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Protective measures

Armed conflict, disasters and emergencies

The destruction and illegal appropriation of cultural property is as old as time itself. The ongoing destruction of heritage sites are unfortunate proof of the relevance of cultural property protection in the event of armed conflict. However, Switzerland has long taken civil hazards into account when devising PCP measures.

Protective measures for cultural property

  • Inventory (Confederation, Cantons, Municipalities)
  • Documentation e. g. Microfilms (Cantons)
  • Description (Municipalities)
  • Shelters (Confederation, Cantons, Municipalities)
  • Marking
  • Organisation / Personal training
  • Information


The Swiss Inventory of Cultural Property of National and Regional Importance (or PCP Inventory, for short), which was revied and updated in collaboration with the cantons and the Swiss Committee for Cultural Property Protection, exist in its third edition. During the latest revision of the inventory, buildings, archaeological sites, special objects such as museums, archives and library collections could be reviewed for the first time based on a set of uniform criteria and cross-checked on a nationwide scale. The key information on each building, collection and archive was entered into a matrix.


The purpose of documentation for the safeguarding of cultural property is to make it possible either to restore or rebuild cultural property that has been damaged or destroyed, with the help of a documentation that has been prepared in advance and maintained as complete as possible. If for any reason it is either not possible or not desirable to carry out restoration or reconstruction, the documentation will nonetheless serve as a valuable scientific record and testament. Records should also be kept on microfilm if possible, Microfilms take up little room, are relatively inexpensive and have a long life if properly developed and stored. The Confederation keeps positive copies of such microfilms at its own expense in the microfilm archives of Heimiswil in the Emmental. The owners of the cultural property or those in possession of same should store the originals in a separate place for their protection.

Organisation / personal training

Staff entrusted with the protection of cultural property should above all be recruited among professionals employed by museums, libraries, archives, restorers, workshops, etc. At the very least the management functions should be in the hands of people with the requisite know-how. In the area of civil protection the cultural property protection staff will attend an initial enlistment briefing. This will cover the preparations necessary for the training of staff in their specific duties in relation to the protection of cultural property, by means of one or more courses. Training will be carried out both by the Confederation and the cantons, Staff involved in the protection of cultural property have the same rights as all other civil protection staff (pay, employment compensation, insurance, reduction of military duty, etc.). Staff assigned to the protection of cultural property will wear a special armband and carry identification when on active duty, They are under the protection of international law, i.e. in the event of occupation they will be expected to continue looking after the cultural property entrusted to their care.


Standardised shelters for movable cultural property are to be built in all cases where no other completely safe and secure solution can be found. These will be built as close as possible to the cultural property requiring protection, so that the shelters may also be used for the storage of cultural property even in normal times, for a variety of reasons. The purpose is not to protect every single possible item of cultural property. Those in possession of cultural properties must themselves decide which are the most valuable and in need of protection, preparing at the same time a plan for their eventual removal to safety. The information in this plan will help to determine the size of the shelter that needs to be built.

Protective measures for immovable cultural property

Measures of a constructional nature for the protection of immovable cultural property are costly in terms of material, time and personnel. The goal must be to achieve the best possible result at an acceptable price, ensuring protection against shrapnel, flying debris and fire. All measures contemplated should he discussed with the experts, i.e. engineers, architects, firefighters, building specialists, etc. As far as possible all the materials necessary should be made ready well in advance, i.e. in peacetime. Without wishing to fundamentally call into question the advantages of measures of a constructional nature, it is worth pointing out at this stage that even with great expenditure it is not possible to obtain absolute protection for immovable cultural property, and indeed that the documentation for the safeguarding of cultural properties described under the heading "Documentation for the safeguarding of cultural property" is the most essential protective measure that can be taken in this context.

Guidelines for the preparation of a Disaster plan

The PCP section has prepared a checklist which is intended to allow the owners of cultural property substantially to limit the consequences of damaging incidents. The objective of this document is to make owners of cultural property aware that there are often hazards present in the building itself which are a threat both to the building and to the collections which it contains. The risk can be substantially reduced with simple and inexpensive planning and precautionary measures. The document is conceived as a checklist and can be downloaded hereafter. It will always need to be adapted to local requirements. Cultural institutions which have already prepared a disaster plan should find the present guidelines a good means of establishing whether any details of the security measures taken can be improved. The work of the Protection of Cultural Property Service staff is made a great deal easier wherever there is a disaster plan. As part of the PBC Strategy 2021-2025, new considerations have been spelled out on day-to-day risk management in heritage institutions.

Federal Office for Civil Protection FOCP Protection of Cultural Property PCP
Guisanplatz 1B
CH-3003 Bern


Federal Office for Civil Protection FOCP

Protection of Cultural Property PCP
Guisanplatz 1B
CH-3003 Bern