HISTORY, by Brendan Cassar. April. 2004

>> Introduction


>> SPACH and the Kabul Museum
> Background to the Destruction of the Kabul Museum
> Early Assistance to the Kabul Museum
> The Return of Looted Objects to the Kabul Museum
> Inventorying the Collection of the Kabul Museum
> A Brief Re-opening of the Kabul Museum in August 2000
> Recent Assistance to the Kabul Museum

>> Advocacy and Awareness Raising
> SPACH Newsletter and Library Series
> Lectures, Seminars and other fora

>> Documentation of Monuments and Sites


>> Emergency Conservation Works

>> The Future History of SPACH

>> Introduction

SPACH is an organization specifically concerned with the preservation of Afghanistan's cultural heritage, and one of few such organizations currently working in Afghanistan. SPACH has focussed its attention on the sphere of Afghanistan's material heritage, advocating for the role that this particular facet of the national identity can play in nation-building. SPACH has been predominately active in the areas of supporting the Kabul Museum and preserving its collections, advocacy and awareness-raising in regard to the plight of cultural heritage in Afghanistan in general and in relation to specific sites of cultural significance, and in field surveys and emergency conservation works on endangered monuments and sites. These endeavours have taken place against the backdrop of a devastating civil war in Afghanistan and under successive regimes, some more hostile to cultural issues than others. Since the end of the civil war and the fall of the Taliban government, SPACH has continued its work in Afghanistan in a shifting socio-political context, facing some new issues related to the reconstruction process on the one hand, and on the other, some familiar and ongoing problems that are no less challenging in the current environment.

Indeed, cultural heritage in Afghanistan is perhaps as much under threat in the current climate as it was when SPACH was created in 1994, despite the fact that this was a time when the civil war raged unabated in Afghanistan. This is due to the overlap and interaction of several extremely complex and ongoing social factors that we should consider briefly by way of introduction to the work of SPACH. Firstly, lawlessness and intermittent factional hostilities continue in provinces where historical monuments and archaeological sites of world significance are situated. The threat to these sites comes from increasing looting, vandalism, neglect, and occasional military action. Secondly, the rapid pace of post-war development and reconstruction in Afghanistan has lead to authorities, the private sector, and some international NGO's endorsing and pursuing construction projects with scant regard at times for the heritage of particular sites, or for heritage values in general. Thirdly, a whole generation of Afghans endured more than twenty years of war and were in many cases deprived of an education that encompassed knowledge and respect for the cultural heritage of their homeland. Furthermore, many Afghans with expertise in the various related fields of cultural heritage have yet to return and contribute to the reconstruction process in Afghanistan, and the institutions to which they would return in any case, have few resources to employ them. These factors, coupled with abject poverty directly created by war and drought, in conjunction with mere opportunism in some cases, naturally puts great pressure on artefacts in demand on the world-wide black-market in stolen or looted antiquities. Finally, the volume of money, expertise and will required to adequately preserve cultural heritage in Afghanistan far outweighs the commitment of the international community at present.

For many the threat to Afghanistan's cultural heritage became acute in the early 1990's with the looting and destruction of the Kabul Museum, while for others it culminated in 2001 when the international community witnessed the destruction of the Buddhas of Bamiyan. Notwithstanding the importance of these events, the danger to Afghanistan's cultural heritage has grown steadily over the past few years as evidenced by an increase in the looting and destruction of significant sites in virtually every province of the country.
Thus, SPACH as an organization today finds itself in similar circumstances and pursuing similar objectives as it did when it was created in Pakistan in 1994 during the civil war, amid a growing realization and concern for the desperate plight of Afghanistan's significant sites, monuments and artefacts. Nonetheless, SPACH and other organizations, expatriate and local individuals, have worked with no small measure of success to better the situation over the years. What follows is an attempt to provide some details of the work of SPACH during the period and to outline the cultural and political context in which those activities have taken place.

