Khoudary. As owner of a big building contracting company in Gaza, he managed to combine his passion and his profession: When pulling down old buildings or preparing the basements for new ones, he took care that his workers gave attention to archaeological artefacts and would pass them to him in good conditions – and he was willing to accept the unavoidable delay in operation proceeding.

Some years ago, the “Musées d’art et d’histoire” of the City of Geneva discovered the big potential and international value of this collection. They started the project of a big public “Gaza Museum of Archaeology”; it is sponsored by UNESCO and entrusted to a Board of Trustees by a Presidential Decree of 29 May 2006 and it receives scientific and technical support from the archaeological department of the Geneva Museum. This future museum is planned in Blakhiyah (North of Gaza City) on the site of the ancient seaport Anthédon (potential World Heritage site).
In order to promote this project, Mr. Khoudary built and established – as a makeshift – his new private museum El Mat’haf (280 sq m, opened in August 2008 in Sudaniyah, in the vicinity of the future museum).

At the beginning of the Gaza war, the Geneva Museum communicated the coordinates of the museum El Mat’haf and the collection depot of the future Gaza Archaeological Museum to the Israeli Prime Minister and to the Israeli Ministry of Defence. It was either the deliberate respect for cultural heritage or a great luck that the Israeli tanks stopped just 200 meters before the museum (and the nearby collection depot) – and heavy damage could be avoided.

As the museum staff had been evacuated, nobody was injured. The conference hall of the museum was hit, but walls and roof stayed mainly intact. Windows and doors were smashed by side effects of shelling and some showcases have been broken as well. Twelve amphorae had been cracked.

After the armistice, the repair of the building has immediately started. None of the amphorae were completely destroyed, all may be put together again; a skilled staff member is able to do it.

At the site of the future Gaza Archaeological Museum project, the Roman masonry was partially damaged. The collections suffered no damage.

Blue Shield Statement : Cultural Heritage in Gaza damaged and in great danger

August 2006

Donny George resigned as President of the State Board of Antiquities and Heritage in Iraq.
Reports indicate that Dr. George moved to Damascus for security reasons. The National Museum has been closed and completely sealed with thick concrete walls. “It was the only way to guarantee the museum’s safety”, says Dr George.

Please see articles on
The Art Neswpaper at
International Herald Tribune
The New York Times


Middle East Conflict
Our National Committee in Israel has informed us that all the important artifacts of  more than 20 museums in the north of Israel where moved to safety rooms.
The Open Museum of Photography in Tel-Hai was impacted by a rocket on the lawn, the shrapnels hit the walls and the window panes.
All the staff is safe and the artifacts had been previously stored in a safety room.

Our National Committee in Lebanon has informed us that although no national nor private museums have been affected in the Lebanese territories since the outbreak of hostilities, the memorial museum in the former Khiam Prison, in the city of Khiam in southern Lebanon, was heavily damaged on July 22.
Currently National Museums are closed and preventive conservation and basic risk management measures to protect the collections of the major Lebanese museums have been applied.

May 2006

Earthquake strikes Indonesia
Reports from YOGYAKARTA (Indonesia) indicate that local museums escaped damage during the powerful earthquake of last May.
The largest Buddhist monument on Earth, Borobudur, was left untouched but several structures nearby collapsed. The Prambanan Hindu temple complex near Jakarta suffered some damage but the main structure remained intact.

ICOM requests further information from museums and museum professionals who have reports for the Disaster Relief for Museums Task Force and website.

4th November 2005

Update on Katrina damage in New Orleans

November 1, 2005 - The French minister of culture, M. Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres and President of the Louvre Henri Loyrette french governament's announced plans to help New Orleans' cultural institutions such as the New Orleans Museum and the National D-Day Museum, both of which were badly damaged during Hurricane Katrina.

Wilma batters South Florida

October 28, 2005 - Reports from Miami, Florida indicate that power is gradually being restored to parts of Southern Florida. The Deering Estate at Cutler and Vizcaya Museum and Gardens in Miami sustained moderate damage: flooding and mold damage as well as significant repercussions for more than 350 acres of natural and landscaped areas.

ICOM requests further information from museums and museum professionals who have reports for the Disaster Relief for Museums Task Force and website.

10th October 2005

Hurricane and Floods in Central America - Earthquake in Pakistan and India

ICOM is investigating through its network, Heritage partners and International Agencies the damage caused by the floods and by the Earthquake to museums in both regions.
Any relevant information will be duly communicated

10th October 2005

Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita - United States of America
AAM/ICOM states: "In New Orleans , it seems that the physical plants of most museums are intact but lack power to support air-conditioning, which is so important in Lousiana's tropical climate. To make matters worse, staff members are dispersed around the country and there is no housing available for those who want to help. Until these problems are solved, it is impossible to assess needs and begin recovery efforts for the local museums."

