Experts from the National Museum will restore precious objects from Syria

Five large wooden boxes from Damascus were transported last week to the restoration workshops of the National Museum in Terezín under strict security measures. Neatly packed inside were twenty valuable artifacts, some of which dated back 4,000 years.

Michal Lukes |  Photo: Elena Horálkova, Cesky rozhlas

Michal Lukeš, the director of the museum, says that this is not the first time that the National Museum in Prague has helped in the protection of Syrian cultural heritage:

“This cooperation has been going on for almost five years. We created it as part of the government program to provide humanitarian aid for development and reconstruction in Syria, which includes the safeguarding of cultural heritage.

“Our main partner is the General Directorate of Monuments and Museums of Syria which is in charge of all museums and monuments in the country.”

After having already sent material to Syria to protect the country’s museum collections, the Czech Republic will now contribute its expertise in the restoration of objects damaged by the Islamic State.

Photo: National Museum

Among them is a statue of a woman, with much of her face chipped. The artwork is from the city of Palmyra, as are three tombstone reliefs.

Samir Masad of the Syrian Embassy in Prague describes the dramatic circumstances of their rescue:

“Archaeologists in Syria managed to load many objects onto trucks and bring them to Damascus. Unfortunately, some staff members paid with their lives.

“World-renowned scientist Khaled Asaad was executed because he would not hand over precious Palmyra artifacts to the Islamic State.”

According to Mr. Masad, many historical objects were also stolen by the Islamic State and disappeared on the black market.

Most of the objects brought to the Czech Republic, such as the bronze pin from Ugarit, are made of metal, since the expert of the National Museum specializes in the restoration of this material.

Photo: National Museum

Petra Korandová, head of the museum’s restoration department, describes the next steps in the process, which is expected to take about a year:

“We must first examine the objects. We will take photos both under the microscope and in our studios to capture all the details. This will help us determine how to proceed with their conservation.

The restoration work, which will also involve Syrian experts, is expected to last about a year. But before the valuables are sent back to their country of origin, the Czechs will have the opportunity to see them, says Mr Lukeš:

“We have agreed that the artifacts will not be reserved only for the Syrian public. As soon as the restoration work is completed, we will prepare an exhibition in the historic building of the National Museum. The objects will be exhibited there along with other objects related to cultural heritage in Syria.

Berta D. Wells