>> SPACH and the Kabul Museum

One event in particular that brought the founders of SPACH together in order to create a focal point for these concerns was the looting of the Kabul Museum. Principally, through the efforts of Nancy Dupree, Sotirios Mousouris (the UN Special Representative to Afghanistan in 1994), several professionals and concerned individuals closely linked to the Museum, including Carla Grissmann, Jolyon Leslie and Brigitte Neubacher, created this Society initially to try to stem the tide of looting and destruction suffered by the Kabul Museum. From its inception, SPACH was mainly focused on advocacy among those who could use their resources (money, negotiating position, political influence) to support this objective. In particular the major initial donors included the governments of Cyprus, Netherlands, Norway and Portugal. SPACH receives ongoing support for this and other objectives from the governments of Greece, Italy, Netherlands and the United States, and from UNESCO and the National Geographic Society.

> Background to the Destruction of the Kabul Museum:

The Kabul Museum itself seems initially to have been a victim of circumstance resulting from its location outside the city of Kabul, and then later to fall victim to more overt, organized and targeted theft. It had housed some highly significant artefacts of the history and archaeology of Central Asia, from the Palaeolithic up to the Islamic period. It is situated in a wide open plain on the outskirts of Kabul city in Darulaman, a few miles south of the heart of the city. The relative isolation of Darulaman and the strategic hills that ring this part of the city led to it becoming a frontline between combatants contending for the capital. The Museum itself was taken over by the Ministry of Defence and at various times the line dividing the warring parties could even be drawn at its doorstep. As a result, during the 1990's the Museum and its collections suffered from an onslaught of rocket fire, grenades and assault rifles (as did most of Kabul city), ultimately resulting in important pieces of Afghanistan's and the world's cultural heritage being either obliterated or scurried away to the antiquities markets of Pakistan where they were disseminated to wealthy buyers on the world market and potentially lost from public view forever. These events were a highly visible and symbolic manifestation of a threat to the cultural heritage of Afghanistan that had been growing since the Soviet occupation.

> Early Assistance to the Kabul Museum:

The early objectives of SPACH in working closely with the Kabul Museum involved securing what was left of the Museum's collection and attempting to retrieve looted objects from the antiquities markets before they went completely underground. An important activity of SPACH in the mid-1990's was seeking financial and political support for this objective through the dissemination of regular updates to the press and relevant international groups concerning the state of the National Museum in Kabul.

Remedial works organized by Jolyon Leslie and funded by UN-Habitat were first undertaken on the building during 1994 to weatherproof the ruins and to provide a degree of security for the surviving stores. At the same time the museum staff was able to retrieve hundreds of objects from the debris and more than 1,500 objects were also recovered in Kabul by various individuals and the National Commission for the Preservation and Retrieval of Afghanistan's Cultural and Historical Heritage; a body set up on a Rabbani Government initiative. SPACH was also able to retrieve a limited number of objects from Pakistan.

> The Return of Looted Objects to the Kabul Museum:

Between 1994 and 1996 a total of 48 important objects looted from the Kabul Museum were returned to the Ministry of Information and Culture by SPACH. Despite the massive scale of the losses from the Museum collections, this was a significant achievement given the circumstances and constraints under which people had to work. SPACH managed to purchase some objects directly from antiquities dealers, as various important pieces appeared in antiquities markets, indeed some with the Museum's registration numbers still painted on their surfaces. Such activities are not in normal circumstances to be recommended, but the circumstances of the day were exceptional. Firstly, these objects had a certifiable provenance, had been documented, inventoried and scientifically studied progressively by innumerable scholars during the course of the twentieth century. Secondly, Afghan civil society had all but broken down and antiquities were flowing freely across their porous borders with Pakistan. It was a case of using desperate measures during the height of the civil war to try to stem the flow of artefacts directly stolen from the Kabul Museum and to preserve them as documented objects of the cultural heritage of Afghanistan.

