Saturday 3 April 2021

RAP 30: The Problem with the "Nabu Museum"

Palmyra relief conveniently (freshly?)
broken into portable fragments
and reassembled here
Here's an interesting text on a private collection turned "museum":  Nelly Abboud 2020, 'The Nabu Museum. The Alleged Guardian (Saviour) of the Mashriq' Revista d’Arqueologia de Ponent 30, 2020, 203-214. DOI 10.21001/rap.2020.30.10 Download the pdf here.

A private art and archaeological museum was inaugurated in 2018 on the Mediterranean coast under the name of Nabu after the Mesopotamian God of Wisdom and Writing. The museum exhibits a collection of more than 2,000 archaeological artifacts from Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Iraq, Egypt and Yemen. Immediately after its inauguration, the so-called museum was the subject of controversy as to how and from where it had acquired its archaeological collection. The co-founder and director of the museum, Jawad Adra, defended the ownership of this collection and made reference to decree No. 3065 issued in 2016 that aims at organising the General Inventory of Old Movable Archaeological Items. This article investigates this controversy, its context, causes and implications. Keywords: Lebanon, Archaeology, trade, private museums, laws.
I have discussed this collection before ('A New Museum in Lebanon Raises Questions About Archaeological Looting', PACHI Friday, 31 May 2019). It was also highlighted by the 'American Committee for Cultural Policy' lobbyists.

The collection of businessman Jawad Adra (together with items owned by Fida Jdeed, and Badr El-Hage) contains some 400 archaeological artefacts, from Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Palestine and Yemen. These include 66 phoenecian funerary stelae, 139 number of Irisagrig cunies, seven other cunies. There is a load of stuff from the former collection of Moshe Dayan, some Palmyra funerary reliefs, some TelHalaf terracotta figures, and finally alabaster statues from "the south of the Arabian peninsula". All of this stuff is of 'problematic' origin. Abboud's expose is very hard-hitting and it is interesting to note, right at the end of the text (p. 212) as a result of pressure and criticism - including by text's author I suspect: "The Nabu Museum recently removed all the archaeological artifacts that were on display keeping only the works of art, the paintings and the sculptures". Though Abboud wonders whether this means that these items were merely quietly sold on to other buyers.

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