Responding in part to ongoing attacks in Syria and Iraq, the Penn Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology opened a new exhibition on April 8 that explores the cultural heritage of the region and Penn’s role in ensuring its preservation.
Titled “Cultures in the Crossfire: Stories from Syria and Iraq,” the exhibit will run through Nov. 26, 2018, and features 50 artifacts from the museum’s collections as well as Arabic manuscripts, music and documentary film clips.
The exhibit also showcases contemporary art — a first for the museum. Artwork from contemporary Syrian artist Issam Kourbaj, whose work focuses on images from his homeland, is featured alongside ancient artifacts.
Kourbaj’s contributions include “Strike i, ii, and iii,” a series of video clips of burning matchsticks and “Seed,” an installation incorporating a plush toy caught in a hand grinder.
Speaking at the museum on April 7, the artist said that despite the destruction of cities and illegal trade of artifacts in the Middle East, there is still much to be done to preserve the artifacts that remain.
Director of Research and Programs at the Penn Cultural Heritage Center Brian Daniels agreed, adding that the center coordinates with 17 international organizations to preserve Syrian and Iraqi culture.
“You can’t take yourself seriously as engaged in cultural heritage issues if you’re not responding in some way to the current crisis in Syria and Iraq,” he said.