American University of Beirut

Shattered and Restored Glass of Beirut

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​The AUB Archaeological Museum suffered significant damage in the August 4, 2020, Beirut explosion. Most devastatingly, the blast toppled a critical showcase containing 74 well-preserved archaeological glass vessels from the Early Roman, Byzantine, and Islamic periods. All but two of these priceless, irreplaceable artifacts were shattered. This was the “baptism of fire" that kick-started Dr. Nadine Panayot's tenure as AUB Museum Curator. Thousands of glass shards from the precious vessels were mixed up with the glass from the showcase panels and shelves and from surrounding broken glass windows.  



​​Collaborations and initiatives​​​​

​​The first collaboration with the French Institut National du Patrimoine (INP), funded by ALIPH​ (the International Alliance for the Protection of Heritage), in September 2020, oversaw thousands of glass fragments from the mixed debris, which included glass from the display case and surrounding windows, the shelves, and the archaeological artifacts, painstakingly sifted through, collected, identified and packed with proper material which was flown into Lebanon by Claire Cuyaubère, the glass expert from INP. ​


​In partnership with the INP and funded by ALIPH, ​​the second mission took place in June-July 2021 and saw hundreds of the glass fragments pieced back together and twelve glass vessels conserved by the INP experts and the Archaeological Museum team with the support of archaeology students. This led to the design of a new field course in partnership with the Department of History and Archaeology at the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) designed by the curator Dr. Nadine Panayot.

​​The AUB Museum video: “Restoring our heritage, one broken piece at a time”

The second collaboration with The British Museum was initiated and conversations lasted for 18 months. When TEFAF (The European Fine Art Fair) granted a fund, the British Museum offered to ship 8 vessels suitable for transportation to be restored at The BM laboratories Aimee Bou Rizk, an American University of Beirut Museum Assistant, was also graciously invited to the BM for three months of conservation best practices training.​

​A third experiential mission, welcomed renowned  scholar Stephen Koob, who recently retired as chief conservator from the Corning Museum of Glass in New York. Together with Conservator Claire Cuyaubère from the INP, they graciously volunteered their time and expertise for a period of two weeks to restore six broken glass artifacts, taught an intensive hands-on course on glass restoration to specialist and non-specialists and participated in person at the international workshop "Through Shattered Glass" (January 2022).

​​Video by U.S. Embassy in Beirut on Stephen ​Koob and his help in restoring broken glass vessels.

​​Academic significance:

​​​​The Archaeological Museum seeks to collaborate with a variety of working groups at the American University of Beirut and beyond, providing material culture for assessment, analysis, and publication with the clear goal of preserving, conserving, restoring, and disseminating the value and relevance of cultural heritage.

Therefore, the AUB Archaeological Museum in collaboration with the Science and Technology in Archaeology and Culture Research Center (STARC) of the Cyprus Institute, the Institute of Archaeology at the University of Trier, The Institut Français du Proche-Orient, the Center For Advanced Mathematical Sciences (CAMS), the DIgiTal Cultural Heritage (DITCH) center at the Maroun Semaan Faculty of Engineering and Architecture (MSFEA), the Department of Physics, and the Department of History and Archeology at the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) at AUB, has organized an international and multidisciplinary workshop inviting specialists to guide and support the field of experiential and multilayered glass study. ​


​​​​Building on the workshop, The AUB Archaeological Museum undertook interdisciplinary projects with various faculties in order to give the shattered glass fragments a chance to serve science.

In partnership with the DIgiTal Cultural Heritage (DITCH) center at AUB's Faculty of Engineering and Architecture (MSFEA), the mission focused on developing virtual 3D reconstructions of selected broken glass vessels. This eventually led to a 3D print of the original piece, providing them with a clone!!!​

​​​ ​ 
Glass bottle (Inv.# 4303)


Glass bottle (​​Inv.# 4288)

​In partnership with the AUB Department of Physics at FAS and the Science and Technology in Archaeology and Culture Research Center (STARC) at the Cyprus Institute, this mission is to conduct an analysis of the chemical composition of the fragments from the shattered glass objects. Emphasis will be put on non-invasive analysis, with invasive sampling restricted to those fragments that cannot be restored.​

​​​​​​Exhibition at the British Museum "Shattered gl​ass of Beirut​":

​​The eight glass vessels conserved at the British Museum Conservation Lab were displayed in "ROOM 3" at The British Museum (August 25, 2022 - October 23, 2022) They will be returning to Beirut in January 2023. The exhibition at the British Museum was cocurated by American University of Beirut Museum Curator Nadine Panayot, James Fraser, BM Curator for the Ancient Levant, and Zeina Klink-Hope, BM Curator for the Modern Middle East.

