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Rebuilding the National Museum of Afghanistan

  • Deborah Klimburg-Salter spoke about preserving the cultural heritage of Afghanistan and her work in helping to restore the National Museum of Afghanistan in Kabul during the Amos Fortune Forum on Friday, July 20, 2018. Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—

  • Deborah Klimburg-Salter spoke about preserving the cultural heritage of Afghanistan and her work in helping to restore the National Museum of Afghanistan in Kabul during the Amos Fortune Forum on Friday, July 20, 2018. Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—

  • Deborah Klimburg-Salter spoke about preserving the cultural heritage of Afghanistan and her work in helping to restore the National Museum of Afghanistan in Kabul during the Amos Fortune Forum on Friday, July 20, 2018. Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Monday, July 23, 2018 1:56PM

The National Museum of Afghanistan in Kabul had once been ranked one of the most important museums in Asia, home to over 100,000 objects excavated in Afghanistan.

Over the years, however, stray bombs and looting had depleted about 70-percent of the collection and much of the museum building by the mid-1990s.

“Those of us who have had the privilege of living in peace have a hard time imagining the terrible price of war,” Deborah Klimburg-Salter said Friday during an Amos Fortune Forum at the Jaffrey Meetinghouse.

Klimburg-Salter is a professor emeritus at the Institute for Art History at the University of Vienna and an associate professor in the Department of South Asian Studies at Harvard University.

She was also the founding director of the Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Documentation of Inner and South Asian Cultural History from 2006 to 2015 and has been the director of a curatorial training program for the National Museum of Afghanistan in Kabul and the University of Vienna.

Klimberg-Salter was one of the people who assisted in an international effort to restore the museum – both by helping with inventory and the training of curators.

Many of the items within the museum had been sold off or destroyed by the Taliban. Klimburg-Salter said many of the destroyed pieces were picked up, with curators and others attempting to identify them.

Some items were able to be put back together, Klimburg-Salter said, including some destroyed wooden sculptures that were the last Islamic-styled sculptures from the 19th century.

“The most important pieces had been stealthily moved,” Klimburg-Salter said, referring to a Bactrian gold collection that had been hidden in a vault off-premise until 2004.

Some of the stolen items have since been recovered.

By 2010, things at the museum were getting better, Klimburg-Salter said. In addition to items being recovered and inventoried, the building was also in the process of being rebuilt.

“This was a great moment for me – after the destruction of the museum – to see all of these children filling the museum and learning about their culture,” Klimburg-Salter said.

Despite the status of the current museum and collection, Klimburg-Salter said there is still much work to be done.

Klimburg-Salter had to do more training with the curators as a number of fake pieces have popped up.

She also said they were not able to put all of the museum back together, meaning that more funding is needed for new space.

“I don’t know if it ever can be what it was, but we are working on it,” Klimburg-Salter said.

Nicholas Handy can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 235 or nhandy@ledgertranscript.com. He is also on Twitter @nhandyMLT.