Press Releases & Statements

AAMD Issues Protocols to Protect Works of Cultural Significance in Danger of Damage or Destruction

New York, NY
October 1, 2015

The Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) today announced the release of “Protocols for Safe Havens for Works of Cultural Significance from Countries in Crisis” to help safeguard irreplaceable works of art and archeological materials that are currently in danger of destruction. The Protocols provide a framework for museums to provide safe havens for works that are at risk because of violent conflict, terrorism, or natural disasters. Under the Protocols, owners/depositors whose works are at risk of damage or destruction can request safe haven at an AAMD member museum where the works will be held until they can be safely returned. All works deposited with AAMD member museums as safe havens will be treated as loans. To ensure transparency, AAMD member museums accepting such works will register them on a new section of AAMD’s online Object Registry, where information on the objects will be publicly available. The full Protocols are available here.

“The scale of human suffering and loss of life that is taking place in Syria and other afflicted areas is devastating, and is compounded by the loss of unique works that are the record of different cultures and our shared humanity,” said Johnnetta Cole, President of the Association of Art Museum Directors, and Director of the National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution. “The level of destruction and the intentional damage is deplorable and an attempt to eradicate cultural identity in tandem with the murder and repression of individuals. We stand with the international community in condemning these reprehensible acts of violence and brutal vandalism, and believe it is vital that we do everything in our power to help save endangered works for all people and for future generations.”

The Protocols establish a system for preserving a work’s physical integrity as well as its safety. The Protocols also cover considerations such as transport and storage, scholarly access, legal protections, exhibition, conservation issues, and the safe return of endangered works to the appropriate individuals or entities as soon as is feasible.

“The Safe Haven Protocols are grounded in the principle of stewardship that is the hallmark of the museum community, as well as in our belief in the urgent need to safeguard works that are in imminent danger of damage or destruction and cannot be sufficiently protected in areas of the world that are in crisis,” said Julian Raby, member of AAMD’s Task Force on Archaeological Materials and Ancient Art, and Dame Jillian Sackler Director of the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution. “Under the Protocols, the works we will hold will not be the property of the museum. Access to the works, and exhibition of them, will be determined by the depositor. We are committed to working with our international colleagues to address this crisis collaboratively and with the utmost urgency.”

AAMD has strongly encouraged its 240 members in the United States, Canada, and Mexico to adopt these Protocols, and has invited museums around the world to use the Protocols in their efforts to protect endangered works.

The Association of Art Museum Directors promotes the vital role of art museums throughout North America and advances the profession by cultivating leadership and communicating standards of excellence in museum practice. Further information about AAMD’s professional practice guidelines and position papers is available at


Christine Anagnos
Association of Art Museum Directors

Elizabeth Chapman
Resnicow Schroeder Associates