Dec 4, 2016
The U.S. State Department partnered with the Smithsonian Institution to engage religious minority groups directly, providing them with training and information on preserving cultural sites and objects that are at risk. Some of these preventative methods are simple, but effective said Special Advisor Thames:
“There was a training that went on in northern Syria, where churches were trained about how to stack sand bags in front of ancient frescos and murals so that if a mortar shell were to land, the explosive force would be dissipated by the sand bags – it wouldn't hurt the mural. And they had these very striking before and after pictures of a room full of sandbags, the bomb tragically hit, the sand bags are exploded but the mural is fine.
Trainings also include information on protecting movable artifacts by creating digital documentation of the items that can be stored remotely. The Smithsonian Institute has created a special outreach program in Erbil, Iraq, that is dedicated to the effort.
“These communities that are so unique, that create this mosaic of culture and religion,” said Special Advisor Thames. “They can be pieced back together and protecting their common culture can be a way to do that.”