Museums and cultural heritage in Haiti
ArchivesNext has been diligently gathering information on the state of archives in Haiti after the earthquake, and just published a useful roundup.
AAM released a statement on the earthquake:
All of us have been deeply saddened by the enormous tragedy that is unfolding in Haiti in the wake of the catastrophic earthquake. We urge you to support those noble organizations at the vanguard of providing comfort and relief to Haiti’s suffering citizens. On top of the human tragedy, there has been damage inflicted on Haiti’s cultural treasures. Here is what we know so far about the efforts to protect and rescue this unique heritage:
The International Committee of the Blue Shield (ICBS) recognizes that the immediate priority is to help the injured and homeless. The Association of National Committees of the Blue Shield (ANCBS) is working with Haitian colleagues to gather information about damage to cultural treasures and the types of help needed. It is placing the expertise and network of its member organizations at the disposal of Haitian colleagues to support their work in assessing damage and the subsequent recovery, restoration and repair.
The ANCBS has launched an online registration form for volunteer archivists, restorers, curators, librarians, architects, and other experts. This registration will help ANCBS link official missions to Haiti with appropriate experts.
As information becomes available, the Blue Shield will publish a report on damage, needs and actions to facilitate coordination. In addition to the ICBS website, information is available on Facebook (Haiti 2010 Blue Shield Solidarity) and Twitter.
The ICBS member organizations are also posting reports of damage on their individual websites. The member organizations are: the International Council on Archives, the International Council of Museums, the International Council on Monuments and Sites, the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions and the Coordinating Council of Audiovisual Archives Associations.
ICOM provides below a status on the museums that we could gather information about. Most of this data needs in situ cross-checking and should be considered cautiously. ICOM is still gathering and checking data on the remaining twelve Haitian museums.
a. Musée du Panthéon National Haïtien
Place des Héros de l’Indépendance, Port-au-Prince Ouest
Though we do not have eyewitness accounts to confirm this, analysis from satellite footage and from an architect familiar with the building leads us to believe that the mainly subterranean concrete structures should have resisted the earthquake.
b. Musée d’art haïtien
Champs de Mars, Angle Rues Légitime et Capois, Port-au-Prince
Michel-Philippe LEREBOURS General Curator and Vice–President of the College Saint Pierre Haitian museum of fine arts provides a direct account: “The Art Museum is still intact, but in a very fragile condition. The exhibition hall is still standing, but we do not dare to enter – but at least the ceiling seems to be stable. The back end of the building is in a better condition. The collections are preserved. Everything possible has to be done to consolidate the exhibition hall to a degree that allows entry in order to rescue the paintings and other objects. Above all, the museum has to be protected from any looting because it holds the most important collection of Haitian painting.”
c. [Musée Vaudou] Collection Marianne Lehmann
Pétion-Ville, abords de Port au Prince
The Lehmann Collection is the largest collection worldwide of Haitian Voodoo objects.
About 350 exhibits are safe because they are being displayed in a travelling exhibition. The majority of the collection (more than 2,000 objects) is still in Haiti, stored in a relatively safe place, though some objects fell and were broken. The building has been seen in an interview that Marianne Lehmann gave for Swiss TV on 17 January, 2010
d. Musée de Guahaba
No damage to this museum.
e. Parc historique de la Canne à sucre
Michaelle Saint-Natus, a member of this heritage institution, reports that “two chimneys collapsed, two roofs on dependency buildings collapsed and display cabinets, lockers and cultural objects have been damaged”
I’ll keep you updated on news on museums in Haiti and ways public history professionals can help with cultural disaster relief.