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Reflecting on the IRDR Panel Discussion: Heritage and Disasters

ucyow3c23 March 2016

pencil-icon Written by Dr Farnaz Arefian, Enterprise Manager, UCL Institute for Risk and Disasters ReductionIRDR panel discussion

The UCL Institute for Risk and Disasters Reduction (IRDR) successfully held its public panel discussion on Heritage and Disasters at UCL on 9 March, discussing cultural heritage protections and how to plan for and recover from disasters.

The attendees enjoyed an interactive and thought-provoking discussion with the panelists and a drinks reception, during which attendees could network and continue their informal discussions followed the discussion.

Five panelists from academia and practice engaged in a vibrant and lively discussion on how to protect cultural heritage from disasters such as earthquakes and conflicts and it was exciting to see attendees from across the heritage sector, including museums, heritage studies and NGOs, as well as attendees from practice.

The panel included William Brown, National Security Adviser, Arts Council England; Dr Sergio Olivero, Head of Energy and Security Research Area at the Istituto Superiore sui Sistemi Territoriali per l’Innovazione (SiTI), Italy; Dr Kalliopi Fouseki, lecturer and course director for the MSc Sustainable Heritage at the UCL Institute for Sustainable Heritage (ISH); Jonathan N. Tubb, Keeper (Head), Middle East, the British Museum.

Dr Farnaz Arefian, Enterprise Manager at IRDR and Founder of ‘Silk Cities’ Platform, chaired the panel, opening the discussion by focusing on key cultural heritage preservation questions: Why the protection of cultural heritage is important and how we can protect and enhance its resilience to disasters? What are the complexities in practice? How existing academic discourse and research on heritage and disaster risk reduction can play role in heritage resilience? How the public and private sectors can be mobilized to proactively reduce disaster risk to our cultural heritage and enhance successful recovery and/or reconstruction when it is impacted? (more…)

The way we cope with disasters is a disaster

Oli Usher10 October 2013

A careful listener at David Alexander’s inaugural lecture, ‘Around the world in 80 disasters’ (7 October), might have been excused a hint of cognitive dissonance – his tone was consistently humourous throughout, but the thrust of his argument was no joke. The way humans deal with disasters, and the way many academics study them, he argued, is deeply misguided.

L'Aquila

The L’Aquila earthquake killed more women than men

Like many researchers into disaster risk, Prof Alexander, knows the exact moment he became interested in the discipline, because it was triggered by him surviving a natural disaster. Unlike most, however, he can pinpoint it – perhaps with a little spurious accuracy – down to the nearest tenth of a second.

Not long after receiving his PhD in Geography from UCL, the young researcher was travelling on a train in Southern Italy on the evening on 23 November 1980. At 7:34pm (“and fifty-eight point two seconds”, he adds) the earth shook, the carriages swayed, and the train ground to a halt in a dark and chaotic Pompeii station. Almost 3,000 people were killed that evening, in the most deadly earthquake Europe has seen in almost a century.

Thirty-three years later, after a career in disaster risk that has taken him to Italy, the US and Switzerland, David Alexander is back at UCL.

(more…)