Culture and Sport alerts against possible damage to cultural heritage and distributes a guide with recommendations to ensure its disinfection and protection

The Ministry of Culture and Sports has distributed a series of recommendations to guarantee that the disinfection measures in the cultural heritage required by the Covid-19 crisis are compatible with the protection of cultural property.

The Ministry has sent a note to all the autonomous communities where they are invited to reflect on the effects of the pandemic on cultural heritage, the closure of institutions, the disinfection practices applied in the field of cultural property and the future economic repercussions. .

Before acting on the disinfection of cultural property, the Ministry also draws attention to the need to consult interventions with those responsible for the care and protection of cultural heritage to determine the vulnerability of each element and the best alternatives to avoid unnecessary damage.

Recommendations of the Institute of Cultural Heritage of Spain

With these premises, the Ministry of Culture and Sports has directed the first autonomous communities, the National Police, the Civil Guard, the Military Emergency Unit (UME) and Civil Protection "Recommendations on disinfection procedures in cultural property due to the crisis by Covid 19", made by the Institute of Cultural Heritage of Spain (IPCE). The text warns that the use of corrosive products, such as bleach, ammonia and detergents, is totally contraindicated in monumental complexes, historical buildings, archaeological sites and objects.

"In the necessary cases, and in accordance with the recommendations of the health authorities, diluted hydroalcoholic solutions or neutral soaps could be used, always applied with controlled pressure and under the advice of a technician in the conservation of cultural property," the text states.

The document recalls that in this emergency situation, in addition to the protection of people and society, it is also necessary to consider the important role that cultural heritage plays for society. "In this sense, the main international organizations, such as ICCROM or ICOM, are already demonstrating, recalling the social and economic importance and the identity value that cultural heritage represents."

Intervention procedure in movable cultural property

After the closure of all centers by the State of Alert, the Ministry of Culture and Sport advances that the risk of contamination of movable cultural property "is practically nil" and it is recommended to avoid the use of disinfectant products that can damage materials.

Regarding spaces that contain cultural assets, such as museums, archives or religious spaces, it advises against fumigations or widespread spraying, since after its closure to the public a month ago, the existence of the virus in the environment of these places is unlikely.

Cleaning surfaces such as floors, doors or handlebars that lack historical or artistic value is recommended with the common disinfecting solutions proposed by the health authorities, although the use of 70% dissolved ethanol is preferred.

The cleaning procedures also include the exterior surfaces of showcases that may have been touched by visitors, but any measure in the interior space of showcases is discouraged, since their access is punctual and only by the specialized staff of the institution.

Once the disinfection and cleaning have been carried out, the document promotes the ventilation of the cleaned spaces to avoid the accumulation of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) arising from the evaporation of the disinfecting solutions.

Procedure for intervention in immovable cultural property

In the event of any doubt regarding the cleaning and disinfection processes, Culture alerts the authorities not to apply any treatment, since irreversible damage may be caused to the cultural heritage, and urges that all measures be agreed with professionals in the field of conservation- restoration.

In the case of cultural assets located in public spaces (historic quarters, public squares, parks or streets), the document calls for avoiding the direct spraying of objects or buildings of historical-artistic value.

In the direct environment of cultural property (less than a meter away, such as nearby sidewalks or baseboards), the use of a 70% solution of ethanol dissolved in low-pressure sprayed water is preferably recommended. This disinfecting solution is effective against the virus and, in turn, its spraying is less harmful than that of sodium hypochlorite (bleach) on materials such as stone, brick, wood and metal.

Disinfecting treatments should also be avoided in the vicinity of polychromed cultural assets (church or altar portals) and perimeter fencing is proposed as an alternative to avoid the approach and direct contact of people.

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