Culture in Crisis

Season 8
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illustration depicting statue in ruins from war on Ukraine

"This is a war not only for the territory. This is war against our culture," says Ihor Poshyvailo, director of the Maidan Museum in Kiev, Ukraine. Ukraine has scores of museums, cemeteries, archeological sites, and places of worship where Ukrainian history and national identity are memorialized. But when bombs are exploding, who’s pulling a sculpture from the rubble? Enter the Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative: a team flung together by a deadly earthquake in Haiti that grew through trial and discovery into an international network of professionals devoted to protecting the world’s treasures from threats by humankind and mother nature alike.



  • Hayden Bassett, director of the Cultural Heritage Monitoring Lab at Smithsonian affiliate Virginia Museum of Natural History
  • Olsen Jean Julien, project director of the Cultural Conservation Center at Quisqueya University in Haiti
  • Cori Wegener, director of the Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative
  • Richard Kurin, Smithsonian Distinguished Scholar and Ambassador-at-Large, co-founder of the Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative
  • Ihor Poshyvailo, director of the National Museum of the Revolution of Dignity (Maidan Museum) in Kyiv, Ukraine


The work of the Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative (SCRI) would not be possible without the collaboration of countless partner organizations and collaborators, among them: the US government, including the Cultural Heritage Coordinating Committee, the Departments of State, Defense, Homeland Security and Justice, the FBI, Institute of Peace, FEMA, and the Heritage Emergency National Task Force; agencies of other governments like the Ministry of Culture in Haiti, the State Board of Antiquities and Heritage in Iraq, and the Ministry of Culture in Ukraine; other organizations like UNESCO, the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property, International Council of Museums, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Institute of Conservation, the US Committee of the Blue Shield, the Penn Cultural Heritage Center and the University of Pennsylvania Museum, the Virginia Museum of Natural History, the University of Maryland, Prince Claus Fund for Cultural Emergency Response, FOKAL in Haiti, the Mosul Museum, the Heritage Emergency Rescue Initiative, the National Center for Research Restoration, and the Kosciuszko Foundation for Ukraine.

SCRI’s work is made possible with the support of funders like the United State Congress, Department of State, Bank of America, ​Mellon Foundation, ALIPH Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, Brad Freeman, the Broadway League, the Stiller Foundation, and the Roberts family.

Smithsonian Links:

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