American Univesity of Beirut

The AUB Archaeological Museum hosts Through Shattered Glass: recovering from the August 4 blast

Sally Abou Melhem, Office of Communications,​

“Through Shattered Glass" is an unprecedented international workshop organized by the AUB Archaeological Museum, and focused on ancient glass fragments, their analysis, reconstruction, and conservation.

This workshop was made possible through collaborations that occurred as part of attempts to recover from the considerable damage to the AUB Archaeological Museum caused by the 3.2-kilometer-away explosion on August 4, 2020. The blast toppled one central showcase containing 74 well-preserved archaeological glass objects from Early Roman, Byzantine, and Islamic periods, shattering all but two of its priceless, irreplaceable artifacts.

The French Institut National du Patrimoine (INP​), funded by ALIPH, oversaw the sifting through of many thousands of glass fragments and restored 10 vessels on site with the support of archaeology students at AUB. This triggered a new collaboration and design of a glass conservation course with the Department of History and Archaeology at the university.

Currently, students of the Digital Cultural Heritage Center (DITCH) at the Maroun Semaan Faculty of Engineering and Architecture​ are creating virtual 3D reconstructions of selected broken glass vessels. The Physics Department, in collaboration with the Science and Technology in Archaeology and Culture Research Center (STARC) at the Cyprus Institute, is analyzing composition of glass fragments.

The British Museum, funded by The European Fine Art Fair (TEFAF), is also stepping in to restore other vessels that will be used to tell the story of the AUB glass recovery to a global audience with a special display in Bloomsbury.​

Experts involved in all aspects of this multifaceted work were represented in the workshop. Stephen Koob, recently retired as chief conservator from the Corning Museum of Glass in New York, and Conservator Claire Cuyaubere from the INP, have volunteered to continue the restoration work at the AUB Archaeological Museum, to teach an intensive hands-on course, as well as to participate in person at the “Through Shattered Glass" workshop.

The workshop built on these collaborations with sessions on the archaeology and typology of ancient glass in the region, the cutting-edge restoration techniques that have been used, and how the disaster can actually lead to better understanding of ancient glass-working procedures.

This workshop was a first step in a series of future initiatives to implement interdisciplinary investigations across AUB faculties.​

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