Supporting immediate action to protect Ukraine's irreplaceable treasures from further damage and preparing post-crisis recovery conservation at cultural heritage sites.
Since the invasion of Ukraine, over 150 historical sites have been identified as severely damaged or destroyed according to UNESCO, including the Ivankiv Historical and Local History Museum and its collection; the Holy Mountains Lavra, a seventeenth-century monastery in Eastern Ukraine; and the historic center of Chernihiv, which is on the Tentative List for World Heritage status.
With an initial seed grant of $500,000 from Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, World Monuments Fund's (WMF) Ukraine Heritage Response Fund will support Ukrainian heritage professionals and provide supplies necessary to protect Ukrainian heritage places. When safe to do so, physical conservation projects will be necessary to stabilize and rehabilitate many important cultural sites across Ukraine. WMF is preparing now for those future needs by building a strong foundation of financial support that can be deployed for physical conservation work at cultural heritage sites.
WMF launched four new projects as part of the fund to address the immediate, critical needs of heritage professionals in Ukraine and to lay the groundwork for the future rehabilitation and long-term recovery of cultural heritage in the country.
Protection of the Black House
Albert’s House, or the Black House, is a sixteenth-century structure in Lviv’s Market Square. In 2019, the Lviv Historical Museum completed an AFCP-supported project to preserve the Black House, including its main facade, courtyard, lobby, and collection of stone sculptures. The inner courtyard of the Black House was also excavated, and an exhibition of stone architectural and sculptural fragments from Lviv buildings was created. Today, the building façade, festooned with intricate sculpture, is particularly vulnerable to damage from nearby explosions from ballistic missiles.
With support from the U.S. Department of State through the U.S. Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation (AFCP) and the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, WMF is working with the Lviv Historical Museum and Friends of the Lviv Historical Museum to build a strong external structure to protect the decorative façade while reflecting the history and aesthetic of the Market Square.
Fire Extinguishers to Protect Ukraine’s Wooden Churches
Ukraine is home to more than 2,500 wooden churches, or tserkvas, the largest number in the world. Eight of Ukraine’s wooden churches are included on the UNESCO World Heritage List of Wooden Tserkvas of the Carpathian Region in Poland and Ukraine. They are often located in remote rural communities and are particularly vulnerable to fire, especially in extreme conflict situations.
In response to requests from professionals on the ground, WMF partnered with the Foundation to Preserve Ukraine’s Sacral Arts and the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) to deliver 440 water-mist fire extinguishers that will serve to protect up to 200 tserkvas throughout Ukraine. The extinguishers were sourced from the fire safety provider Safelincs in the UK , who in providing the equipment below cost price, donating accessories and covering transport costs to Poland, allowed the delivery of a significantly larger number of extinguishers than would otherwise have been possible. The Polish Committee for Ukrainian Museums, through the Warsaw Rising Museum and Instytut Pawla Wlodkowica, supported transport logistics, provided warehousing in Poland and organized onward transport by truck to Ukraine. The extinguishers will be distributed by Ukrainian partners, the Center to Rescue Ukraine’s Cultural Heritage, the Heritage Emergency Response Initiative (HERI) and ICOMOS Ukraine.
Provision of Supplies to Monitor Damage to St. Sophia of Kyiv
The St. Sophia of Kyiv Cathedral dates back to the eleventh century and is part of the St. Sophia of Kyiv National Sanctuary Complex. Due to the ongoing war in Ukraine, the cathedral and its surroundings are susceptible to severe damage.
As a result, WMF has partnered with Cultural Emergency Response (CER), an organization based in the Netherlands, with local support from the Heritage Rescue Emergency Initiative (HERI) and personnel from the National Conservation Area “St. Sophia of Kyiv,” to deliver equipment to Ukraine to monitor the St. Sophia of Kyiv National Sanctuary Complex.
Installation of a Temporary Cover for Holy Trinity Church in Zhovkva
The Holy Trinity Church in Zhovkva dates back to 1720, and was under restoration when the war in Ukraine started in February 2022. As a result, work abruptly halted. To prevent further damage to the church, the upper parts of the building were temporarily covered with plastic sheeting.
In order to provide additional protection for the church over an extended period of time, WMF committed to funding the installation of a temporary waterproof membrane to protect the interior spaces of the church. It will be installed in locations where the roof was removed prior to the start of the conflict to protect Holy Trinity from inclement weather.
