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UNESCO supports museum professionals in the fight against illicit trafficking of cultural property in the Caribbean

About thirty specialists and technicians from museum institutions in Argentina, Bahamas, Belize, Cuba, Cayman Islands, Jamaica, Dominican Republic, and Trinidad and Tobago benefited from the Virtual Seminar “Strengthening the capacities of museum personnel in the Caribbean countries to manage collections with a focus on risk management and the fight against illicit trafficking of cultural property”, which took place between November 8 and 26, 2021, in virtual mode from Havana.
The training offered theoretical knowledge of top-level professors and experts on vital topics for the preservation of the region's tangible heritage and to protect it from a scourge, such as the illicit trafficking of cultural property. Some of them shared their impressions of the seminar:
 
Culture is often given a secondary role and, in that sense, the course impacted me because I was able to compare realities, I was able to learn, but also to reflect on the situation of museums in many countries of our region, on the need for the governments to be aware of the financial contribution that should be made to culture.
stated Carlos Muñoz, specialist from the Museum of History and Geography in the Dominican Republic

The formation of networks for the exchange of experiences and collaboration was one of the achievements of this training, according to Sylvia Batty, from the Institute of Archeology of Belize, for whom another lesson learned was that:

If we want to be proactive in responding to the challenges we face, it is very important that we support young professionals. This is one of the measures that we must promote.

For the curator of the UWI Museum in Jamaica, Shani Roper, although she would have liked to have included practical elements as well (something that was not possible due to the health situation derived from the COVID-19 pandemic),

continuing to invest in training the skills of our professionals is a priority, for which initiatives like this are extremely useful.

William Helfrecht, curator of collections at the National Gallery of the Cayman Islands, stated that:

 

It has been a very good experience, especially for sharing with so many colleagues from the Caribbean, learning from each other and being able to receive the extensive knowledge provided by the teachers. We must transmit all this useful knowledge to the young people who work in our museums, many of them without academic training but with enthusiasm to improve themselves, and this course has given us the tools.

The Dominican Ana Cristina Martínez, Director of the Fortaleza Museum in Santo Domingo, highlighted that, even without being in person,

with this course we have reinforced and updated information, it has been a very great support to our activity, since the management of museums requires constant updating.

The course was taught by a dozen prestigious internationally recognized professors, specialists and experts, who delved into topics such as museology, archives and cataloging; conservation; disaster risk preparedness and resilience.

We also received some evaluations from them, such as that of Alissandra Cummins, renowned international expert in heritage, who highlighted:
 

 

The specialist offered the possibility of working in the context of the Caribbean Museum Network to permanently access the seminar materials and others on the subject, for the use of professionals in this field.

Professor Andrea Papi, for his part, agreed with the desire of many of the participants by stating that

the course has been very interesting and complete, it covered the entire field necessary for a good Museology. It would be excellent if, as a consequence of this training, we could organize some face-to-face activities soon and go deeper into the practical aspect.
It is interesting that this course has enabled the creation of a network of experts, so the possibility of sharing experiences, work relationships, problems will be maintained,
affirmed Cecilia Santinelli, Doctor of Arts and Letters.

The specialist of the Culture Program and Officer in charge of UNESCO Regional Office for Culture in Latin America and the Caribbean, Tatiana Villegas, and the specialist of the Culture Program of UNESCO Multi-Country Office for the Caribbean, Yuri Peshkov, expressed some ideas as a conclusion to the course activities.

Museums are not only places of exhibition, but places of creation, places of activism, where the community can learn a lot, something that is very important to transmit. We must seek mechanisms to maintain these contacts, ensure that the work carried out in the region is supported and opportunities are identified, even despite the persistence of COVID-19. The knowledge shared has been immense and we must take advantage of it, for that reason another objective that we want to achieve is to train trainers, we hope that you can support us in this,
Tatiana Villegas emphasized.

Yuri Peshkov, for his part, indicated his satisfaction with the quality of the professors and participants that he noted in this, his first experience in a three-week online training course, and highlighted:

We hope to continue working. We are going to evaluate the results, continue developing the collaboration and think about training for trainers that allows us to continue encouraging the preparation of museum specialists.

The specialist reiterated the importance that all museum professionals know the UNESCO conventions, as well as the Recommendation on the protection and promotion of museums and collections, their diversity and their role in society, and the reports of the Organization that have been published on the subject.

UNESCO Regional Office for Culture in Havana, in collaboration with UNESCO Office in Kingston, was in charge of organizing the course, an initiative that is part of the project “Improving regional cooperation in the fight against trafficking Illicit Cultural Property in Latin America and the Caribbean”, launched jointly by both Offices with the aim of strengthening the capacities of museum staff to guarantee the adequate management, conservation and preservation of their collections and to improve their response to possible natural and human threats.

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