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Aleppo Update: An inspiring return to the oft-bombed National Museum

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The museum has also intermittently sustained serious damage to its adjacent administrative building. Also repeatedly damaged has been the main façade of the museum a few meters from the large sphinx in front of the main entrance, which is shown below. Also regularly and repeatedly damaged have been the Museums exterior walls and structure, ceiling, exterior doors, offices and the outer fence, approximately 60 meters from the Museums front entrance.

Some good news is that vast majority of the Museum's treasures have been in safe keeping since shortly after the beginning of the current crisis in March of 2011. Based on this observers survey of Syria's museums spanning the past nearly four years, 95-plus percent of our endangered cultural heritage antiquities housed in Syria's museums are, as of today, safe.

This is because of the stellar and leadership of Syria's Director-General of Antiquities and Museums (DGAM), Dr. Maamoun Abdel-Karim, and his hard-working patriotic staff. Very soon after the outbreak of hostilities, and knowing well the tragedy that befell Iraq's National Museum soon after the Bush administration invaded that country and largely destroyed it, including the shocking images of American troops standing outside Iraq's National Museum in Bagdad and allowing its contents to be carted off by anyone who wanted to help themselves to our cultural heritage, Syria was determined that museum contents here would be protected at all costs. And so they have largely been.

DGAM launched an immediate and massive rescue operation across the country soon after the conflict began here and within months emptied the museums of all portable artifacts. Today virtually all remain packed, protected, and hidden in secure guarded sites, most deeply underground.

The first stage of preservation for Museum 'garden antiquities' is wrapping them in insulation shown above, then wrapping them in galvanized metal fencing, building a wooden crate around them and finally encasing them in cinderblocks and concrete. Aleppo
The first stage of preservation for Museum 'garden antiquities' is wrapping them in insulation shown above, then wrapping them in galvanized metal fencing, building a wooden crate around them and finally encasing them in cinderblocks and concrete. Aleppo
(Image by Nihad Roumeih 12/4/2016)
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So today's main concern for our endangered heritage at museums across Syria remains for our large archeological treasures that, given current war conditions, are too massive to transport to safety. A Syrian committee of archeologists, historians, engineers and Aleppo Museum staff meet weekly here in Aleppo to access their work and plan for post war reconstruction of the Museum buildings. The Aleppo Museum's staff and experts are one month into a three month crash program to further secure massive antiques that are in place outside on Museum grounds and in the garden.

In the Aleppo National Museums garden a massive antiquity from the Byzantium period is being encased in concrete for protection from rebel mortars, scores of which have targeted Aleppo's museum recently.
In the Aleppo National Museums garden a massive antiquity from the Byzantium period is being encased in concrete for protection from rebel mortars, scores of which have targeted Aleppo's museum recently.
(Image by Franklin Lamb, 12/4/2016)
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This observer has observed that at Syrian Museum sites, such as in Damascus, their designers have created very appealing outside gardens which exhibit large antiquities in a very pleasant museum park, with benches, a setting which is ideal for meeting friends and for personal contemplation among art objects from ancient civilizations. As happened last week on three occasions, this observer, whenever possible, likes to schedule meetings among the Damascus Museums well-tended palms trees and gardens.

During this week's visit to Aleppo's Museum after a year's absence, what this observer witnessed being achieved was stunning and inspiring. According to Museum official, Ms. Miralda Mouchati, who gave generously of her time briefing this observer, sand bags which have been stacked around the largest objects in the Museum garden the past few years are now being largely replaced and our irreplaceable globally shared cultural heritage objects, many from deep into Syria's ten millennia, are carefully being wrapped in protective material and then literally incased in cement as show is the photos below.

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Since 2013, Professor Franklin P. Lamb has traveled extensively throughout Syria. His primary focus has been to document, photograph, research and hopefully help preserve the vast and irreplaceable archaeological sites and artifacts in (more...)
 

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