2nd September 2005

Hurricane Katrina - United States of America
The DRFM Task force is monitoring the situation in the region affected by the hurricane and floods. Updated information is available on the AAM (American Association of Museums) web site at

28 August 2005

According to Iwana Chronis, Executive secretary for Cultural Emergency Response, Prince Claus Fund, CER is offering emergency relief to the Nias Heritage Museum following damages it sustained during the earthquake on 25 March 2005. These funds will help contribute to the rebuilding of a permanent storage space for the Museum’s prehistoric collections.

26 April 2005

According to the Jakarta Post, The Nias Heritage Museum, which houses more than 6000 artifacts from the megalithic island, was damaged by the earthquake of March 28.
The Museum's four pavillions seem to be still standing but many of the items of the museum's collection where heavily damaged notably the clay pots collection, some carved stones and some traditional wooden horns.

28 March 2005

An earthquake measuring 8.7 on the Richter scale hit the Northern Sumatra region of Indonesia on March 28, 2005. The epicentre was located at 2.09N 97.02E, which is 205 kilometres west-north-west of Siboloa. The earthquake damaged the Island of Nias, Simeulue and the Banyak Islands.

18 March 2005

No additional information is available to this date. An earthquake measuring 6.1 on the Richter scale was registered today in Indonesia but no damage was reported.

25 February 2005

After contacting our sources, no additional information is available sofar. We continue to encourage our local contacts to keep us updated and wait for further and more detailed reports.

According to information received from different sources, the effect of the Tsunami and earthquake in Asia and in the Indian Ocean has been the following:

14th February 2005

No additional reports on damage to museums and collections have been received from the tsunami-stricken region. Nontheless, Ms.Somlak Charoenpot, Secretary of the ICOM Thai National Committee, filed an informative report that you will find by clicking on Thailand report. The Disaster Relief Task Force wishes to thank Ms. Charoenpot for her contribution.

7th February 2005

As for information coming from the Government of Tamil Nadu, only the Nagappattinam museum was affected along the coast. The museum was closed when the tsunami struck. Water and sand entered, but the effect of the tsunami was lessened by the harbour. The artefacts were moved and suffered no damage.

The Lieutenant Governor, the Deputy Commissioner and the Chief Secretary of the Andaman and Nicobar Disaster Management Cell informed ICOM Secretariat that the Anthropological and the Survey of India Museums and the Cellular Jail National Memorial museum in Port Blair were not damaged.

Communication problems make it difficult to obtain first-hand information from Banda Aceh. No additional information was received from other sources.

Could not be contacted for updated information.

The Country remains inaccessible to external communication.

28th January 2005

No additional information has been received to expand on previous reports.
A report filed from Sri lanka by Robert Parthesius, Director Avondster Project of the Amsterdam Historical Museum, is available at : Sri Lanka report

21st January 2005

- India
No major losses to any of the national monuments/museums have been reported so far.

- Indonesia
The Museum in Nias, a small island in Northwest Sumatra, was not affected by the devastation as it is located in the eastern part of the Nias island, about 60 km from the coast. The tsunami struck only the western part of the island.

- Maldives
The National Museum of Maldives was undamaged. Local experts are carrying out an assessment of damage to the heritage sites in the local islands, which apparently also escaped the natural catastrophe.

- Sri Lanka
The premises of the Maritime Archaeology Unit in Galle were destroyed by the tsunami of 26 December, and the collections and equipment are all either lost or unsalvageable. No casualty or missing staff was reported.
See pictures and latest news at:

The Ministry of Culture and National Heritage of Sri Lanka plans to build a special museum to record the tsunami disaster. The collection will consist of damaged household items and appliances, parts of damaged buildings, videotapes, and photographs of the disaster's victims. The museum will also pay homage to those who bravely risked their lives to save others. The location of the museum has not yet been decided .

We wish to thank all the Institutions and professionals who have collaborated by contributing up-dated information.

14 January, 2005

- in Indonesia the museum in the town of Banda Aceh, in the Aceh Province (Sumatra), has been damaged by the earthquake and the tsunami. The building of the museum is relatively safe, although with some damage.
Part of its ceramics collection was affected by the earthquake tremor.
We deeply regret the loss of six of our colleagues - among a staff of fifty six - who have perished as a result of the catastrophe.

No information is yet available on the museum in Nias, a small island in Northwest Sumatra.

- In Sri Lanka, the old town of Galle, a fortified city founded in the 16th century by the Portuguese, has been seriously affected by the tsunami, although the Fort itself is reported to be intact.

The Fort houses the Galle National Maritime Museum, which displays the fauna and flora of the sea and the environment, some artifacts of underwater archaeology and several scale models of whales and fishes. At present we lack information on their condition.