Syria’s National Museum of Damascus evacuates 300,000 artifacts
Museum staff at Syria’s National Museum of Damascus have been working to evacuate the institution’s collection of priceless antiquities, AFP has reported.
Under the direction of the museum’s head of antiquities, Maamoun Abdulkarim, approximately 300,000 artefacts and manuscripts from 34 museums have been wrapped and transported to secret locations for safekeeping. Following the large-scale thefts that Iraq’s museums suffered in the aftermath of the US invasion in 2003, Abdulkarim prioritised the prevention of looting in taking up his position three years ago. “The images of the looting of the museum in Baghdad and other Iraqi sites are always on my mind, and I told myself that everything must be done to avoid a repeat of that here,” he told AFP.
2,500 museum employees work tirelessly to preserve their cultural heritage, many risking their lives in opposition-held areas. 12 staff members have already given their lives to protect historical artefacts. “They feel that protecting our heritage is a question of honor,” Abdulkarim said, “like defending the honour of their mothers.” He estimates that 99% of Syria’s museum collections have been rescued so far. Almost 300 sites and historic buildings have been damaged or destroyed, and illegal excavation and fighting continue to endanger the region’s heritage.