Syrian museums and conflicts

A damaged museum in Aleppo, Syria. ©UNESCO/Prof. Abdulkarim

Since the beginning of the conflict in Syria in March 2011, cultural heritage has been affected. Forty museums spread over the Syrian territory, including two national museums, 12 regional museums, four sites museums, 14 museums of arts and popular traditions, and 11 specialized museums such as in medicine and science, have suffered directly or indirectly from the war.

2011 (July): the theft of a statuette in Aramaic Hama Museum.

2012: Theft, vandalism, destruction and attempted looting threatened many museums. In March, the Qala'at Ja'bar Site Museum, the Museum of Homs, the site museum Qala'at el-Mudiq (Hama); in October, the palace al-Zahrawi, Museum of Arts and Popular Traditions of Homs; between August and November, the Museum of Ma'aret al-Nu'man became a military base. Finally, in September, vandals assault the Dura-Europos site museum.

2013: Vandalism at the Museum of Tibat al-Imam in February, and the Museum of Raqqa in March. In July, "transfer" or theft of archaeological objects by armed gangs. In April, vandals assault the Museum of Arts and Popular Traditions of Aleppo (Bayt Ajiqbash). In May, looting and thefts of the artefacts at the deposit in Heraqla (a reserve of the Museum of Raqqa). In July, the Museum of Deir ez-Zor was hit by shells and bullets and the Museum of Arts and Popular Traditions of the city was badly damaged.

2014: Fighting and vandalism in several museums mentioned above, especially the Museum of Medicine and Science in Aleppo (Bimaristan Argun) in February. Between June and July, shells and bullets cause damage to the National Museum of Aleppo.

2015: In March, considerable damage and attempted thefts in the Idlib Museum; in April, gunfire and shells hit the Roman theatre of Bosra, also causing damage and loss of many objects stored in its site museum; damage to the Museum of Popular Arts and Traditions of Aleppo (bayt Ajiqbash) in May;

May 21st: the city of Palmyra fell into the hands of extremists, civil society conducts initiatives to prevent its destruction.

June 15th: The Museum of Maaret Al-Numan and its collections endured massive destruction caused by a bombing raid.

 

EMERGENCY OPERATIONS FOR MUSEUMS OF SYRIA:

The Syrian heritage authorities have taken some measures to save their movable cultural heritage: such as closing museums to the public and transferring the objects to safe places (away from fighting). Furthermore, civil society in areas that were outside the reach of national heritage institutions played an important role. Major emergency interventions were organised in two parts:

August 2014: Transfer to Damascus of over 13,000 museum objects from Deir ez-Zor, an operation conducted by the Directorate-General of Antiquities and Museums Syria (DGAM).

End 2104 – early 2015: Emergency response to safeguard the museum Ma'aret al-Nu'man and its mosaics, an operation conducted by Syrian teams with the support of the Smithsonian Institution and Penn Cultural Heritage Center of Penn Museum.

DGAM Syria was able to recover some five thousand objects circulating within the country and hundreds of items were confiscated in neighbouring countries such as Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan.

SOME LINKS:

· Museums for Intercultural Dialogue – UNESCO and the National Museum of Damascus

· Lootings of museums and warehouses in Syria 

· Safeguarding Syrian Cultural Heritage

·Call for preservation of Syrian museums addressed to international institutions and the international community 

· Reports DGAM  

· Penn Cultural Heritage at the Penn Museum

· Emergency Syrian Red List Syrian Cultural Objects at Risk

 

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