Ukrainian Institute, ICOM UK and Ukrainian Institute London to organise a series of online discussions on saving Ukrainian heritage during the war  

In November-December this year, the Ukrainian Institute, ICOM UK (the British branch of the International Council of Museums) and the Ukrainian Institute London will organise three online discussions dedicated to Ukrainian heritage.

The discussions will take place as part of the ICOM UK TalksHeritage in Crisis series, which focuses on countries where cultural heritage is being destroyed or damaged as a result of armed conflicts or natural disasters.

The UK heritage sector is particularly interested in learning from Ukrainian case studies to develop an understanding of how to respond to similar challenges on a global scale. Discussions about Ukraine will be a pilot project within ICOM UK Talks – Heritage in Crisis. It is organised on a volunteer basis to share experience and raise awareness of heritage protection issues. The project is being organised in collaboration with experts from the Ukrainian Institute and the Ukrainian Institute London. Speakers are currently being confirmed.  

Everyone is welcome to attend. Talks will be free of charge for members of ICOM and partner organisations involved in developing the talks. A nominal fee may be charged to non-members. As part of the events, donations will be collected to support heritage protection specialists who were forced to leave Ukraine due to the war.  

Detailed programme   

Talk 1. Looting of Ukrainian cultural heritage and loss of expertise 

Wednesday 9 November 2022, 12:30-13:30 GMT 

Registration Talk 1

As well as the destruction of heritage sites in Ukraine there are also numerous instances of cultural property being looted. Meanwhile, there is a loss of expertise as curators, conservators, archivists and librarians prioritise safeguarding collections over professional development, with many specialists enlisting to fight or fleeing across borders. 

A special focus will be on the role of ICOM Red Lists in combatting illicit trade in cultural artefacts. We will consider how artefacts looted from Ukraine could easily turn up in the UK – perhaps on eBay, as goods seized by border police or by being offered to museums for acquisition. Being aware of what to look for and knowing when to alert the authorities is a vital step towards stopping this illegal trade and returning looted artefacts to rightful owners. We will also look at what is being done to support those whose professional development has been put on hold due to the war. Attendees will be asked to share the Red List for Ukraine as part of an awareness campaign. They will also be encouraged to identify ways to support the professional development of Ukrainian cultural heritage professionals in the UK.  

Talk 2. Decolonising Ukrainian cultural heritage 

Wednesday 30 November 2022, 12:30-13:30 GMT 

Registration Talk 2 

Decolonisation has become an important global debate. Much has been done in UK museums, galleries, libraries, archives and universities to uncover and address deep-rooted colonial views. Work in the UK has largely focussed on the legacy of the British Empire, but Russia’s war in Ukraine has revealed other sides to colonial power. One colonial narrative claims that Ukraine is simply part of Russia rather than a separate nation that regained its independence in 1991, while another asserts Russia’s superiority in terms of culture and heritage. 

Today’s talk will consider why Russian colonial narratives persist in the west and how heritage and cultural professionals can contribute towards developing a non-prejudiced narrative about Ukraine. We will explore practical steps that can be taken to ensure Ukrainian cultural heritage is appropriately catalogued, described and interpreted. This will play an important role in ensuring that the UK remains an important and trusted ally to Ukraine. Attendees will be invited to consider ways to improve their own cataloguing systems to ensure Ukrainian cultural heritage is searchable, accessible and appropriately described. 


Talk 3. Identifying and collecting Ukrainian cultural heritage 

Wednesday 14 December 2022, 12:30-13:30 GMT 

Registration Talk 3 

Ukrainians have lived in the UK for centuries and have long contributed to economic and cultural life here. A major wave of immigration happened after the Second World War, when thousands of displaced Ukrainians were unable to return to their homeland due to Russian persecution there. Many active communities became established across the UK and beyond – including London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and other towns and cities – where national customs and traditions have been kept alive and passed on to younger generations. 

This talk will focus on identifying and collecting cultural heritage from Ukraine. We will consider the challenges associated with identification; the significance of collecting Ukrainian cultural heritage; how collections might be developed; and where to find relevant expertise. This knowledge may be invaluable when the time comes to rebuild and replace collections in Ukraine that have been damaged or lost as a result of the war. Attendees will be encouraged to review their own collections for objects that may require additional research to identify as Ukrainian – and to share thoughts on how to take this forward.