Sicily in Wartime: Protecting Antiquities, Museums and Communities (1939-45)

World War 2 (WW2) can be considered one of the most brutal and destructive events in the twentieth-century history. The war caused death and destruction all over the world. European states, regions, cities and communities were affected by massive bombing and war operations between 1939 and 1945.

Italy joined WW2 on 10 June 1940 as a member of the Axis powers. As soon as Italy began military operations, Allied forces carried out a series of systematic attacks to weaken the enemies and hit military and civilian targets (ports, factories, bridges, etc.). Sicily was certainly one of the most affected and bombed Italian regions until August 1943, when the Allied landed and defeated the Nazi and Royal Italian armies. The effects of war on Sicilian antiquities is however little known and needs further analysis.

This talk presents Crisà's on-going research project, carried out at Ghent University (Belgium), which explores the impact of war on archaeological sites, museums and small communities in Sicily during WW2. The project benefits from targeted investigations in international archives, which reveal essential sets of records (including documents, pictures, aerial photographs, military dispatches and letters). First, he will introduce his project contextualizing it in the historical European context. Second, he will assess some case studies on Agrigento, Cefalù and Palermo, in which intensive bombing, military operations, bunkers and anti-raid shelter construction put at serious risk local antiquities. Finally, such information helps us understand how safeguarding authorities, military bodies (Italian/German armies, AMGOT and Italian Provisional 'Badoglio' Government) and local communities played a leading role to preserve, make use of, damage or even occupy archaeological sites and museums in a state of war.      

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