The Syrian Interim Government’s Ministry of Culture and Family Affairs today announced the completion of a successful training program for museum curators, heritage experts, and other members of civil society working to protect cultural heritage inside Syria. Approximately 20 people from several Syrian provinces participated.
Titled “Emergency Protection, Packing, and Crating for Syrian Collections,” this training focused on safeguarding museum, library, and archaeological site collections that are at extreme risk in the present conflict. Over two days, presenters discussed ways that collections can be safely sheltered and basic measures that museums can take to secure buildings and structures that might be susceptible to damage. “We hope that our teams from Ma’arrat Al-Nu’man and elsewhere can now use this knowledge to try and protect the collections in their care and look forward to further training sessions with our partners” said Bassem Hatahet deputy minister of Culture and Family Affairs.
The Ma'arrat al-Nu'man Mosaic Museum received much attention as a case study during the training. Located in Idlib province, the museum is acclaimed for its famous Byzantine mosaics. The Museum has been repeatedly targeted by regime forces as well as ISIS and efforts are now being made to protect the collection based on the principles and best practices discussed at the workshop.
According to Dr. Al-Azm, “The entire collection at Ma’arra including 1700 sq. meters of displayed mosaics represents the single largest repository of Syrian mosaics kept in one place and their loss would be catastrophic.” The building has already sustained significant damage to the roof and is in imminent danger of collapse in those places unless repaired.
The training was facilitated by representatives from the Smithsonian Institution (Washington, DC, USA) and the University of Pennsylvania Museum’s Penn Cultural Heritage Center (Pennsylvania, USA). Technical assistance for the program was provided by the U.S. Institute of Peace (Washington, DC, USA) and The Day After Association (Brussels, Belgium). The training was funded, in part, by the J. M. Kaplan Fund (New York, USA).
The Heritage Task Force was established by the Syrian Interim Government in order to coordinate efforts with UNESCO and other international heritage organizations such as ICOMOS, ICCROM, and ICOM as well as community groups and non-governmental organizations that share the goal of protecting cultural heritage inside Syria. It is chaired by Dr. Amr Al Azm, an associate professor of Middle East history and anthropology at Shawnee State University (Ohio, USA).
For more information, please contact:
Dr. Amr Al Azm, Chairman