Nonetheless, it proved to be a near impossible task for various reasons, and also highly dangerous and fraught with ethical dilemmas. For one, it meant having to "buy in" to an illegal market that went hand-in-hand with the smuggling and sale of weapons and drugs. Secondly, once news of the looting and "availability" of items from the Kabul Museum surfaced, prices and demand were largely driven from abroad by wealthy participants in the illegal traffic from all over the world, increasing the problem tenfold. SPACH was ultimately unwilling, and in any case unable, to pay the astronomical prices being asked, in some cases reaching up to a quarter of a million US dollars. Much time and effort was spent in attempting to locate the more significant objects held by the Kabul Museum, both in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This exercise was further hindered by the appearance of fakes, however, some even with copied Museum numbers that began to flourish in the Peshawar region in the mid to late 1990's. After months of searching, verifying and bargaining, some significant objects from Begram and Hadda amongst other sites were recovered.

Despite great efforts by all concerned, the problem of looting just seemed to keep getting worse through the 1990's. After the most portable objects had been looted from the Museum and sold (coins and small ivory pieces for example) the looters became even more audacious in their attempts to acquire specific objects, suggesting that they knew exactly what they were looking for. One such example came in 1996 when a schist Buddha in the foyer of the Museum that had been presumed too heavy to be stolen was simply removed from the wall overnight. This implied more than mere opportunism in this case as it is not uncommon for looters to target specific objects or object types in order to fill orders from middlemen directly connected to wealthy foreign buyers.

SPACH worked all through this period, as it continues to do so in the present, to raise awareness of the scale of the problem with international and local organizations, authorities and governments, and to advocate for more adequate protective measures.

> Inventorying the Collection of the Kabul Museum:

Unfortunately, the Kabul Museum had been attacked and looted several times since 1992 despite continued efforts by SPACH and others to secure the building and the collections. Three thousand objects in total were painstakingly rescued from the mounds of debris from the roof that was first felled by rocket attacks in May 1993. An obvious priority for the Museum was to verify what exactly had been lost and what remained of the collection. UNESCO made several attempts to send a delegation from the Guimet Museum headed by Pierre Cambon to conduct an inventory of the remaining collections of the museum. However, the first attempt in June 1995 was thwarted by fighting in Kabul as was the second in September 1995. Pierre Cambon did manage to come to Kabul for two weeks, but again in November 1995 another rocket hit the building and exposed the collection once more to the elements and to opportunistic pilfering.
Principally through the efforts of Carla Grissmann (SPACH), an attempt was made in 1996 to conduct another preliminary inventory of the remaining objects of the Kabul Museum and to facilitate a plan to have them removed to more secure premises. Due to the obvious lack of security at Darulaman, the Ministry of Information and Culture of President Rabbani's government was also anxious to safeguard what remained of the collection. Thus, the objects were packed up and the Kabul Hotel in the centre of the city was chosen as a temporary site to house them along with 71 Kabul Museum staff members.

From April to September 1996, just two weeks before the arrival of the Taliban in Kabul, over 500 crates, trunks and boxes, containing 3,311 objects were shifted from the Museum to the Kabul Hotel. The project was ultimately successful but was hampered all the way by continued hostilities. Participants in the exercise reported carefully packing objects while the Kabul Museum building shook with incoming and outgoing rocket fire. Also, during the process the bus that carried Museum staff to and from the Museum was fired upon and there were several periods where staff simply could not go because of incessant shelling and rocket fire. Between 1996 and 2000, Carla Grissmann's work continued and a total of 6,520 objects were inventoried in Dari and English. The aggregate total, however, was much higher as hundreds of similar objects from various sites and periods were registered under single numbers, e.g., arrow heads, flints, pebbles etc. In 1998, that part of the collections that had been moved to the Kabul Hotel was moved to the Ministry of Information and Culture where it had appeared to have found a secure, albeit temporary home.

