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July 3, 2019

Plenary | Museums in Times of Disaster

In the event of a large-scale disaster, museums must react in an effective, conscious, and rapid way to save lives and their collections.

Disaster planning is an important element in professionalization of our field, a legal responsibility, and conforms to the ICOM Code of Ethics. Museums need to create effective disaster plans that include measures for mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery. Museum directors need to obtain support from boards and ministries to ensure enough resources for staff to develop, practice, and carry out these important tasks.

But in today’s world, where the very definition of a museum includes preserving and sharing collections with the community, these measures are still not enough. Museums must become advocates for cultural heritage protection in disaster situations; encouraging integration of cultural heritage into local and national disaster plans; calling for plans to protect cultural property (and cultural heritage workers) in the event of armed conflict; and even helping their communities find hope, identity, and meaning during post-disaster recovery.

The panelists participating in the plenary session Museums in Times of Disaster: Be prepared, respond effectively, and preserve cultural heritage each have expertise and experience in responding to disasters impacting  museums and communities, training museum staff and other disaster “First Aiders”, advocating for the protection of heritage in times of armed conflict, and integrating heritage into international, national, and local response mechanisms. We hope their stories will engage and empower ICOM members and participants not only to build on and improve their own disaster plans, but to investigate ways to become better advocates for museums and their communities facing disaster situations.


Smithsonian Cultural rescue initiative, Chair, ICOM DRMC


Yuichi ONO
Professor at the International Research Institute
of Disaster Science, Tohoku University and Director of the Global Centre for Disaster Statistics

Museo de Arte de Ponce, Puerto Rico, Board member ICOM US

Project Manager, ICCROM


Advisor of the University of Sao Paulo, Chair ICOM Brazil


ICOM Kyoto 2019

Between the 1st and the 7th of September 2019, Kyoto (Japan) will host the biggest and most important conference of museums in the world. More than 3.000 museum professionals and experts from all international backgrounds will participate in this triannual event, the 25th General Conference of ICOM.  After 24 successful editions, ICOM’s flagship conference has become a worldwide reputed hub for exchange about the topical issues museums tackle today, as well as the most innovative solutions.

ICOM Kyoto 2019 website