Saving Art From the Rubble

Art, Cultural Artifacts and Architectural Features to be Recovered

By Kathy Banks
|  Tuesday, May 11, 2010  |  Updated 3:16 PM EDT
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Saving Art From the Rubble

AFP/Getty Images

Haitians search a destroyed building Jan 13 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Planeloads of rescuers and relief supplies headed to Haiti Wednesday as governments and aid agencies launched a massive relief operation after a powerful earthquake that may have killed thousands.

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The Smithsonian is spearheading an effort to rescue Haitian art and cultural artifacts damaged by January's devastating earthquake.

"The highest priority of the Haitian government and the international humanitarian communities has rightly been to save lives and provide food, water, medical care and shelter," said Richard Kurin, undersecretary for history, art and culture at the Smithsonian. "However, Haiti's rich culture, which goes back five centuries, is also in danger and we have the expertise to help preserve that heritage."

The Smithsonian is leasing a 7,500-square-foot, three-story building in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, where items pulled from the rubble will be assessed and restored.

Some of the items slated for rescue are part of actual buildings, such as stained glass and murals. There are also plans to salvage photographs, documents and 9,000 paintings from the Nader Museum, which was devastated by the quake.

The Smithsonian Institution-Haiti Cultural Recovery Project will also train Haitians to take over the conservation effort in the future.

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