The National Museum of Beirut.

National Museum of Beirut Picks Up the Pieces a Month After the Blast

Paris’s storied Louvre and the Directorate General of Antiquities in Lebanon have joined forces to help the National Museum of Beirut back to its feet in the wake of the devastating port-area explosion that killed some 180 people, injured thousands more, and leveled a large portion of the institution’s home city a month ago.

The windows and doors of the museum, which is just south of the August 4 blast’s epicenter, were blown out and its security system badly damaged. The Art Newspaper cited a report by the International Alliance for the Protection of Heritage in Conflict Areas (Aliph) as saying that the immediate goal of the antiquities authority, which also sustained severe damage was to protect the structure and the treasures within it. The Louvre has sent staff from its Department of Near Eastern Antiquities and from its Department of Architectural Heritage and Gardens to aid in the construction of a plan to secure the institution as quickly as possible. Repairs are estimated at $1 million; so far, Aliph has authorized funds totaling $200,000 to be used in the initial stage of repairs.

The National Museum of Beirut, which opened in 1942, is home to more than 1,800 artifacts ranging from the prehistoric to those dating to the Ottoman period. Following damage incurred during the civil war begun in 1975, the building had undergone two separate phases of restoration, in 1997 and 2017, and has recently been perceived as a symbol of unity.

Today marks the centenary of the French proclamation of the creation of a Greater Lebanon uniting mainly Muslim former Ottoman regions; the Louvre noted the occasion in its announcement of the partnership, which officially began yesterday. The French institution was already collaborating with the directorate general on several undertakings, notable among them an archaeological excavation at Byblos; France and Lebanon will celebrate the project’s centenary next year.