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Press release

The Met Hosts Workshop on Cultural Property Protection for U.S. Army

A man in military camo suit stands in front of a painting with his hands crossed, surrounded by two men turned to listen to him

(New York, June 15, 2023)—The Met hosted a day-long workshop for U.S. Army, 353rd Civil Affairs Command on June 3, 2023. The workshop was coordinated with the Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative (SCRI) and focused on the military’s responsibilities under the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict.

The training sessions were led by Corine Wegener, Director of SCRI, CPT Blake J. Ruehrwein, Cultural Heritage Preservation Officer of the 353rd CACOM, and Lisa Pilosi, Sherman Fairchild Conservator in Charge of Objects Conservation of The Met, with curators and conservators from the Museum. 

Max Hollein, The Met's Marina Kellen French Director said: "One of the core missions of The Met is to preserve art for many generations to come, both with our own collection and in collaboration with others wherever and whenever we can. Art can bring appreciation and deeper understandings of histories and cultures from across time and around the globe. We are proud to collaborate with the Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative and the U.S. Army on these meaningful workshops and engage directly with reserve soldiers on the importance of cultural property protection. The Met has a long history of safeguarding the world's heritage, and we look forward to continuing these critical efforts and productive partnerships.”

Captain Blake Ruehrwein, Cultural Heritage Preservation Officer, United States Army Reserve, said: “We really appreciate the Metropolitan Museum of Art inviting the Army's Civil Affairs and Cultural Heritage Preservation Officers. When working in conflict zones, I know this collaboration with the Museum will help our Soldiers to protect global cultures and heritage so that it is not lost to history.”

Corine Wegener, Director of the Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative, said: “The Smithsonian is so appreciative of our partnership with the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It is so important that museums work together on the important issues of the day, such as providing assistance for cultural heritage colleagues facing disasters and advising the US military about cultural property protection. It’s a goal we can all get behind.”

Opening remarks were delivered by Andrea Bayer, Deputy Director of Collections and Administration at The Met, Corine Wegener, Assemblymember Alex Bores, and Blake Ruehrwein. Ihor Poshyvailo, Director General, National Memorial and the Revolution of Dignity Museum (Maidan Museum) and cofounder of Heritage Emergency Response Initiative (HERI), joined virtually and gave an update the current status of cultural heritage in Ukraine. The group also heard from Met conservators and curators about disaster response, protection and restitution of artworks, as well as the weaponization of culture as a tool of war.

The Met has long been a leader in the protection and restitution of cultural property during conflict. During and after WWII, several Met staff served as Monuments Men and Women, including James Rorimer and Edith Standen. The Museum has contributed content to and hosted the launch of four of the International Council of Museum’s Red Lists, which are an aid to combat illicit trafficking. The Met continues to assist other museums in conflict zones, most recently in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Ukraine.

Since 2013, the Museum has committed to work on disaster response for cultural heritage and property protection through workshops in collaboration with military personnel. The workshops are an important part of the Museum’s initiatives to engage globally in the protection of our shared cultural heritage.  

June 15, 2023 

Contact: Stella Kim

Captain Blake Ruehrwein, Cultural Heritage Preservation Officer, United States Army Reserve, speaking with reserve soldiers at The Met’s gallery of European Paintings. Photo credit: Paula Lobo

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