Protecting culture in times of war

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Tens of thousands of delicate, embellished, embossed writings from ancient manuscripts of Timbuktu haven't even been translated, but those that have offer a treasure of information - from the banal to the brilliant dating back centuries. Initial reports that most of the manuscripts were destroyed by Islamists in Mali now seem exaggerated, some have been spirited away, protected ... others likely looted. Today, we look at the toll war has taken on some of the world's greatest cultural treasures.



Protecting culture in times of war - Anthropology Lecturer, Rice University

The residents of Timbuktu were relieved as French and Malian troops rolled into the city... taking control from the Islamic insurgents who had occupied the city for almost a year. The rebels were poor masters; they damaged buildings and ruined tombs. And they also vandalized Timbuktu's unique treasure, its immense collection of ancient manuscripts. While the vast majority are unharmed, experts believe at least some were destroyed.

Douglas Park sees any damage as an enormous loss. He's a visiting lecturer in the Department of Anthropology at Rice University in Houston. He spent more than a year in Timbuktu working on archaeological sites and with the manuscripts for his dissertation research at Yale.

The loss of artifacts in wartime is not solely a problem in Mali. Emma Cunliffe is a PHD researcher at Durham University in England. She's researching ways to monitor site damage in war torn countries in the middle east such as Syria.

Protecting culture in times of war - Cultural Heritage Preservation Officer

War has been very effective in destroying -- even targeting -- culture. And as we've heard, the threat has also motivated some daring efforts to preserve priceless artifacts.

Cori Wegener is a cultural heritage preservation officer at the Smithsonian Institution. She teaches U.S. soldiers how to protect artifacts. And she played an integral part in helping the National Museum of Iraq recover following its infamous looting during the 2003 war. Cori Wegener was in our Washington studio.

This segment was produced by The Current's Lara O'Brien and Liz Hoath.


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