Established in 1920, the Damascus National Museum closed its doors in 2012 amid the Syrian civil war. The seven-year-long conflict in the country has resulted in hundreds of thousands of casualties and the destruction of many historic sites and cities across the nation. The move was an attempt to preserve and protect the institution’s artifacts from damage and looting from rebel fighters. Finally, six years later, Syria’s National Museum has reopened this weekend, signaling the return of stability and calm to the war-torn country after President Bashar Al Assad’s forces earlier this year took back the capital.
The institute, which cleared out all of its ancient artifacts and stored them in secret hideouts for safe-keeping, celebrated the momentous occasion with a reopening ceremony on Sunday that was attended by Syrian officials, foreign archeologists, and restoration specialists. “The opening of the museum is a genuine message that Syria is still here and her heritage would not be affected by terrorism,” Syrian Minister of Culture Mohamed Al-Ahmad told reporters and visitors, the Associated Press reports. “Today, Damascus has recovered.”
Only one section of the Damascus National Museum opened to the public on Sunday, though the museum’s head of the general directorate for antiquities and museums, Mahmoud Hammoud, revealed future plans to reopen all of it. The new sections will showcase archaeological findings that date back to the prehistoric, historical, classical, and Islamic eras.
The museum’s authority emptied and stored away over 300,000 items. More than 9,000 of them have been restored and reclaimed since the war began. The museum’s former directorate-general for antiquities and museums, Maamoun Abdul-Karim, oversaw the campaign to hide all of the artifacts, because he didn’t want Syria’s museums to experience what the institutions in neighboring Iraq did after the 2003 invasion. “This was a very big victory for the country,” he said. “When all museums reopen nationwide, then we can say that the crisis in Syria ended.”