Protecting Portable Heritage during War:
A Comparative Examination of the Approaches in Italy during World War Two and in Ukraine during the Russian Invasion of 2022
Keywords:portable heritage, national heritage during war, Italy during Word War Two, Russian-Ukrainian War
In response to the urgent necessity of protecting cultural heritage in Ukraine in the wake of the Russian invasion, this article explores the approaches recently adopted in Ukraine to safeguard portable objects by providing an extended comparison with the methods used in Italy during World War Two. Three components of the procedure for protecting moveable objects are investigated: preliminary planning through the creation of lists of museum collections to determine priorities for safeguarding; the selection and preparation of storage deposits to shelter the objects; and the work of packing and moving boxed items to the deposits. Attention also is given to the obstacles encountered during WWII in Italy that hampered the protection of moveable heritage. The purpose is to probe whether the same problems have been met in Ukraine and if they have been circumvented or not. While the difficulty of protecting heritage during conflict is understood, even in the case of portable heritage materials, this comparison of recent methods in Ukraine to the work in Italy in the early 1940s highlights the continued use of traditional methods, albeit with adaptations, because they are effective. However, some of the same obstacles also have persisted, suggesting the potential to search for better solutions. Emphasis is placed on the abundant cultural holdings in religious institutions, which may fall outside the protective compass of national heritage initiatives and, therefore, be particularly vulnerable during war. This study also acknowledges some of the novel characteristics of the protection of moveable heritage in Ukraine and notes the impressive help that is being offered in innovative ways by heritage agencies and organizations outside the country.
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