A spectacular launch of AUB Archaeological Museum’s 150th anniversary year

​Jennifer Muller, Office of Communications, jm26@aub.edu.lb

Under a full moon in front of the historic Post Hall, which was dramatically illuminated from inside and out, the AUB Archaeological Museum launched its 150th anniversary year in the presence of Lebanese Minster of Culture Ghattas Khoury, AUB President Fadlo R. Khuri, members of the Board of Trustees, Provost Mohamed Harajli, other AUB community members and friends, ambassadors, and members of the diplomatic corps.

Founded in 1868, the museum has collected artifacts from throughout the region dating from the early Stone Age to the Islamic Period, providing an overview of civilizations in this part of the world. Completely redesigned and renovated in 2006, it is considered one of the premier museums in Lebanon.

Dr. Leila Badre, who has served as director of the museum for almost 40 years, officially launched the 150th celebrations as a special light displayed the museum’s anniversary logo on the façade of Post Hall.

“AUB has provided us with a symbol of continuity, always aiming for the highest professional goals and standards,” said Badre. “Its Archaeological Museum, the third oldest in the Near East, after Cairo and Constantinople, is the strongest symbol of this cultural continuity. It has highlighted and proudly maintained the values of our heritage for AUB, Lebanon, and the region.”

Badre spoke in glowing terms about the great dedication of the Society of Friends of the AUB Museum: how they helped raise funds for the renovation of the museum and continually support the museum’s outreach and educational mission, communicating this pride in heritage to successive generations through monthly lectures, exhibitions, children’s programs, site visits, cultural tours, and more.

President Khuri then spoke about the history of the museum, which began with a collection of ancient treasures from Cyprus donated by General Luigi Palma di Cesnola, who later became the first director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and about how the AUB Museum was the only museum that remained open throughout the Lebanese civil war years. He also remarked on the description of this museum as a “hidden gem of Ras Beirut.”

“I think it is fair to say that this is far more than a hidden gem. It is a shining diamond—for AUB and for Lebanon—not just of Ras Beirut, but of our common culture from every inch of the Arab world,” said Khuri. “Long may it endure and I think that Dr. Badre’s work will endure for many years after many of us are gone.”

Minister Khoury joined President Khuri in praising the historic significance of the museum and the university that has sustained it.

“As Lebanon is a message, the American University of Beirut is a message, from the first days of its founding to the present day. It is an educational and social message, and it promotes positive human attitudes among its students,” said Khoury. “The university did not limit its scope to teaching and educating, but it worked to preserve the Lebanese historical heritage in a museum that has a scientific, academic, and human impact.”

Khoury concluded by presenting Leila Badre with a Certificate of Recognition from the Ministry of Culture. Then the minister, president, and museum director, joined by Nabil Nahas, president of the Society of Friends, planted a commemorative tree—a red flowering callistemon—using shovels that had been used previously in major archaeological excavations carried out by the museum team.

The audience was then invited to view a row of banners along the walkway that chronicle the tenures of the museum’s eight directors, starting with George Edward Post and ending with Dr. Badre herself. They tell the story of how the museum and its collection was founded, expanded, kept safe from wars, and renovated to its present state.

Within the museum itself, a new 360-degree virtual tour was on display—AUB Museum 360—that allows anyone, anywhere, to peruse the treasures of the collection from their computer or phone. This virtual tour is just one of many special events and initiatives that will continue throughout 2018.

Upcoming events include an exhibition and film on the history of the museum, as well as an international colloquium bringing together the directors of the world’s most famous and historically significant museums: the Metropolitan, British, Louvre, Berlin, Brussels, Athens, Cairo, and Istanbul. The museum’s 150th anniversary is also being commemorated by the Lebanese Ministry of Communications with a special stamp and will be featured with a full-page article in the “Cedar Wings” magazine of Middle East Airlines.

The launching event ended with a reception in the museum, where the assemblage had the opportunity to view the collections to the accompaniment of live classical music.