More than a year after the devastating earthquakes struck Nepal, some of the country’s famous museums and institutions have once again opened to visitors as a result of combined work of the UN’s cultural agency and its partners, a top UN official has said.
“The rehabilitation of Nepal’s museums and historical buildings following the 2015 earthquake has a deep, positive impact on the economic and social development of the country,” said Christian Manhart, Director of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Kathmandu.
“There is a tremendous sense of identity, determination and hope that comes with the reopening of museums and the restoration of temples,” Manhart said.
The April 2015 earthquake and series of aftershocks killed more than 8,700 people, injured more than 22,000, and destroyed or damaged more than 250,000 houses.
The disaster also badly affected the landlocked country’s cultural and natural heritage as 691 historic buildings in 16 districts were damaged, of which 131 fully collapsed.
In the months after the earthquake, UNESCO joined the country’s Department of Archaeology in salvaging, inventorying and ensuring the safe-storage of artefacts and other architectural features in several impacted sites and museums including the capital’s Hanumandhoka, Swayambhu and Chhauni National Museum.
The UN agency also worked to ensure that local museum staff were trained in earthquake recovery, safe storage and access of museum collections.
In February this year, in collaboration with its partners, UNESCO organised workshops that trained staff from museums in the capital Kathmandu and other cities including Pokhara, Kapilvastu, Nuwakot and Dhangadi on sustainable collection and storage, surface cleaning, stabilisation, labelling and packing of museum objects, participants gained technical, scientific and practical skills to save collections.
“However, much still remains to be done and other museums have yet to open their doors. For example, local volunteers have been guarding sites to prevent the looting of objects,” UNESCO said.
The agency added that cultural heritage constitutes a source of identity and pride, and its protection is essential for sustainable development and especially for the tourism economy in the country.
The future rebuilding programme is in great need of support, and UNESCO aims to incorporate means for visitors to see, understand and contribute to the restoration process.
UNESCO also noted that the Post Disaster Needs Assessment for Nepal, which outlines short-term recovery and repair needs as well as long-term restoration and rebuilding plans, has proposed the total restoration of the damaged heritage sites within six years, as indicated in the Post Disaster Restoration Framework.