Calamities, Catastrophes, and Cataclysms: Current Trends in International Disaster Risk Management Practices for Cultural Heritage Sites

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risk assessment
risk management
natural disaster
cultural heritage
international heritage conservation
Historic Preservation and Conservation
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Lattig, Jesse W.

Several initiatives, conferences, and collaborative agreements in recent years have focused on cultural heritage protection in response to climate change and natural disasters. Despite an established network of institutions united in preserving the world’s cultural heritage, risk management planning for heritage properties remains in its infancy. This thesis asks what types of risk management for cultural heritage properties are currently being implemented and which organizations are doing this work. A review of disaster risk management activities of international heritage conservation groups reveals that organizations tend to focus their efforts on one of the three disaster phases: advance planning, emergency response, or post-disaster recovery. The reasons for this are directly related to the types of resources the agency or organization can commit to these activities: professional expertise, technical support, funding, local networks, or some combination of these. Recent examples show that collaboration between organizations with different resources but common goals can be successful, as in the case of the Haitian Gingerbread House project undertaken by the World Monuments Fund together with the Prince Claus Fund. Similar partnerships can be initiated before disaster strikes; to facilitate this, a centralized agency recognized by other international relief agencies that is capable of collecting data and coordinating response teams is needed. The most effective form of risk mitigation at any heritage site, however, is the inclusion of risk management procedures into general site management operations; regular maintenance and monitoring alone can substantially minimize damage and loss in unavoidable natural disasters.

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Suggested Citation: Lattig, Jesse W. (2012). Calamities, Catastrophes, and Cataclysms: Current Trends in International Disaster Risk Management Practices for Cultural Heritage Sites. (Masters Thesis). University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA.
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