About our Anniversary!
When fighting broke out in former Yugoslavia in the early 1990s
“the reaction of the professional community was uncoordinated and inefficient. For example, multiple missions were mounted to Sarajevo, and while doubtless helpful in showing solidarity with professional colleagues there, these were generally carried out in ignorance of each other, and valuable opportunities for sharing information and resources were missed … There was clearly scope for increased co-operation”.
George McKenzie, co-founder of ICBS (2000, 5)
25 years ago, four international heritage organisations recognised the need for greater cooperation to protect cultural heritage at risk from conflict and disaster.
On 6 June 1996, Patrick Boylan (representing International Council of Museums – ICOM), Dinu Bumbaru (representing International Council on Monuments and Sites – ICOMOS), George Mackenzie (representing International Council on Archives —ICA) and Marie-Therese Varlamoff (representing International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions — IFLA) concluded and signed a permanent cooperation agreement on behalf of their respective organisations under the name of “The International Committee of the Blue Shield (ICBS)”. The signing took place in the ICOM offices in UNESCO, Paris.
Then Vice-President of ICOM
Patrick Boylan directed museums, arts and archives services in England before becoming Professor and a Head of Department at City University, London. He has authored numerous publications on the protection of culture in times of war, and worked as a consultant to UNESCO, EU, World Heritage Committee, Council of Europe, World Bank and many national governments, and played a leading role in developing the 1999 Second Protocol to the 1954 Hague Convention. He was the Centenary President of The Museums Association (UK) 1978-1980, and Vice-President of the International Council of Museums (ICOM) 1992- 1998 amongst other posts.
Then member of the International Executive Committee of ICOMOS
A graduate in architecture from Université de Montréal, Dinu did his Masters in Conservation dissertation at the University of York on preparedness and international emergency assistance for heritage sites at risk, drawing on his participation in the 1992 UNESCO expert mission to bombarded Dubrovnik. Since 1982, he has been a member of staff with the Heritage Montreal Foundation. He complemented that local and metropolitan experience with volunteer engagement in ICOMOS where he held various offices including Secretary General and Chair of the Canadian and Risk Preparedness committees
Then ICA Deputy Secretary-General
When he retired in 2012, George MacKenzie was head of National Records of Scotland, a department of the Scottish Government responsible for historical archives, record keeping standards, civil registration and the decennial census. His career has been mainly in archives and he was Deputy Secretary General of the International Council on Archives (ICA) in Paris from 1995-97. He has also consulted on archives management for UNESCO, the World Bank, and various governments. He has been external examiner for postgraduate archives and records management students at the universities of Liverpool, Aberystwyth and Dundee. He is President of the Scottish Records Society.
Then Director of IFLA Preservation and Conservation Core Activity, IFLA
From 1969-2006 Marie-Thérèse has been working at the French National Library (BNF), successively in charge of various sections, including exhibitions. In 1994, she became director of the IFLA Programme on Preservation and Conservation (PAC) with regional centres respectively located in Tokyo, Washington, Canberra, Caracas and Moscow. She was the IFLA representative for the UNESCO Memory of the World and numerous international cultural organisations (ICOM, ICOMOS, ICA). As Vice-President of the French Committee of the Blue Shield, she promoted the idea of national blue shield committees in each country she visited. She has launched numerous surveys and publications dealing with preservation and disaster preparedness.
ICBS went on to become the Blue Shield – an organisation composed not just of these founding four organisations, but with national committees around the world coordinated by an International Board made up of representatives of the four founding institutions and members nominated by the National Committees. Today it is:
“committed to the protection of the world’s cultural property, and is concerned with the protection of cultural and natural heritage, tangible and intangible, in the event of armed conflict, natural- or human-made disaster.” (Articles of Association 2.1 2016)
Professor Peter Stone, President of the Blue Shield and UNESCO Chair in Cultural Property Protection and Peace at Newcastle University, UK, said:
It’s a great privilege to represent the Blue Shield at this landmark time. The organisation has gone from strength to strength and it’s a testimony to the vision and hard work of people around the world. Only when heritage professionals work in partnership with governments, local communities, the humanitarian sector and those in uniform can heritage truly be protected during crisis. That was the vision of our founders, and one we are proud to continue to today.
Often referred to as the cultural equivalent of the Red Cross, the Blue Shield is a non-governmental, non-profit, international organisation, working to protect museums, monuments, archaeological sites, archives, libraries and audio-visual material, and significant natural areas, as well as intangible heritage. Members include the founding organisations, governments, emergency services, armed forces, academics, and all those with responsibility for heritage protection in crisis.
We found our work in key international frameworks and law, such as the Sustainable Development Goals, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, and in particular the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, which designates our namesake – the distinctive blue shield emblem signifying cultural property protected in conflict. This landmark legislation was followed in 1999 by a Second Protocol, which recognises the Blue Shield as an official advisory body to the international Committee for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict (article 27.3).
This year we are celebrating our 25th anniversary. Blue Shield has 28 national committees and more under construction. However, we are an almost entirely voluntary and largely unfunded organisation, supported primarily by Newcastle University in the UK. Despite that, we continue to grow. We have signed key agreements with the ICRC, NATO, and others, and are advocating for heritage protection at national and international levels.
As heritage continues to be threatened by crises around the world, the Blue Shield stands ready to help.