The British Museum will restore eight ancient glass artifacts which were shattered after 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored in Beirut’s port caused a blast that devastated the city on August 4, 2020.
The explosion shattered them into hundreds of pieces that were in turn mixed up with broken glass from windows and cabinets.
These objects hold immense historical, artistic, and cultural significance as the Archaeology Museum of the American University of Beirut in Beirut, Lebanon is the third oldest museum in the Near East after Cairo and Constantinople.
It will take about four months of concentrated work at the British Museum to restore these eight vessels.
The painstaking work will see experts piece together eight ancient salvaged from a destroyed case. The vessels, from the Roman and early Islamic periods, were on display in the Archaeological Museum at the American University of Beirut (AUB) when the explosion took place. Most were shattered beyond repair with only 15 identified as salvageable, and only eight were deemed safe to travel to the British Museum.
“Glass is a very difficult material to reconstruct, not least because the sherds flex and ‘spring’ out of shape and have to be drawn back under tension to restore the original shape,” says Claire Cuyaubère, a conservator from the French Institut.
The British Museum will get the support of The European Fine Art Foundation (TEFAF).
The AUB Archaeological Museum lay 3.2 km from the port explosion and sustained heavy damage to its windows and doors. The case the vessels were displayed in contained 72 Roman, Byzantine and Islamic period glass vessels. From all collection, only eight are safe to travel to the UK.
“We immediately offered the assistance of the British Museum to colleagues in the city. As we mark one year since the tragedy, we’re pleased to be able to provide the expertise and resources of the British Museum to restore these important ancient objects so they can be enjoyed in Lebanon for many more years to come.”
Once fully restored, the vessels will go on temporary display at the British Museum before they are returned to Beirut.
Beirut blast causing at least 207 deaths, 7,500 injuries, and US$15 billion in property damage, and leaving an estimated 300,000 people homeless.
The British Museum, in the Bloomsbury area of London, England, is a public institution dedicated to human history, art, and culture. Its permanent collection of some eight million works is among the largest and most comprehensive in existence, having been widely collected during the era of the British Empire.