"Protecting our Heritage" is the name of a programme proposed by the "EUNIC" network (European National Institutes of Culture), of which Italy is the rotating president for 2016 in Washington through the Italian Institute of Culture (IIC). The initiative, under the patronage of UNESCO and supported by the EU’s permanent delegation to Washington, has two objectives: to raise public awareness and strengthen the network of international actors – governments, museums, universities, foundations, and restoration centres – in dealing with the risks faced by humanity’s cultural heritage. These range from terrorism to crime, from climate change to simple oblivion. In this spirit, throughout its duration, the programme will be open to the contribution of ideas and projects by potentially interested organisations. The themes come in the form of open questions. How can we work together to rediscover the cultural heritage of the past and also make it relevant to our present identity? How can we establish common rules and standards to improve the level of protection? What can we do to save endangered cultural heritage in conflict areas? These are some of the questions listed in the initiative's manifesto.
"Protecting our Heritage"
The programme was inaugurated on Feb. 4 at the Italian Embassy in Washington with the exhibition "Passaggi" by photographer and archaeologist Massimiliano Gatti. The event was attended by, among others, Jonathan Green, founder and director of the ARTSBlock cultural complex at the University of California, Riverside, and Alexander Nagel, an archaeologist at the Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History. The initiative will continue throughout 2016 with conferences, seminars, exhibitions, screenings and concerts organised in partnership with some of the most important American and European organisations specialising in the field. "The protection of the cultural heritage of humanity is an issue that is very dear to Italy, on which we are also seeing great enthusiasm here in Washington," said Italian Ambassador to the U.S. Claudio Bisogniero. "We will use this opportunity to make our contribution to a global cause, to coalesce the international community around this commitment – which is an imperative for everyone – to protect our common memory at all costs. We will do this through commemorative events to recall the sacrifice of those who put their lives at risk to protect art, from the "monuments men" of the Second World War to the “mud angels”, who intervened to save the beauties of Florence exactly 50 years ago, to the archaeologists who are currently working in crisis areas. But we will do it above all in order to share experiences, catalyse energies and projects, and to explore new ways of working together," the ambassador concluded.