The events of 15 April at the Cathedral of Notre Dame have shaken many, not just in Paris but around the world. For those who work in the heritage field, it is particularly heart-breaking.

While it will take time for the circumstances behind the fire to become clear, they have underlined how vulnerable our history is, even in the heart of the capital of one of the world’s most developed nations.

Clearly Notre Dame is just one proof of this, alongside the destruction of the library at the University of Mosul, the fire at the National Museum of Brazil, and far too many others.

It will likely not be the last either, but it is possible to reduce risks and increase the chance of future generations being able to enjoy our heritage.

In Paris, the bravery required to fight the fire and save so many important pieces must now be matched by persistence and dedication in salvaging, rebuilding and restoring. IFLA wishes those involved strength and courage in the work that lies ahead.

Elsewhere, it is clear that there is a need to invest time, effort and expertise in documenting, planning and preparing. Safeguarding the memory of the world is a key task for libraries and librarians, and one that IFLA is working to support. Greater support from governments – in line with the UNESCO 2015 Recommendation on Documentary Heritage – is also essential, and a focus of IFLA’s advocacy work.

IFLA Secretary-General Gerald Leitner said:

‘The damage to Notre Dame has brought back the same sadness that was felt at the pictures of damage to heritage in Mosul, Rio, and around the world. It is clear that heritage makes a strong contribution to our societies. Our efforts to protect and preserve it must be just as strong'.

Read more about IFLA’s work on cultural heritage.