A fire, a flood, a storm surge.  A hail of bullets, or an exploding projectile.  Collateral and deliberate damage.  All these pose an immediate threat to people and heritage, whether monumental building, tangible cultural object or intangible cultural custom.  In an emergency, both life and way of life require fast-responding expertise.

Enter the Eighth International Course on First Aid to Cultural Heritage in Times of Crisis (FAC), organised by The International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM) and its partners the Swedish Postcode Foundation (SPF), the Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative (SCRI), and the Prince Claus Fund for Culture and Development.

From Monday 11 November to Friday 06 December 2019, international experts will travel to Italy to train FAC course participants in a four-week workshop.  The goal: to develop capacity and resilience in communities for the protection of cultural heritage against disasters, by training professionals from around the world in what to do before, during, and after a crisis.  The long-term aim is disaster prevention and response through risk reduction and management, as well as climate change adaptation and conflict transformation.  FAC 2019 comprises the flagship component of both ICCROM's 'First Aid and Resilience for Cultural Heritage in Times of Crisis' (FAR) programme, and the SPF's 'Heritage for Peace and Resilience' agenda.  Out of this comes the 'Culture Cannot Wait' initiative: urgency is the key here.

The FAC workshop will take place mostly in Rome, host location of ICCROM's headquarters.  From Wednesday 13 to Thursday 21 November, activities will move to Norcia in Perugia, location of a 6.6 magnitude earthquake in 2016 and victim of severe damage to heritage treasures, such as its churches.  The town will be the setting for scenario-based training in risk assessment, heritage and humanitarian first aid, emergency structural stabilisation, and heritage salvage, among other themes.  After Norcia, the course will climax with a simulated emergency on Wednesday 27 November.  Everything the participants have learned thus far will be put to the test in a high-pressure environment alongside their peers.  Afterwards, all will be given the opportunity to debrief and reflect on their experiences.

The FAC workshop in Rome and Norcia is nevertheless only the second interactive phase of what is in fact a nine-month-long course.  The first phase of FAC 2019 ran earlier this year, and debuted a pre-course mentoring process, giving all participants a chance to familiarise themselves with key concepts from the world of both cultural heritage preservation, disaster risk management, and humanitarian aid.  It has also allowed them to prepare for the final phase, in which FAC trainees will be urged to pass on their knowledge by organising follow-up trainings of their own: to date, over 40 such spin-off trainings have been organised.  FAC 2019 will also be the first time after which alumni may apply directly to ICCROM for seed grants.  This affords organisers a real opportunity to conduct research on project outcomes, and to see if ‘lessons learned’ can go mainstream outside the specific domain of cultural heritage, at both national and regional levels.  

This year, 16 participants have been chosen from an original pool of 193 applicants.  A near-even split of men and women, they work for a variety of national governments, NGOs, and academic institutions.  Most are specialists within the fields of cultural heritage and conservation, with others representing civil protection, disaster risk management, humanitarian aid, and urban development.  The participants come from all over the world, representing five continents and 14 countries, 13 of which are ICCROM Member States: Chile, Egypt, Estonia, Georgia, Honduras, India, Iraq, Italy, Japan, Spain, Syria, Trinidad and Tobago, and the United States of America. With the addition of South Sudan, six participating countries are classified as risk-prone, according to the IASC INFORM Global Risk Index 2020.  Previous trainings have involved over 160 participants from 84 countries.  

FAC training has created an expanding international cadre of rigorously trained professionals.  With skills that traverse traditional disciplinary boundaries, they are equipped to respond when a disaster threatens to destroy irreplaceable culture.  Their work will ensure that communities that face crisis are prepared to protect their heritage.  When disaster strikes, Culture Cannot Wait.


About the organising partners

ICCROM is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the preservation and promotion of cultural heritage worldwide.  It works with 136 Member States to ensure the best tools, knowledge, skills and enabling environment to preserve cultural heritage in all its forms, for the benefit of all people.  The First Aid to Cultural Heritage in Times of Crisis (FAC) initiative combines immersive international training with regional and national workshops, technical assistance during large-scale emergencies, with inputs from other emergency actors such as the civil defence, military and humanitarian sectors. The goal is to ensure that the affected communities are fully involved in the recovery of their own heritage.  https://www.iccrom.org

The Swedish Postcode Foundation aims to promote positive social development and seeks long-term solutions to local and global challenges. It supports projects that promote people's living conditions, nature and the environment, arts and culture, as well as sports.  The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals are the basis for the framework of its efforts and it strive to reach these goals through its supported projects.  The Foundation works with ICCROM through its 'Culture Cannot Wait' project, whose end goal is to facilitate coordination between actors and integration of cultural heritage into existing emergency management.  This is in the belief that caring for cultural heritage can contribute to sustainable and long-term reconstruction and reconciliation in the society.  This project started in April 2019 and ends in June 2020.  https://postkodstiftelsen.se/en/

The Smithsonian Institution is the world’s largest museum, education, and research complex, with 19 museums and the National Zoo—shaping the future by preserving heritage, discovering new knowledge, and sharing resources with the world.  The mission of the Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative (SCRI) is to protect cultural heritage threatened or impacted by disasters and to help U.S. and international communities preserve their identities and history.  SCRI projects include cultural rescue work in Haiti, Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Mali, Nepal, and the U.S., as well as disaster training for heritage colleagues, first responders, and military personnel around the world. https://culturalrescue.si.edu/

The Prince Claus Fund supports, connects and celebrates artists and cultural practitioners where cultural expression is under pressure, primarily in Latin America, Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and Eastern Europe.  Through its Cultural Emergency Response programme, the Prince Claus Fund provides quick help to evacuate, stabilise or rescue cultural heritage that is under threat due to conflict situations or natural disasters.  https://princeclausfund.org

Co-operating partners

  • The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
  • The Italian Civil Protection Department (Dipartimento Protezione Civile)
  • Italian Ministry of Culture (Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali, MiBAC)
  • Italian Fire Brigade (Vigili del Fuoco)
  • Carabinieri
  • Italian Red Cross (Croce Rossa Italiana, CRI)
  • Town of Norcia (Comune di Norcia)



More information about ICCROM and its activities may be found on its website: https://www.iccrom.org/
The website is available in several languages (English, French, Italian and Arabic).

News and updates about FAC 2019 will be posted on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter accounts of ICCROM.
The main ICCROM social media links are:

The event hashtag is #culturecannotwait

For more information please contact:

Communications Officer, Publications
Tel: +39 3428668696
(English and Italian)

Communications Officer, Web
Tel: +39 3482208908
(Arabic, English and Spanish)