Spotlight: Culture in Crisis (Victoria & Albert Museum, UK)
March 24, 2023
By Cynthia Li and Center for Art Law Team
Victoria and Albert Museum (the V&A), the world’s leading museum of art and design, launched its program Culture in Crisis in 2015. According to the recollection of Vernon Rapley, the director of cultural heritage protection and security at the V&A, the program was conceived against the backdrop of the mass destruction of historic sites in Iraq, Yemen, and Syria. The meeting between Rapley and then director of the Yale University Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage marked the exact moment of the birth of the program. Together, they planned the inaugural conference at the V&A under the patronage of UNESCO in April 2015. Delegates coming from around the globe signed a statement of intent as The London Declaration at the end of the conference, which has become the backbone of the V&A’s Culture in Crisis program. The Declaration highlights the program’s commitment to protecting global cultural heritage, supporting communities that suffer cultural heritage loss, convening those with a shared interest in protecting cultural heritage, and raising public awareness.
The program opened up to the public in 2016 when Laura Searson joined. She has been responsible for managing the program across all V&A sites and creating public programs for Culture in Crisis, such as international conferences, podcast series, webinars, and the Culture in Crisis Portal.
In 2023, on the 28th of February, Culture in Crises held a conference about Heritage at War: Plan and Prepare’ with panels “Learning from the Past” and “Preparing for the Present.” The program was outstanding, but for the title of the second panel. IT seems that we are doing more to prepare for the future than to be ready for the present.
Later in the spring, on the 8th and 9th of May 2023, the Cultural Heritage Working Group at the European University Institute in Florence will organize a conference entitled ‘Bridging epistemic divides in cultural heritage protection: An exercise in confrontation and conversation’.
How to engage with Culture in Crisis?
- The first step is to subscribe to the Culture in Crisis’s mailing list.
- The Culture in Crisis Portal is the world’s largest and most accessible database of heritage protection projects. It is free to search listings and register your heritage preservation projects.
- Culture in Crisis Conversations is digital events that examine how the experiences of recent years have encouraged cultural organizations across the globe to adapt and transform in the face of global challenges and new opportunities; looking to build a future that is more sustainable, equitable, and ecological. Global heritage perspectives and Cultural heritage protection in a post-Covid landscape are the two past series that recordings are free to access.
- Culture in Crisis Podcast brings voices in the heritage preservation field. Listen to season one Preservation by Design to learn about solutions to threats faced by cultural heritage. Season two Fighting the illicit trade traces the criminal activities of trading cultural heritage.
- Over years the program has carried out a number of major international conferences that discuss key issues in the field. Check out previous conferences.
- There are a wide range of free events that open up dialogues between artists, designers, heritage workers, activists and many others.
Selected Resources and References
- Link to the 2015 inaugural conference https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLe2ihXndm5juIuR2xUhRsS7GZlVMTUtGk
- “Culture in Crisis | International Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works,” June 28, 2022, available here https://www.iiconservation.org/content/culture-crisis.
- The Mosaic Rooms. “Laura Searson.” Accessed March 9, 2023. https://mosaicrooms.org/laura-searson/.
About the author:
Cynthia Li is a graduating senior at the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor. She has a major in art history and a minor in political science. She is the undergraduate intern for the Center in Spring 2023.
“Culture in Crisis | International Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works.” ↑
“Laura Searson.” ↑