The Oriental Institute–National Museum of Afghanistan Partnership Project

The National Museum of Afghanistan in Kabul was severely damaged and much of its collections looted during the civil war of the 1990s, with other treasures hidden away for safekeeping.  In 2001, many Buddhist statues in the museum were deliberately smashed to pieces by the Taliban.  A program of rebuilding and restoration of the museum took place from 2003 to 2006.  In 2012, the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago was awarded a $2.8 million grant from the US Embassy in Kabul to work directly with the National Museum of Afghanistan staff to record and preserve the collection as an important cultural resource for the country’s future.  This three-year project is under the direction of Dr. Gil Stein (Director of the Oriental Institute), and supported by Oriental Institute colleagues Steven Camp (Executive Director), Jack Green (Chief Curator), and Laura D’Alessandro (Head of Conservation).  Field Director in Kabul, Michael Fisher, leads the project team in their efforts to support the museum staff to complete an inventory of museum objects within a bilingual database (Dari and English).  The new database provides the staff of the National Museum with the ability to more effectively manage the collection and prioritize future research, preservation, and display.  Collaboration between National Museum of Afghanistan staff and international project staff is ongoing to help preserve and document this collection through database registration, photography, and conservation assessment.   Conservation assessment, object rehousing, and training is enabling the continued management and preservation of the museum’s collections.  The project would not be possible without the support and partnership of the National Museum of Afghanistan and its Director, Dr. Omara Khan Masoudi.