A Brief Re-opening of the Kabul Museum in August 2000:
In July 2000, the Deputy Minister of Information and Culture in the Taliban government, Mawlawi Hotaki, made plans to put a small number of objects on display and organize a public event that would coincide with the presentation of the Rabatak inscription brought back from Pul-I-Khumri, and also to celebrate Jeshyn, Afghan Independence Day, on August the 17th. The Taliban requested that SPACH provide some logistical support for the exhibition. SPACH held meetings with Mr. Hotaki, a politically moderate member of the Taliban government, who advocated for the exhibition and for SPACH to provide assistance. There were some legitimate suspicions about the motives of the Taliban given their general hostility to cultural heritage outside their particular stream of Islam. One factor in favour of supporting this endeavour was repeated assurances from the Taliban authorities and the decrees of Mullah Omar himself that expressly forbade traffic in antiquities, looting or vandalism of any kind, and promised punishment under the full weight of the law (see for example SPACH Newsletter No. 6, May 2000, p. 18).

The exhibition took place and twenty-four objects were put on display in the entrance and hallway, half permanently in place, including the superb clay Bodhisattva from Tepe Maranjan. The former library was turned into an exhibition room and eight tables of ethnographic artefacts, mainly from Nuristan, and confiscated objects from the Islamic period, were put on display. A number of people visited the Museum after the 17th of August and by the 23rd of August everything was packed up once again and the Rabatak inscription taken to the Ministry of Information and Culture store room.

Few could have predicted at that time that the Taliban would embark on a spree of iconoclasm in Bamiyan, the Kabul Museum, and in the Ministry of Information and Culture offices where the collections had been moved in 1998. The relatively moderate Minister of Information and Culture was replaced by Qadratullah Jamal, a cohort of hard liners following the Al-Qaida line in the Cabinet, Deputy Minister Mulawi Hotaki was sacked, and Mullah Omar reversed his earlier decrees by calling for the destruction of the Buddhas. Artefacts revered by people from all over the world for their aesthetic value or archaeological/historical significance, were irreversibly smashed into thousands of pieces. This leaves the Kabul Museum staff, with assistance of foreign museums and conservators, many years of painstaking work ahead of them to salvage what they can from the rubble. Work has begun with assistance from the Foreign Commonwealth Office (Great Britain), the Guimet Museum (France) and The National Institute for Cultural Properties (Japan).
Recent Assistance to the Kabul Museum:

More recently, during 2003-2004 SPACH has been able to encourage and assist a number of donors in supporting the reconstruction of the Museum building and to purchase equipment for its day-to-day functioning. Among these donors are: Hellenic Aid, the UNESCO/Italy Trust Fund, the Foreign Commonwealth Office (UK) and the National Geographic Society (Washington). In March 2003, SPACH provided the Museum with electricity thanks to a grant of US $30,000 from Hellenic Aid, and the technical assistance of the CIMIC-Dutch ISAF, and in November 2003, SPACH allocated US $40,000 from the UNESCO/Italy Trust Fund to reconstruct the Museum's roof. Major work on the roof was finished in late 2003, before the onset of the heavy winter snows. SPACH is now working on the allocation of a further grant provided by the National Geographic Society to cover the remaining works on the second floor. The building is now secure, structurally sound and weatherproofed.

