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July 20, 2020

ICOM-Iran: Re-opening Museums in Covid-19 Era Focus

See document Reopening museums in COVID-19 Era_ ICOM Iran

After very sudden and unexpected arrival of the Coronavirus, or Covid-19, in the world the fundamental relation between the historical/cultural buildings, sites and museums with the people faced, as for many other global activities, abrupt discontinuance, changes, and reconsiderations. Museums were closed worldwide and in Iran, cultural heritage’ visitors or audiences were forced to stay-at-home, and many professions and industries, including tourism, confronted with unprecedented crisis. As part of the solution the tools of the virtual world entered more convincingly this domain too, and efforts were made so that virtual tours, remote dialogues, discussions, and communications, and various publications, could fill this gap, even if nominally.

But the truth is that the museums and other historical/cultural paces are directly dependent on the people, astonishingly losing their concept and place in the society without them. Museums are the source of methodical exchanges and places of science and knowledge. People and cultural properties are two faces of the same coin, each losing its attribute without the other. Museums, in particular, are full-fledged and exceptional education/research centres which everybody, chiefly the scientific communities, interact with them. Now, with the situation in hand, that is Coronavirus crisis, what solution the museums and other cultural places could envisage in order for them to be able to conduct their duties satisfactorily?

Coronavirus pandemic and other similar catastrophes are among the crisis producing agents for cultural properties too. Therefore, during this current disaster, it is necessary to address two subjects simultaneously, the health and well-being of the people as well as the well-being and preservation of the museum collections, historical buildings and sites. The world of cultural heritage has just begun to comprehend that apart from those routine deterioration agents of physical forces (earthquake, impact, breakage, vibrations, improper handling, etc.), fire, water, thieves and vandals, pests and plants, light and ultraviolet, pollutants, inappropriate humidity and temperature, and dissociation, a specific place should also be allocated for pandemics such as Corona in risk management of cultural heritage in museums, historic buildings and sites. The current deadly consequence of this pandemic clearly shows that in planning long-term programs for both the well-being of our fellow citizens and care of cultural properties we have no other way than paying special attention to these kinds of natural disasters too. This virus is not only dangerous on its own and thus must be contained but its companion with other agents of

destruction in museums and other cultural places is another predicament. It is necessary that all destroying aspects of this damaging factor be put into multifaceted studies and consequently, as
of other damaging and destructive agents, and determine the remedial methods before, during, and after its attack.

In order for these cultural institutions to re-assign their rightful position, they should get in touch with the people and re-start their activities. Museums and historic places are now being reopened. To cope with the new reality various responsible institutions and organisations have produced protocols to facilitate the process. We must all be thankful for these efforts. The ICOM Iran Conservation Commission has, as its duty and as well as upon the requests and supports of the Research Institute for Cultural Heritage and Tourism and ICOM Iran, and with close cooperation of a number of its Working Groups supervisors and some members of the Commission, prepared and produced the current guidelines as the “Recommendations, General Requirements and Hygiene and technical Principles for Re-opening of the Museums during Coronavirus Pandemic”. As can be observed, further care to protect and preserve cultural properties, general requirements, and hygiene and technical principles have all been concurrently considered in this document so that together with other relevant national and international protocols we may be able to note both faces of the same coin and pass this pandemonium safely.

There is no doubt that this would be an ongoing task, and as more fresh evidences are found about this disease more up-to-date versions should be prepared and released. Corona virus not only directly threatens the safety of humans, that is to say the museums and other cultural places’ audiences, but also indirectly exposes cultural properties to additional risks. This is a crisis which should be managed similar to other calamities. Thus it should be emphasized that it is not merely this “Recommendations, General Requirements and Hygiene and Technical Principles” and other similar protocols that would help the salvation of both peoples and cultural properties, but it is the strict, multi-faceted, and round-the-clock supervision of their implementation that would doubly insure their success.

Finally, as a member of the Iran ICOM family, Iran ICOM Conservation Commission would extend the hands of cooperation toward everyone so that in this way it may become faster to reach its goals which are manifested in the Commission’s slogan, that is: “Common Heritage, Common Property, and Common Concern”.



Rasool Vatandoust
Chair, Conservation Group of ICOM -IRAN