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Historical Glance

لمحة تاريخية عن سوريا

 

National Museum of Damascus

Islamic Arts

Byzantine Syria

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Ancient Syria

Prehistory

The antiquities found in Syria in the Ottoman period were generally transported to the Museum of Istanbul or else, fell into the hands of either the foreign collectors or the local antiquaries who had commercial dealings with the foreigners . Therefore most of these objects found their way out of the country .

In 1918 , the course of the first period of independence which followed the evacuation of the Ottomans an Arab Academy and a national museum were set up in Damascus . This was the most constructive and effective enterprise that marked the period of independence and indicated a great deal of awareness , intelligence and consciousness of the value of the cultural and artistic tradition of the country .

The two new institutions were set up in a building of the Ayyubid period namely " Al-Madrasah al-Adiliyyah " , situated at Bob al-Barid . The museum began to grow up gradually until the old building could no longer hold it. In 1936, during the period of independence , a modern building for the museum was set up opposite the historical Mosque of Sultan Solayman , on a site that can be easily extended . The building has two stories . The first floor comprises a hall , two galleries , four rooms and a wing reserved for the administration . The upper floor contains three rooms. It is in this floor that the Synagogue of Doura Europos and the Hypogeum of Irahain the Palmyrene were reconstructed .

In this period , the Museum of Aleppo was reserved for the pre-Hellenistic antiquities of the classical periods. Two rooms only were assigned for the Islamic Art .

Islamic Art Suite in Al-Madrasah al-Adiliyyah before it moved to its new building in 1936 .

In 1939 ,the middle-eastern part of the facade of Qasr al-Hayr al-Gharbi which had been discovered in the Syrian desert , was reconstructed in the first floor . There has been some delay in achieving this important task because of technical difficulties and due to the state of belligerency which the country underwent . The work was completed in 1950 when it was formally opened .

In 1952 , the offices of administration were shifted from the ground floor and the objects discovered during the early excavations were displayed in that very place . The finds uncovered in the classical and Islamic sites such are those of Mari , Ras-Shamra, ar-Raqqah and ar-Rasafa were displayed for the first time in Damascus in the same place .

In 1953 , a new wing consisting of three stories and a basement was set up in the west of Qasr al-Hayr al-Gharbi . The ground floor housed the Department of Islamic-Arab Antiquities . The first floor housed the Department of Modern Art . The second floor was reserved as a temporary seat for modern archaeological and art exhibitions. The Department of Islamic-Arab Antiquities commenced from 14th September 1954 . At the same time a Department for the Ancient Syrian Antiquities was created in place of the first exhibition of findings ( in the southern wing of the ground floor of the first floor of the Museum).

The National Museum then consisted of the following Departments :

1.      Department of the Syrio-Oriental Antiquities has exhibits that go back to the dawn of history from the 3rd millennium B. C. down to the 4th century B. C., i.e. before the Macedonian conquest .

2.      Department of Syrian Antiquities from the classical eras  ( Hellenistic , Roman and Byzantine ) .

3.      Department of Islamic-Arab Antiquities

4.      Department of Modem Art

In 1955 the second exhibition for the antiquarian discoveries for the year 1954 -1955 was organized in the upper floor of the first section of the Museum . This exhibition included rare artifacts unearthed in Mari , Ras-Shamra , Hauran , Palmyra , ar-Raqqah and ar-Rasafa ... These monuments were of great importance and were displayed in a way that won the admiration both of the laymen as well as the specialists .

The National Museum has seen steady progress in the last few years and its collections increased a lot . It was, therefore, necessary to expand the building in its last phase . In 1956 , the foundation stone was laid for the expansion of the western wing . In 1961 , we got one , gallery three double halls , a lecture hall ( housing decorative elements of a Damascene Hall from 12 century A.H. = 18 A.D. ) and a large library .... We also got in the first floor three halls adjoining the Modern Department . A long gallery was added at the same time .

The objects in the Museum were reclassified and rearranged  .The Classical Department in the Southern wing and the upper floor were expanded. A hall for coins,  a hall for jewels, a Byzantine wing and a hall for Hauran were created . The Department of Classical Antiquities was shifted on to the Western Wing of the Museum , The Islamic Department in the new halls was expanded and a hall for manuscripts , for terracotta , for Hamah and a gallery for jewels and arms were also set up . Technical works in the Damascene Hall had also been completed and three new halls were also added to the Department of Modem Art .

The Museum commenced in its new shape from 1962 . The Museum had reached , then , its end in width ( The new project in mind is to build a particular museum for the classical Syrian antiquities and another museum for modern art , so that the two remaining Departments may be expanded in accordance with the law of evolution and progress .) , beauty of arrangement and display until it won the admiration of the scientific and cultural centers . The Damascus Museum enjoys now a high reputation both in the Arab and the foreign world .

One of the National Museum's suites in  Al-Madrasah al-Adiliyyah
(1919 - 1936)

FUNCTION OF MUSEUM :

A museum is a reliable record of civilization as well as human and national traditions.  It cannot be useful unless it is active enough to attract the visitors and pose before them the remnants of the past ages and to explain to them their importance. A Museum cannot be useful unless it follows accurately the methods of classification which help in studying and understanding . It cannot attract attention to importance of the antiquity except if it is placed in a simple elegant and beautiful framework with sufficient light to project the features of the artifacts without disturbing the viewers .

the above facts were taken into account by the conservators of the National Museum , Originally , the Museum was divided into four Departments chronologically . Each Department was classified in accordance with the recognized principles of museography namely : The chronological and historical principle , the regional geographical principle, the qualitative principle ( according to the material from which the artifact is made : Terracotta , ceramic , metal or glass ) the principle of variety ( coins , arms , manuscripts , jewels and astronomy ) . It was taken into consideration that each classification should be based principally on sub-classifications based on the other principles required by arrangement and display The National Museum has , however , come up to the standards of appreciation of the intelligentsia and the specialists regarding classification , display and methodology .

The Damascus National Museum is the most important cultural institution in this country that aspires for progress . It is rightly deemed as a centre of scientific and artistic radiation . The staff of the Museum hope that the Museum would certainly grow and that the people from all walks of life would come to it to derive benefit so that the Museum may achieve the object for which it has been set-up .

A HISTORICAL GLANCE AT SYRIA

 
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