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Temple of Bel Syria

The Challenge

In wars and civil conflicts ‘cultural property’ (historic buildings and archaeological sites, religious structures, museums, art galleries, libraries and archives and the contents of those buildings) is often destroyed or damaged through deliberate targeting, accidental damage during fighting and occupation, and looting when security breaks down.

Cultural sites often cement community and national identities with the cumulative importance of cultural heritage helping construct global history and identity.

The destruction of cultural property impacts on people, individuals and communities, living nearby and across the globe, and, in essence, impacts on what makes us human.

The Method

Dr Nigel Pollard is leading research that contributes to the protection of tangible cultural heritage in conflict zones across the world.

His most recent research has focused on the damage to, and protection of, cultural heritage in the Second World War. Working with archival documents, maps and photographs from the time, he has investigated the activities of the real-life historical unit that formed the basis of the ‘Monuments Men’ film and the 1943 Allied bomb damage to Pompeii.

Sergilla

In his work Dr Pollard presents historical case studies to modern audiences to demonstrate how damage to cultural heritage happens and provide lessons (on targeting, intelligence, security) that can be applied to contemporary conflicts so that cultural damage can be prevented or minimised.

Much of Nigel’s engagement with contemporary issues is carried out through the UK national committee of Blue Shield, an international organisation that successfully lobbied for the 2017 UK ratification of the 1954 Hague Convention on Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict.

Nigel has taken part in the training for the British military Cultural Property Protection Unit and works with UK and other military personnel on a regular basis. He also participates in UK government consultations on cultural property protection.

The Impact

  • Nigel has worked in many countries with past or present experience of war or civil unrest including Egypt, Tunisia, Italy and Syria. Nigel contributed to lists of the country’s cultural sites that fed into ‘no strike lists’ used by Coalition armed forces operating there against Da’esh.
  • His work with UK Blue Shield and participation in UK government consultations contributed to the passing of the 2017 Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Act that established the Cultural Protection Fund that supports practical projects contributing to the protection of cultural heritage in conflict zones.
  • It also provided for UK ratification of 1954 Hague Convention on Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, established the UK military Cultural Property Protection Unit and led to the creation of a cultural heritage inventory for the UK to be lodged with UNESCO.
  • Nigel has also helped to raise the profile of Cultural Property Protection (CPP) within the British and international armed forces and contributed towards the establishment of CPP policy and practice within UK and NATO military doctrine.

Externally funded sub-projects

The British Academy: Protecting and Reconstituting Museums in Times of Conflict. An Historical Case Study from Wartime Naples. (£5102.82 awarded 2018 for 2018-January 2020)

Leverhulme Trust: Soldiers as ‘Cultural Tourists’ in Wartime Italy, 1943-45 (£54,199, awarded March 2020 for February 2021 to January 2022)

United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

Swansea University Research Themes