Top

>> Advocacy and Awareness-Raising

In light of the conflict throughout the 1990's, the continual changing of hands of the Museum building, and the constant subjection of the collections to new threats, a core objective of SPACH soon became awareness-raising in order to garner support from all quarters to find and implement solutions to the problem. Of course, the problem was much broader than merely the threat to the Kabul Museum, and SPACH personnel had necessarily to widen their advocacy and awareness-raising activities to encompass the plight of cultural heritage in Afghanistan in general. Indeed, since the outbreak of war in 1979, significant monuments, artifacts and archaeological sites across the entire country have been threatened by fighting looting, neglect, thoughtless vandalism and even iconoclasm. The historic site of Buddhist pilgrimage, Hadda, near Jalalabad, is one such example of a site where Afghanistan and the world have been deprived of a significant part of their cultural heritage. The site contained unique sculptures in a Graeco-Buddhist style which were excavated and left in situ on the walls of the monastery in a splendid open-air museum, only then to be destroyed by a combination of fighting, looting and vandalism in the 1980's. The complex now lies in ruins with only occasionally discernible pieces of broken stone column bases, formally in situ, scattered amongst the ruins. Other examples of cultural vandalism occurred in 1998 and 1999 when the small Buddha in Bamiyan was hit in the midriff by a rocket, and in 1999 when tyres were burned on the ledge forming the chin of the big Buddha. SPACH had urged the authorities on several occasions to ensure the protection of the Buddhas and were given assurances to that effect. Nonetheless, to everybody's dismay, SPACH's appeals did not seem to reach the troops on the frontline.
Notwithstanding, various advocacy and awareness-raising techniques employed by SPACH have proved to be useful tools in achieving objectives in certain instances, and SPACH has employed them with equal fervour amongst both foreign and successive Afghan governments from those of President Rabbani to the Taliban, and in the more hopeful circumstances of the present day. Part of this duty has meant that members of SPACH have been and continue to be in contact with international experts on Afghanistan and mass media concerned about the issue of Afghanistan's cultural heritage.

> SPACH Newsletter and Library Series:

SPACH used its publications in order to bring current events into focus and also to urge Afghan authorities and the international community to take steps to stem the tide of destruction to cultural heritage in Afghanistan. Besides direct advocacy, SPACH's awareness-raising took place principally through the means of the SPACH Newsletter and Library Series, which became quite popular among Afghans and foreigners working in or on Afghanistan alike. SPACH's membership and reputation began to grow as a result. SPACH published regular newsletters from 1996 onwards and also a library series containing informative articles on various topics concerning cultural heritage in Afghanistan (they are available on the website). Throughout this period the Newsletter and the Library Series aimed at raising awareness amongst particular social groups, such as educated Afghans and foreigners, who might be able to lend their support to cultural heritage imperatives in Afghanistan. SPACH's media publications are now focused on the World Wide Web, which has proved to be a more far reaching means of awareness-raising, but still publishes information in hardcopy format also. The SPACH website contains articles and contributions from academics and individuals within Afghanistan and from around the world, and up-to-date news on current issues and events concerning cultural heritage in Afghanistan. The site is published from the SPACH office in the heart of Kabul city.

> Lectures, Seminars and other fora:

SPACH, over the years, has tried to assist in the development of strategies and policies that would move Afghan institutions towards a strengthening of their ability to preserve cultural heritage. One such example is SPACH's participation over the last year in a consultative group chaired by the Ministry of Information and Culture, with UNESCO as the focal point, the function of which is to both inform the Ministry of the activities of donor and implementing agencies active in Afghanistan, and to assist the Ministry on formulating cultural policy and priorities. SPACH members have also participated in many international seminars, workshops and lectures about Afghanistan's Cultural Heritage and continue to do so. In this regard we must make special mention of Mrs. Nancy Dupree, founding member of SPACH, who has worked tirelessly in awareness-raising for Afghan cultural heritage over more than four decades and who continues to do so up to the present day. Further mention should also be made of Carla Grissmann who has also worked over several decades in the field of cultural heritage in Afghanistan and who continues to work closely with SPACH.

SPACH has also given its support over the years (monetary, logistical and in terms of expertise) for lectures and exhibitions as a means of raising awareness about the richness and vulnerability of the cultural heritage of Afghanistan. SPACH members continue to work closely with representatives of the Ministry of Information and Culture, the United Nations Education Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the International Council of Museums (ICOM), and other cultural institutions worldwide in order to solicit advice and support for the preservation of the threatened heritage of the country.

