Normek82, Kilkenny Castle, 2015 (Wikimedia Commons, CC 4.0).

GMU Intern Spotlight: Kilkenny Castle

By Dr. Mary Ellen Pethel, George Mason University My internship with the Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative is still going well as I research cultural and heritage sites in Ireland. I have completed 60% of the coding for these sites and will soon be turning my attention to mapping. Researching the significance of Kilkenny Castle was[…]

Challenges in Safeguarding the Tomb of Askia: Local and International Approaches to the Preservation of Cultural Heritage

By Anna Stormoen, University of Virginia In 2012, the deliberate destruction of irreplaceable monuments in Timbuktu placed Mali at the heart of global discourse on the intentional targeting of cultural heritage during conflict. Ahmad al-Faqi al-Madhi, who led an al-Qaida linked group in armed rampage on several of Timbuktu’s historical and religious monuments, became the[…]

Sidi Bou Said and the role of cultural heritage in Tunisian conflict

Kelley Tackett, Brown University Through the Virtual Student Federal Service internship at the Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative, I have researched and explored issues and events surrounding cultural heritage in the Middle East. This research has taken several forms over the course of the academic year: we began by locating and documenting heritage sites in Syria directly affected by[…]

In 1957, a cartographer working in California for the U.S. Geological Survey applies adhesive-backed lettering to a topographic map of Miller Peak, Arizona. (U.S. Geological Survey)

Now, make a map, they said

By Andris Straumanis, George Mason University As our group of graduate interns from George Mason University continues to collect and verify data for the Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative, we now have been given a new task: Think about how best to show the information on a map. This may not seem to be much of a[…]


The Museum of the Ruins of Hippo

By Hannah Lents, George Mason University Algeria is home to many important archaeological sites due to the long history of human habitation of the region and fortuitous preservation provided from the dry climate of the Maghreb. Punic, Berber, and Roman peoples have all called the Algerian shores of the Mediterranean home at various periods of[…]

Oscarsborg Fortress island, Photo courtesy of Oscarsborg Gestningsverk

The Oscarsborg Fortress, Norway

By Bobby Petricini, George Mason University While working as an intern for the Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative, my task this semester has been to compile a complete list of museums and cultural sites for the country of Norway. Roughly the size of Montana, Norway has over 900 recognized museums, galleries, heritage sites, and historical villages.[…]

The Sufi mausoleum Sidi Bou Said after its destruction in 2013. Source:

VSFS Intern Spotlight: Documenting Sufi Shrines as Cultural Narrative

By Phoebe Alpern, Pomona College As an intern with the Virtual Student Federal Service, I have focused on researching and geocoding instances of cultural heritage destruction in Tunisia and Syria. While analyzing search results from 2013, I encountered coverage of the destruction of three Sufi shrines in the Tunisian cities of Al Hamma, Douz, and[…]


VSFS Intern Spotlight: Georeferencing Bosnian Cultural Sites

By Zorana Knezevic, University of South Florida – St. Petersburg As a VSFS (Virtual Student Federal Service) intern for the Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative this semester, I have been developing a dataset of cultural heritage destruction events for for Bosnia & Herzegovina. Most recently, my teammates and I have finished searching the Factiva Global News Database for[…]

Cliff of Bandiagara – A Unique (and at Risk) World Heritage Site

By Alyson Miller, New York University I have learned about many cultural heritage sites throughout my time as a Virtual Student Federal Service Intern with the Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative, the physically largest of which is the Cliff of Bandiagara. A UNESCO world heritage site encompassing 4000 square kilometers in the Mopti region of Mali,[…]

Photograph of the port town Ebeltoft, Denmark, from Wikimedia Commons at

Glass Museums in Denmark

By Jenna Rinalducci, George Mason University While researching the museums in Denmark, I have been amazed by the number and variety of cultural institutions. Denmark is 16,573 square miles, approximately the size of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Despite its size, it has over 600 museums. This high number is a testament to support from the government[…]