Design a site like this with
Get started

Conference at Ghent

Antiquities, Sites and Museums Under Threat: Cultural Heritage and Communities in a State of War (1939–45)

A two-day international ‘virtual’ conference (held on Zoom)

Ghent University (Gent, Belgium), 15-16 October 2020

Organisers: Dr. Antonino Crisà and Prof. Jean Bourgeois.


The 2-day international conference Antiquities, Sites and Museums Under Threat aims to investigate the impact of war on cultural heritage, antiquities and communities during World War 2. This can be considered as a consequence of military occupations, bombing, destructions, indiscriminate sacking and raids. Conference aims to attract international scholars, who are interested in exploring specific research themes and finally provide up-to-date outputs on the subject. The event is also open to the general public who wishes to participate; this will potentially include independent scholars, museum personnel and curators and attendants who are interested in World War 2 studies. The conference will be focused not only on the European context, but also on wider frameworks (in particular, in Northern Africa and the Middle East), in order to explore world-wide perspectives.

In particular, debate will assess select case studies, which aim to understand:
a) how governments effected national plans to defend antiquities, including moving collections to safe shelters or safeguarding monuments with protective installations;
b) how national authorities dealt with destruction of antiquities in urban contexts and sacking of cultural heritage within military occupations, and how these phenomena impacted on local communities;
c) how military operations (including bombing, artillery and aircraft actions, infantry advance, requisitions, etc.) affected on cultural heritage, archaeological sites and museums.
d) if authorities stopped any access to local museums, preventing people to visit these institutions.
e) if the construction of military structures (e.g. bunkers, anti-raid shelters, provisional camps, etc.) put at serious risk the safeguarding of antiquities and archaeological sites.

An edited volume of papers arising from the conference is envisaged.

Key-note speakers:

– Prof. JOHN CARMAN (University of Birmingham, UK).
– Prof. NIGEL POLLARD (Swansea University, UK).

​This conference arises from the Cultural Heritage in Danger: Archaeology and Communities in Sicily during the Second World War (1940–45) project (Marie Skłodowska-Curie Individual Fellowship), which has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement No. 835876).


– ERC (European Research Council)

– FWO (Fonds Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek)



10:00-10:15    Introduction (Jean Bourgeois – Antonino Crisà).

10:15-11:00    John & Patricia Carman (University of Birmingham – Birmingham, UK): War as a cultural activity (key-note).

Session 1: Italy

11:00-11:30    Antonino Crisà (Ghent University – Ghent, Belgium): Sicily in a state of war: the protection of antiquities and archaeological sites (1940–45).

11:30-12:00    Simon Stoddart & Flaminia Bartolini (University of Cambridge – Cambridge, UK): Robert Capa, ‘Beni culturali’ and the Battle of Troina (30 July – 6 August 1943).

12:00-12:30    Carlotta Coccoli (Università degli Studi di Brescia – Brescia, Italy): Italy 1940–45: the account on antiquities from Allied reports.

12:30-13:00    Anna Tulliach (University of Leicester – Leicester, UK): New perspectives on art looting in World War 2: instances of Allied troops’ crimes against cultural assets in occupied Italian territories.

13:00-14:00    Lunch break

Session 2: Italy & Greece

14:00-14:30    Nathalie De Haan (Radboud University – Nijmegen, Netherlands): Safeguarding Foce del Sele (Paestum). Umberto Zanotti-Bianco and Paola Zancani Montuoro.

14:30-15:00    Thomas Morard (Université de Liège – Liège, Belgium): TBD.

15:00-15:30    Germano Germanò (Politecnico di Bari – Bari, Italy): Cultural heritage in times of war: the case of the Roman bridge of Canosa di Puglia (Italy).

15:30-16:00    ‘Virtual’ coffee

16:00-16:30    Fotios Katevas (Kerameikos Museum of Athens – Athens, Greece): Kerameikos: a significant archaeological site of Athens and its museum during the World War 2 (1940–44).

16:30-17:00    Maria Chidiroglou (National Archaeological Museum of Athens – Athens, Greece): Protecting museum antiquities during World War II. Photographs from the National Archaeological Museum, in Athens, with a story to tell.


09:30-10:15    Nigel Pollard (Swansea University – Swansea, UK): ‘Even the Germans did not do that’. The British military requisition and occupation of the Museo Nazionale di Napoli (December 1943 to June 1944), and its wider implications for military cultural property protection (keynote).

Session 3: Greece & other European contexts

10:15-10:45    Chrysanthi Tsouli (National Museum of Athens – Athens, Greece): Athenian antiquities in times of conflict: from the Greek War for Independence (1821–33) to the World War II.

10:45-11:15    Jan Driessen (Université catholique de Louvain – Louvain, Belgium): ‘Never-Never Land’ under attack: Axis war damage on Cretan antiquities.

11:15-11:30    ‘Virtual’ coffee

11:30-12:00    Suzie Thomas (University of Helsinki – Helsinki, Finland): From ‘war junk’ to ‘isn’t it a treasure!’ – processes of heritagisation of the material remains of the Second World War in Finnish Lapland.

12:00-12:30    Jean-Pierre Legendre & Laurent Olivier (Musée d’Archéologie nationale – Saint-Germain-en-Laye, France): Rocks around the bunkers: the destruction of French archaeological heritage during WW2.

12:30-13:00    Valentina Sabucco (Trident Manor Limited – Darlington, UK): How the Second World War impacted cultural venues and their use by local communities: the case of the Hancock Museum of Newcastle upon Tyne.

13:00-13:30    Discussion & Farewell.

Dresda (1945)