During the year 2003, for example, SPACH organized and sponsored three lectures in the Auditorium of the University of Kabul with the cooperation of the Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, Dr. Rawish, and the Head of the Archaeology Department, Mr. Usmani. The first lecture was given by Professor Sims-Williams, entitled "Recent discoveries in Greco-Bactrian language and their historical significance". The second one was given by Mr. Zafar Paiman, entitled "Buddhism in Bamiyan during the Hephtalite period", and the third was given by Dr. Max Klimburg, entitled "From Afghan Kafiristan to Nuristan: Kafir past and present life in Nuristan". Another lecture was organized specifically for Kabul Museum staff and interested parties by Dr. Klimburg concerning the Nuristani collection in the Kabul Museum. Such events are seen as a means of keeping Afghan scholars in touch with research taking place in other parts of the world, and also keeping foreign scholars aware of the challenges facing education, scholarship and research institutions in Afghanistan.

Top

>> Documentation of Monuments and Sites

One of the great strengths of SPACH as an organization has been the preparedness of its personnel to work and travel inside Afghanistan to assess first-hand potential threats, and the implications and limitations of policies and theories when witnessed at the practical level of implementation, even when security could not be assured. In this manner SPACH has been able to keep abreast of developments and threats to monuments and sites across the country as they unfolded and continue to unfold, and to advocate for policy change and action when necessary. In many cases through advocacy and awareness-raising such threats have been neutralized before they became crises. On other occasions, of course, despite great efforts to agitate for the protection of certain monuments, such as in the two Bamiyan Buddha crises of 1998 and 2001, overwhelming local and geo-political factors have militated against successful outcomes. However, such outcomes make the activity and its objectives no less necessary or worthy, but indeed more so.

The SPACH representative in Kabul during 2000, Robert Kluyver, was extremely active in this regard, conducting numerous surveys throughout Taliban Afghanistan in order to record the status of monuments and sites and to identify urgent conservation needs. On other occasions SPACH has employed the services of foreign scholars to survey and document endangered sites and new finds. The late Italian archaeologist, Maurizio Taddei, conducted one such survey on behalf of SPACH and UNESCO in 1999, returning to Ghazni where he excavated extensively in the 1960's and 1970's. He reported on the current status and made conservation recommendations for the Buddhist site at Tepe Sardar and the Islamic Palace of Massoud III. Another SPACH expedition in 1997 to Rabatak, Baghlan Province, by Dr. Jonathon Lee, ensured the safe retrieval of the highly significant "Rabatak Inscription" from Pul-i-Khumri where it was thought lost since 1993. The inscription has contributed much to knowledge of the Kushan period.
 

Support for other assessment missions to sites of historic importance have taken place in Kabul, Herat, Mazar-i-Sharif, Jalalabad (Hadda), Ghazni, Ghor (Jam Minaret), Baghlan, Bamiyan, Fariyab, Badghis and Ai-Khanoum, amongst others. The resulting reports and photographs were disseminated to the relevant institutions in Afghanistan and abroad as part of SPACH's overall awareness raising and advocacy activities. These documents have also been able to supplement the loss of other important documents related to historic sites in the country for research purposes.

This documentary process also keeps us painfully aware of the scale of the problem in Afghanistan. Looting, damage or destruction to significant monuments and sites continues in virtually every province. In 2003 SPACH accompanied Dr. Raheen, the Minister for Information and Culture, and professionals from the Institute of Archaeology and the Historical Monuments Department to many sites where raising awareness about the importance of Afghan cultural heritage was urgently needed. For instance, especially disturbing was seeing damage caused by a rocket to the Shrine of Abu Nasr Parsa, one of the architectural masterpieces in Afghanistan, which occurred during factional fighting in Balkh in October of that year. Furthermore, the damage to the delicate ornamentation of Masjid-e Noh Gumbad, the oldest surviving mosque in Afghanistan, caused simply by children throwing stones and a lack of protection. Another example is the ongoing looting of Kafir Kot, in Kharwar, a vast Buddhist archaeological site, surveyed recently by the Italian archaeologist Professor Verardi. Other important sites for the understanding of the Kushan period were surveyed, such as Surkh Kotal and Rabatak, the latter showing signs of recent looting yet again.

