The recent earthquake in central Italy has affected hundreds of cultural and historical sites. According to Italy’s minister of culture, Dario Franceschini, at least 293 cultural heritage assets were partially or totally affected. Some of the structures and sites impacted by the earthquake were Cattedrale di Urbino, an ancient Roman Catholic cathedral in the city of Urbino, Monastero Santa Chiara in the city of Camerino, the San Giuliano cathedral in the town of Macerata, the Basilica Di San Francesco and the Chiesa di Sant Agostino in the town of Amatrice, the basilica of the Benedictine Monks of Norcia , as well as the city’s historic medieval walls.
One of the support measures announced by minister Franceschini was to direct the proceeds from state museums on August 28 to the rehabilitation of the cultural heritage impacted; the minister invited Italians and tourists in Italy to go in the museums as a sign of solidarity with the population affected by the earthquake. As of 2016, Italy has a total of 51 inscribed UNESCO World Heritage sites, making it the country with the most World Heritage Sites, followed by China with 50. While 4 World Heritage Sites in Italy are of the natural type, all others are cultural sites (47). Therefore, Italy has the largest number of World Cultural Heritage sites followed by Spain with 39 cultural sites.
From some of the most noteworthy cultural sites, such as the archeological area of Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Torre Annunziata, the Dolomites, the City of Verona, Ferrara and the Po River Delta, the historic centres of San Gimignano, Florence, Rome, Hadrian’s Villa, Villa d’Este at Tivoli, Rome’s Colosseum, Pantheon, the Duomo in Florence and the St Marco basilica in Venice, to Civita di Bagnoregio, the Sassi of Matera, the Amalfi coast, the Aeolian Islands or the Valley of the Temples, there is a multitude of historic sites in Italy.
The European Parliament’s Committee on Culture and Education commissioned a study on the need to strengthen European co-operation in the field of protection of the cultural heritage. The 2007 study has analysed the impact of natural phenomena on the world’s cultural heritage and what measures may be taken at the national and international level in order to protect and restore the cultural heritage.
According to this study, spontaneous environmental phenomena as well as long-term climate effects may cause irreversible alterations to cultural heritage. Integrating the protection of cultural heritage into relevant EU policies, as well as early and effective management of cultural assets, adequate maintenance of ancient sites and early intervention, may be some of the prevention instruments to adopt.Together with sound and solid legislation, clearly articulating the importance of the cultural heritage, as well as a fair support from the media, may help preserve and protect ancient architectural sites.
In the legislation framework, a regulation requiring all European public institutions responsible for valuable buildings and collections (museums, archives, monuments, etc) to reveal their preparedness in their published accounts may also prove effective. The cultural heritage may be a valuable and unique asset of humanity, therefore it may be necessary to integrate all quintessential measures to protect it. It may be vital, therefore, to integrate concern for cultural heritage into existing management policies and mechanisms. Knowledge about the characteristic features and the impact of natural elements potentially affecting the cultural heritage may be a prerequisite for evaluating the measures designed, adopted and applied on a national or international scale in order to prevent, reduce and repair the impact of nature on cultural assets.
How may governments and NGOs better collaborate to insure the preservation of the international cultural heritage?