In 2012, armed Islamic extremist groups occupied northern Mali. Proponents of strict sharia law, these groups destroyed many Sufi religious shrines and heritage sites, labeling them as idolatrous. After a return to stability, the recommendations of a UNESCO expert conference led to the January 2014 workshop, “Museums Facing Situations of Armed Conflict: A Regional Workshop for West African Museum Professionals” at the National Museum of Mali in Bamako. Attended by museum professionals from eight West African countries, the week-long workshop was organized by the Mali Ministry of Culture and National Museum of Mali, the International Council of Museums (ICOM), the Smithsonian Institution, UNESCO Mali, and the French Ministry of Culture. Topics included disaster risk reduction and security for museums and collecting institutions, engaging communities in museum collecting and exhibition development, and ways museums can help their communities, including post-conflict reconciliation and resilience building.

Workshop leaders included Samuel Sidibe, Director, National Museum of Mali; Corine Wegener, Cultural Heritage Preservation Officer, Smithsonian Institution; Mary Jo Arnoldi, Anthropologist, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History; Diana N’Diaye, Cultural Specialist, Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage; Guy Tubiana, Museum Security Chief, French Ministry of Culture and Communication; and France Desmarais, Director of Programs and Development, International Council of Museums.