The name Blue Shield comes from the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, which specifies a blue shield as the emblem for marking protected cultural property. The International Committee of the Blue Shield (ICBS) and its affiliated national committees work together as the cultural equivalent of the Red Cross to provide an emergency response to cultural property at risk from armed conflict. In principle, these groups, along with the Association of National Committees of the Blue Shield (ANCBS) are the successors to the U.S. Army's Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives section of the Civil Affairs division that worked to protect and preserve cultural property during WWII.
USCBS strives to protect movable and immovable tangible heritage, including museums, archives, libraries, monuments, and heritage sites, with awareness programs; training for the armed forces, government agencies, heritage organizations, and the general public; and emergency support before, during, and after armed conflicts that threaten cultural property. USCBS was formed in 2006 in response to recent heritage catastrophes around the world, and especially the April 2003 looting of the National Museum in Baghdad following the invasion of Iraq led by the U.S. and the U.K.
USCBS goals address the challenges of protecting cultural property during conflict and are focused on the following areas:
One of the first initiatives undertaken by USCBS was the promotion of U.S. Ratification of the 1954 Hague Convention and its Protocols. Although the U.S. Senate gave its advice and consent to ratification of the main treaty in 2009, it has yet to do so for either the First or Second Protocol. An additional priority has been of U.S. troops in the necessity to protect cultural property both here and abroad, consistent with the terms of the 1954 Hague Convention,
The founding officers and directors of USCBS had a commitment to the protection of cultural property, either as members of the military, as archaeologists, or as specialists in cultural property law. Since then, the Board of USCBS has expanded to include representatives of several heritage cultural organizations in the U.S.
USCBS coordinates with the U.S. military, U.S. government, and cultural heritage organizations to protect cultural property worldwide.