How Cultural Divide can put Cultural Heritage at Risk

The seismic events that have damaged cities and towns in central Italy in recent years destroyed, or irreparably damaged, important examples of architecture. Behind several of these damages, it is known among experts in the sector that bad management of the safety interventions of the buildings must be recognized. Emblematic cases can be identified in the earthquakes that, between 1997 and 2017, struck the regions of Abruzzo and Umbria in Italy.

Image of the vault of the upper Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi, which collapsed after the 26th September 1997 earthquake. The use of reinforced concrete beams in the roof was suspected to be a possible cause of the collapse, in which four people died while carrying out an inspection to detect damage caused by the previous night’s shock. Image: Wikipedia
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How Climate Change will affect Museums: a book about Indoor Risks

Managing Indoor Climate Risks in Museums – Bart Ankersmit • Marc H.L. Stappers – Springer

Climate change, presumably, will affect the way buildings will be designed and managed. Also museums are challenged by such risk and a new kind of approach needs to be studied.

Among the wealth of websites and papers that the internet web allows to read about the climate change issue, Managing Indoor Climate Risks in Museums has the gift of explaining the big picture and, at the same time, giving practical tips to the many professionals that need to be supported in studying and applying real-world solution to a new problem.

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Termites, Worms, Xylophagi and Fire Protections of Timber Artefacts in Museums

Climate change can be threaten Cultural Heritage in differeny ways. One of the concerns that must be taken into account is due to the growing aggression to wood structures and artefacts that Xilophagies (animal eating wood) pose to historical wood objects.

Surprisingly, fire protection systems can be useful to improve the environment of museums and galleries, like the active fire protection measures that replaces the air within a protected space with inert air that has reduced oxygen concentration.

The different concentrations of the components of air are slightly altered (typically, five percent of the oxygen content can be substituted by nitrogen) and are  safe to breathe for most people but prevent fire ignition in many materials.

Wood strcutures and artefacts can be severly damaged by insects and
Wooden structures and artifacts can be damaged by different types of insects. Surprisingly, fire protection provisions such as reducing oxygen concentration can minimize the risk posed by this type of aggression – (Photo by Michael D. Beckwith on Unsplash)


Even if in the specific case of the Florence gallery low oxygen concentration systems weren’t used, the typical problems of improving the environment are  similar to the ones faced by the Florence Galleria degli Uffizi, that has decontaminated by termites more than 400 masterpieces. The war on insects in one of the most famous museums in the world is in full swing. Xylophagous, a presence in typical environments with wooden structures such as museums or collections, will be eradicated by a new conservation work carried out by management and the staff of the Gallery. Will be cleared also the doors of the Gallery Room of the precious miniatures.

Uffizi Gallery is currently organizing the chemical treatment of all the doors of the Gallery and restoration of wooden decorations of the Hall of Miniatures. But the works of greatest importance and size are the altarpiece The Coronation of the Virgin by Lorenzo Monaco, Coronation of the Virgin by Botticelli and the triptych with the Adoration of the Shepherds by Hugo van der Goes. Such interventions are urgent and delicate and have to be carried out without moving the artifacts and without hindrance to the public, since two of these paintings are housed in a room which is relevant to Botticelli.

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Restoration of Sungnyemun Gate, Seoul (Korea)

On Feb. 11, 2008, a fire destroyed Seoul’s 600-year-old Sungnyemun Gate (official name of the Namdaemun), after a five-hour battle by 120 firefighters  that failed to save South Korea’s top national treasure. The capital’s oldest wooden structure (landmark listed as National Treasure No.1), also known as Namdaemun (gate of respecting propriety), caught fire at 8:46 p.m.  and was burnt to its foundations by 2 a.m.

How Is Restoration proceeding? The Cultural Heritage Administration said restoration of the gate will be undertaken in three phases. The first phase of preserving the fire-stricken site was completed on May 2009. The second phase of investigation, excavation and design is underway. Digging will resume soon to discover the exact location of walls, roads and ponds that used to surround the gate in the past. The third phase of reconstruction will begin around January next year for completion in 2012. The government will spend about 25 billion won on the reconstruction project.

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