On June 21, 2013, during the 37th session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee in Cambodia, the Holy Trinity Church was added to the UNESCO World Heritage UNESCO World Heritage List of Wooden Tserkvas of the Carpathian Region in Poland and Ukraine.
Identifying and Addressing Critical Needs
Following meetings with both regional and global partners, including UNESCO, The International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), International alliance for the protection of heritage in conflict areas (ALIPH), Smithsonian Institution, and Blue Shield International, among others, World Monuments Fund has identified the following critical needs:
- Short-term: Equipment and Supplies: The most immediate needs for heritage professionals in Ukraine are supplies needed to protect sites from collateral damage.
WMF has just approved the provision of over 400 water-mist fire extinguishers for the protection of historic wooden tserkvas, or churches, in Ukraine, in partnership with the Foundation to Preserve Ukraine's Sacral Arts and the Center to Rescue Ukraine's Cultural Heritage in Lviv. 8 of these churches are included on the UNESCO World Heritage list as part of the transnational property “Wooden Tserkvas of the Carpathian Region in Poland and Ukraine”. The extinguishers will be distributed in partnership with ICOMOS and the Heritage Emergency Rescue Initiative, accompanied by instructions and advice on their use translated into Ukrainian. Other needs of material and support to Ukrainian cultural heritage professionals are currently under review.
- Medium-term: Documentation and Assessment of Damage: Once conflict subsides, heritage site managers will be faced with the challenge of taking stock of the damage and assessing the most urgent restoration needs.
WMF has created a Ukraine Taskforce within the organization, dedicated to monitoring the situation and coordinating with Ukrainian professionals and various international stakeholders. In support of the taskforce's work, WMF also recruited a Ukraine Heritage Crisis Specialist, Kateryna Goncharova, to help lead efforts to respond to the impact of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine on the country’s cultural heritage sector.
- Long-term: Restoration and Rehabilitation Projects: While the full extent of damage remains to be seen, we are already aware of dozens of heritage sites that have suffered varying degrees of destruction. We aim to develop projects that support recovery once the conflict subsides.
WMF also continues to participate in UNESCO and other international emergency response coordination meetings mobilizing international partners to ensure the complementarity of all actions taken to address short-, medium-, and long-term needs at heritage sites around Ukraine.
In the News
- At least 53 culturally important sites damaged in Ukraine – Unesco (The Guardian article, published April 1, 2022).
- We Will Fight for Every Brick of Ukraine (The New York Times op-ed, published April 3, 2022).
- 'This is Everyone's Culture': Ukraine's Architectural Treasures Face Destruction (The New York Times article, published March 11, 2022).
- Ukraine News, Jewish Heritage Europe.
Monitoring & Reporting
- Culture Crimes Timeline (in Ukrainian). Ministry of Cultural and Information Policy of Ukraine.
- Ukraine Cultural Foundation Map of Affected Sites (in Ukrainian). Also available here.
- War in Ukraine. UNESCO.
- Harvard University Ukraine Research Institute (HURI)
- Saving Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Online (SUCHO)
- Official Website of Konstantin Akinsha, art historian, curator, and expert on art expropriated during WWII.
- International alliance for the protection of heritage in conflict areas (ALIPH).
- Building an Emergency Plan A Guide for Museums and Other Cultural Institutions. The Getty Conservation Institute.
- Handbook: Endangered Heritage Emergency Evacuation. UNESCO and ICCROM.
- Handbook: First Aid to Cultural Heritage in Times of Crisis - Handbook. ICCROM.
- Handbook: First Aid to Cultural Heritage in Times of Crisis - Toolkit. ICCROM and Prince Claus Fund.
- Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative. Smithsonian Institute.
- Protecting Cultural Heritage in Times of Conflict. ICCROM.
- Committee for the Aid to Museums of Ukraine. Seeking logistics partners and sponsors.
WMF is not responsible for the content of any linked site or any link in a linked site, and is not responsible for any transmission received from any linked site. The inclusion of a link does not imply that WMF endorses or has approved the linked site.
World Monuments Fund is grateful to the supporters of the Ukraine Heritage Response Fund, including the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, Danny Kaye and Sylvia Fine Kaye Foundation, an anonymous foundation, the U.S. Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation (AFCP), Christie’s, and individual donors.