More than 20 museums and institutions from across France including the Louvre, the Musée du Quai Branly—Jacques Chirac and the Bibliothèque Nationale de France (national library) have donated emergency supplies to Ukrainian museums to help them protect their collections against destruction.
A truck carrying 15 tonnes worth of packing and preservation materials—ranging from crates and bubble wrap to fire extinguishers and blankets—left Paris earlier this week for Warsaw, where Polish cultural professionals are organising rapid relief efforts for their counterparts across the border in Ukraine.
The aid initiative was co-ordinated by the French national committee of the International Council of Museums (Icom), which launched an urgent callout for materials to its members after a virtual meeting on 8 March between French and Ukrainian museum professionals. Juliette Raoul-Duval, the chair of the Icom France committee, says the “most important” request from Ukrainian museums was for conservation materials to support staff on the ground who are moving collections into basements or other storage locations for safety.
The art transportation company Chenue volunteered its services free of charge, with its warehouse in Paris serving as a central collection point for donations from museums in the capital but also from the regions, including Lille, Rouen, Rennes, Nantes, Bordeaux and Strasbourg. The outpouring of support shows that French museums large and small stand in solidarity with besieged colleagues in Ukraine, Raoul-Duval says. “It’s a big emotion for us—it’s a way to understand how strong our network is.”
Raoul-Duval says there is still “enough material in the warehouse to fill another truck”, which could travel to Poland as soon as next week. The first delivery was unloaded yesterday at the National Institute of Cultural Heritage in Warsaw, which is in direct contact with Ukrainian museums and distributing resources according to their needs.
In the longer term, the French Icom committee is exploring avenues to help museum professionals from Ukraine wishing to start a new life in France, Raoul-Duval says. Many French museums are “ready to welcome” refugees, she says. “Everybody wants to move quickly and to help.”
Earlier this month, the French culture ministry announced a new €1m fund supporting work and study placements for refugee Ukrainian artists and arts professionals, as well as “dissident Russian artists”.