The looting of the Iraq National Museum during the 2003 U.S. invasion shocked the world, but also helped galvanize the efforts of the cultural heritage community to prevent such tragedies in the future. But despite efforts to raise awareness and provide training and security measures, the destruction of cultural property during armed conflicts and political instability is on the rise. The looting of the Egyptian National Museum and archaeological sites in Egypt, efforts to avoid damage to cultural property during the conflict in Libya, the ongoing destruction of cultural sites in the Syrian civil war, and the deliberate destruction of cultural sites in Mali by religious extremists are just a few examples. Corine Wegener, the Cultural Heritage Preservation Officer in the Office of the Under Secretary for History, Art, and Culture at the Smithsonian Institution, will talk about her work as one of the few U.S. Army “Monuments Men” in Iraq and how that event led to the founding of the U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield, U.S. ratification of the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in Armed Conflict, and the development of the Smithsonian’s cultural crisis response programs around the world.
Terry Drayman-Weisser, Director of Conservation and Technical Research at the Walters, will illustrate the damage to the ancient Nimrud ivories that came to light in the aftermath of the looting of the Iraq National Museum. She will describe the efforts to preserve these works of great significance to world cultural heritage, and how these efforts led to the founding of a collaborative conservation training institute in Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan.
About the Speakers
Corine Wegener is the Cultural Heritage Preservation Officer in the Office of the Under Secretary for History, Art, and Culture at the Smithsonian Institution. She coordinates the Smithsonian’s role in emergency response and recovery for cultural heritage threatened by natural disasters, human conflict, and other challenges. Her connection to the Smithsonian began with the Haiti Cultural Recovery Project, where she served as international project coordinator for the preservation of more than 30,000 objects of Haitian heritage after the devastating 2010 earthquake. She began her current position in 2012 and is working to establish the Smithsonian Cultural Crisis Recovery Center. Recent projects include assistance for cultural heritage in New York after Hurricane Sandy, workshops for cultural heritage professionals after the jihadist occupation of Northern Mali, and assistance for Syrian cultural heritage damaged in the ongoing conflict.
Before her arrival at the Smithsonian in 2012, Wegener was associate curator in the department of Decorative Arts, Textiles, and Sculpture at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, where she worked for thirteen years. Her responsibilities included European and American furniture, silver, arms and armor, period rooms, and the Harold and Mickey Smith Gallery of Jewish Art and Culture. Wegener curated several exhibitions of during her tenure, including Tools of the Trade: The William Howard Writing Desk from Kirkwood Plantation; Chairevoultion! Three Centuries of Designing the Chair; Wind and Whimsy: Weathervanes and Whirligigs in Twin Cities Collections; and Three Centuries of Tradition: The Renaissance of Custom Sporting Arms in America.
Wegener enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserve in 1982 and received an ROTC commission from the University of Nebraska-Omaha in 1986. During her twenty-one year Reserve career, she served on several deployments, the last of which was as Arts, Monuments and Archives officer for the 352d Civil Affairs Command in Baghdad, Iraq. As the one of the unit’s few “Monuments Men,” Wegener served as military liaison to the Iraqi Ministry of Culture. Her duties included assisting staff at Iraq National Museum in the aftermath of the devastating looting and supervising the preservation and freezing of the water damaged collections known as the Iraqi Jewish Archive. Wegener retired from the Army Reserve in 2004 at the rank of major. She continues to serve on the board of the Civil Affairs Association organizes regular military cultural property awareness events at the Smithsonian.
In 2006, Wegener founded the U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield, part of an international organization dedicated to raising awareness of the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the event of Armed Conflict. Wegener lectures and writes about the importance of cultural property protection during armed conflict. She holds a B.G.S from the University of Nebraska-Omaha and M.A. degrees in Art History and Political Science from the University of Kansas. Wegener lives in Alexandria, Virginia with her husband Paul, who is also a military veteran, and their two cats, Bastet and Hades.
Terry Drayman-Weisser is Director of Conservation and Technical Research at the Walters Art Museum where she has specialized in objects conservation since 1969. She received a B.A. in Art History from Swarthmore College followed by a diploma with distinction in archaeological conservation from the Institute of Archaeology, University of London. She has published and lectured widely on a number of conservation subjects, including ivory, metals, jewelry, enamels and forgeries. She has mentored emerging conservators for over 35 years and in 2008 received the American Institute for Conservation Sheldon and Caroline Keck Award for excellence in education & training of conservation professionals.
Since 2006 she has taken an active role in training Iraqi conservators to preserve their ancient ivories and received the International Council of Museums Service Award for this work in 2008. She has been a partner, instructor, and advisor in the planning and establishment of the Iraqi Institute for Conservation of Antiquities and Heritage in Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan, where she continues to serve on the advisory council.
This lecture has been sponsored by the Boshell Foundation.