Museum sector organises support following earthquakes in Türkiye and Syria

© Image: Klaus Peter Simon, Wikimedia Commons The Gaziantep Castle in Turkey is photographed from below.

The Gaziantep Castle in Türkiye before the earthquakes. © Image: Klaus Peter Simon, Wikimedia Commons

NEMO member the UK Museums Association launches a Humanitarian Support Fund and ICOM mobilises resources to help safeguard cultural heritage following the devastating earthquakes that took place on 6 February 2023.

Death tolls is nearing 40,000 and hundreds of thousands of people are injured and left homeless after the disastrous earthquakes. As humanitarian organisations are tending to injured and providing aid, ICOM pledges support in damage assessment of cultural heritage, which is already believed to extensive. The Heritage Tribune is continuously sharing updates of damaged cultural heritage in Türkiye and Syria. Amongst others, the Syrian Citadel of Aleppo, a World Heritage Site since 1986, and the 2200 year old castle in Gaziantep (Türkiye) have been severely damaged.

In a statement, ICOM expresses solidarity and writes that “the primary concern in the immediate aftermath of all disasters like these are the rescuing of those injured and the safeguarding of all lives. However, ICOM would also like to draw attention to the long term risks, and the threats to heritage – like risks of thefts and smuggling – that will continue after the casualties of this disaster have been prioritised and aided.”

ICOM points its resource Running a Museum Handbook, which includes helpful chapters on  disaster preparedness and that it is “working in close contact with its national and regional committees to assess the needs and the organisation is ready to offer all possible support in the disaster management efforts. ICOM will do everything it can to support emergency responses for the museums affected if they request it.”

New Humanitarian Support Fund

In response to the earthquakes, the UK Museums Association decide to push forward the launch of the new Humanitarian Support Fund and is appealing for donations. The fund has been set up to support to museum colleagues around the world who are facing humanitarian crises.

UK Museums Association director Sharon Heal said: “Over the past year the Benevolent Fund has supported colleagues in Ukraine, and those that have been displaced, and we are keen to extend that support to others that are facing emergency situations.

We will work with the International Council of Museums to make sure that funding is targeted to colleagues in need. Whilst we are of course concerned about the loss of cultural heritage and the threat to buildings and collections our primary concern is for people on the ground and we stand in solidarity with colleagues in Türkiye and Syria.”