The 19th European Archaeological Heritage Prize has been awarded to The Unità di Crisi e di Coordinamento Regionale Marche del Ministero dei beni e delle attività culturali e del turismo for its exceptional dedication to the protection and conservation of cultural heritage damaged by the earthquakes which devastated Central Italy in 2016 and 2017. The nomination of The Unità di Crisi e di Coordinamento Regionale Marche del Ministero dei beni e delle attività culturali e del turismo was promoted by the University of Urbino "Carlo Bo", through Professor Anna Santucci.
Alongside armed conflicts, natural disasters are some of the main causes of the destruction of world cultural heritage. With its high seismicity, Italy has had its share of calamities of this type in recent decades: in Friuli, Irpinia and Umbria. The recent earthquakes that hit the Central Italian regions between 24 August 2016 and 18 January 2017 not only devastated the lives of thousands of people, but also the cultural heritage that, as well as being the principal component of cultural identity for the local communities concerned, is also heritage of internationally recognised value and a driver of economic and tourist development.
The Unità di Crisi e di Coordinamento Regionale Marche is an operational division of the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism. It is composed of state archaeologists, art historians and architects who, since the immediate aftermath of the earthquake and with an inspiring spirit of responsibility and professional dedication, have undertaken to survey, monitor and document the damage suffered by the region's cultural heritage. Members of the Unit have organised the protection of damaged monuments, sites and museums, conducted a range of preservation activities, and have launched a communication campaign to inform and sensitize local communities. From the onset, they have had to cope with courage and determination with the harsh after-effects of the earthquake, the great difficulties of transport and communication and the dramatic physical and psychological condition of the local communities.
By awarding the European Heritage Prize to the Unità di Crisi e di Coordinamento Regionale Marche the EAA fully recognizes the value of a public project aimed at protecting damaged and endangered cultural heritage. The project's guiding idea is that each single monument, site or museum is an elementary but fundamental component of the historical landscape, a material testimony to the cultural relationship that communities establish over time with their territories and landscapes. The destruction of heritage undermines society, while its safeguarding means also the safeguarding of society. Through this initiative to preserve what can be preserved, to monitor and reconstruct this earthquake-damaged heritage, local communities can overcome their situations and flourish again within their shared historical territory.
The credit for this project belongs to the whole team of the Unità di Crisi e di Coordinamento Regionale Marche. Their action deserves the recognition and the gratitude of the European Association of Archaeologists.