​According to British Museum analytics, the final visitor figures for Beirut Glass Exhibition at The British Museum were 43,287. This is the highest visitor figure since the BM started exhibitions in "Room 3".​


​​​On September 6, 2022, the American University of Beirut Board of Trustees members who visited the Archaeological Museum were treated to an informal exhibition of the 16 reconstructed glass vessels.



Museum newsletter- shattered glass (November 2021 vol. XXXIV No.1).pdf

Museum newsletter- shattered glass (August 2022 vol. XXXV).pdf

Newsletter Middle East - The British Museum (Issue 6, 2021).pdf

Newsletter Middle East - The British Museum (Issue 7, 2022).pdf​​


​The exhibition featured in several publications, national papers and international outlets.

​​​Levant, The Journal of the Council for British Research in the Levant. Volume 55, 2023 - Issue 3:​
Shattered glass of Beirut: collaboration between the Archaeological Museum (American University of Beirut) and international partners following the 2020 port explosion​

New Scientist​ article: Piecing together a shattered history

The Sunday Post
Press and Journal 
Express and Star
Yorkshire Evening Post
Mail Online
 Evening Standard

The Sunday Times
The Times
The Observerthe Guardian

The National
La Croix
Trt World
Yahoo News,
Alarabiya News
Daily Sabah
Taipei Times
L'Orient-Le Jour

Atlas Obscura
Museums Journal 

La Presse: Une nouvelle vie pour des antiquités brisées par l'explosion de Beyrouth
24 août 2022

AUB Office of Communication (25/8/2022): AUB Archaeological Museum tells the world of Beirut's fall and rise

النهار :​ترميم أوانٍ أثريّة هشّمتها فاجعة 4 آب وعرضها في المتحف البريطانيّ (صور)

ICI BEYROUTH (25 Août, 2022)août: nouvelle vie pour des antiquités brisées

Lebanon Files: ترميم أوان أثرية هشّمها انفجار بيروت… اليكم التفاصيل
الخميس ٢٥ آب 2022 

LBC International: أوانٍ زجاجية أثرية هشّمها انفجار مرفأ بيروت عادت إلى سابق عهدها في "بريتيش ميوزيوم"  
  آب 2022 25 

يُرمّم أوانيَ أثرية هشّمها انفجار المرفأ British Museum   :نداء الوطن
26 آب 2022

Indy100: Ancient glass vessels damaged in Beirut blast go on display at British Museum
by Helen William (26-8-22)

Naharnet (27-8-22)British Museum showcases ancient vessels smashed in Beirut blast

Nadeem Badshah (Sat 27 Aug)Ancient glass vessels restored after Beirut blast go on display at British Museum

آثار بيروت.. ترميم ما نجا من الانفجار : العربي الجديد
 اغسطس 2022   28

Evening Standard: ​Ancient glass vessels damaged in Beirut blast go on display at British Museum
By Helen William (29-8-22)

L'Orient Le Jour (30 août 2022): Nouvelle vie pour des antiquités brisées par les explosions de Beyrouth

The Times: Beirut's shattered glass treasures are restored after port explosion

​​Le Monde de la Bible Si l’Otan échoue, l’archéologie réussit

Asahi Shimbun Digital: by Norito Kunisue:
An ancient glass vessel shattered by a large explosion​ ​(Feb.4, 2023)​
Desperate sight seen by a young cultural property restorer Challenging the shattered glass puzzle ​(Feb.5, 2023)
The British Museum, a mighty ally​ (Feb. 6, 2023)

The Main Gate (Fall 2022, Vol.XX, No.2): Change and Endurance. Ancient glass objects get a new lease on life and a showcase at the British Museum

​The British Museum, Newsletter Middle East, Issue7, 2022: Responding to international crises. Shattered glass of Beirut


Interview with Nadine Panayot, curator of the AUB Archaeological Museum ​on

BBC World Service-Newshour​ (29 August 2022)



Contact Us

For various questions, please try contacting us via social media first!
read more

Privacy Statement

We take data privacy seriously and adhere to all applicable data privacy laws and regulations.
read more

Copyright and Disclaimer

Written permission is needed to copy or disseminate all or part of the materials on the AUB website.
read more

Title IX, Non-Discrimination, and Anti-Discriminatory Harassment

AUB is committed to providing a safe, respectful, and inclusive environment to all members of its community.
read more