October 22, 2021

Lucky Life

Arts Fanatics

British Museum to restore glass artefacts shattered in Beirut explosion

3 min read


Staff members from the Archaeological Museum at the American University of Beirut retrieved fragments of broken glass vessels from the debris of the explosion in August 2020
Courtesy of the AUB Place of work of Communications and Archaeological Museum

Eight ancient glass artefacts that ended up shattered in the lethal explosions at the port of Beirut on 4 August 2020 are to be painstakingly restored by the British Museum thanks to a €25,000 grant from Tefaf’s annual €50,000 Museum Restoration Fund.

Amid the wreckage brought about by the large chemical blast was a vitrine of 74 glass objects toppled at the Archaeological Museum of the American University of Beirut (AUB), 4km west of the port. Dating from the Roman, Byzantine and Islamic durations, most of the vessels have been “shattered outside of repair”, in accordance to a British Museum push statement, and only 15 have been “identified as salvageable”.

Led by Claire Cuyaubère, a conservator from France’s national institute of cultural heritage, the Archaeological Museum’s workers retrieved hundreds of shards from the particles of the show case and the encompassing home windows. Cuyaubère returned to Beirut this month to conduct the “puzzle work” of matching up the fragments, supported by the Pals of the Middle East Office at the British Museum. She has determined 8 vessels sturdy adequate to be transported—in pieces—to the London institution’s conservation laboratories.


The vitrine of glass vessels at the Archaeological Museum of the American University of Beirut ahead of the explosion
Courtesy of the AUB Workplace of Communications and Archaeological Museum

The artefacts for mend attest to the progress of glass-blowing know-how in Lebanon in the to start with century Advertisement and comprise four scarce bowls, a perfume flask and a beaker from the imperial Roman period (1st to third century Ad) a Byzantine jug (fifth century) and an elite Islamic lustre flask (seventh to ninth century) decorated with silver and copper pigments that was almost certainly imported from Syria or Egypt.

“It will just take about 4 months of concentrated function at the British Museum to restore these eight vessels,” a spokesman claims, citing the conservation team’s know-how in Roman glass. “The shards of the vessels will be really diligently bonded with each other with conservation-quality adhesives. Sections are extremely step by step crafted up right up until the remains of the vessel are in 1 piece.”


Conservator Claire Cuyaubère conducting the “puzzle-work” of matching up hundreds of shards from a shattered glass dish at the AUB Archaeological Museum
Courtesy of the AUB Workplace of Communications and Archaeological Museum

At the time restored, the objects will go on short-term exhibit at the British Museum prior to returning residence. In the meantime, the seven vessels deemed too fragile to journey from Beirut will stay in storage “until the AUB Museum has the sources and techniques to undertake conservation in collaboration with worldwide support”, he claims.

The British Museum pledged to aid colleagues in Beirut quickly just after the explosion, states its director, Hartwig Fischer, and is now “pleased to be in a position to deliver the experience and resources… to restore these essential historical objects so they can be savored in Lebanon for several more years to come”.

Tefaf’s chairman, Hidde van Seggelen, suggests the honest is proud to assistance the restoration by way of its grants programme, describing it as “a impressive symbol of therapeutic and resilience immediately after disaster”.

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