SPACH has organized this documentation into a photo catalogue of sites, made up of both pre-war scholarship (1979) and updated material from recent site visits. Dissemination of this information to interested individuals and institutions in Afghanistan and abroad, as a means of developing an understanding of the priorities for remedial works and possible lobbying, has been a productive activity over the years. This record, by way of comparison, also enables us to keep abreast of the deterioration of particular sites and monuments and to new threats to those sites as they emerge. It also contributes to awareness-raising as it is extensively used by Afghan editors of Dari and Pashto magazines read throughout Afghanistan. SPACH is advocating for a large project to create a comprehensive nationwide catalogue, the aim of which is to document the status of all monuments and archaeological sites in Afghanistan. In order to facilitate the study of these monuments and sites, SPACH has compiled more than 4,000 photographs taken by members of SPACH and other contributors. These pictures are an important step towards a National Inventory of Monuments and Sites and will be easily accessible to Afghan and foreign scholars in CD Rom format. In May 2004, SPACH will fund another expedition to Pul-i-Khumri in order to scientifically document a recently discovered bas-relief that will contribute to our knowledge of Kushano-Sassanid Afghanistan.

Top

>> Emergency Conservation Works

The coming to power of the Taliban in 1996 further justified the necessary role of SPACH in Afghanistan. Although the Taliban were generally hostile to numerous facets of the Afghan culture, they did provide cultural heritage a relatively more secure environment in which to conduct emergency conservation work to particular monuments in urgent need. In these more secure conditions SPACH began taking on restoration projects, mostly at the insistence of SPACH's Afghan partners and later through assurances by the Taliban themselves. The great problem in Afghanistan in the late 1990's was a lack of larger, alternative organizations with more professional know how and greater resources, such as UNESCO and its affiliated organizations as well as other foreign archaeological/conservation missions, which meant that there were few organizations in Afghanistan able to conduct the work.

In this context, SPACH has carried out a number of minor and more extensive emergency interventions to preserve monuments in Afghanistan. Examples are the protective wall built at the base of the Minaret of Jam in order to prevent further flooding and erosion from the Jamrud and Harirud rivers, and repairs to the protective roof over Masjid-e-No Gumbad, undertaken by SPACH in conjunction with the Monuments Department in Balkh. Other examples are minor restoration work on the Mausoleum of Abd-Ur-Razzaq in Ghazni, and the construction of walls at the Musalla Complex in Herat to stop the encroachment of local traffic and activities into the area, and also the rehabilitation of the women's garden and some conservation works on Minaret #4, also within the Musalla Complex. Furthermore, SPACH provides ongoing assistance to the Tile Workshop in Herat which thus helps to both preserve the artform and to facilitate the restoration of monuments that employ this detail in their decoration.

Top


>> The Future of SPACH

The social and political context within Afghanistan, and within which SPACH is working for cultural heritage, has changed dramatically over recent years. There are now several organizations working within the cultural heritage sphere at present in Afghanistan, such as UNESCO, the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, the Délégation Archéologique Française en Afghanistan (DAFA), and the Istituto Italiano per l'Africa e l'Oriente (IsIAO). SPACH has recently undertaken an organizational review and strategic planning process in order to better adapt as an organization in the current environment, avoid overlap with other organizations, and better serve cultural heritage in Afghanistan in general. SPACH is now positioned as an "information clearinghouse," a focal point for foreign scholars and institutions, providing up-to-date knowledge and advice on the cultural heritage scene in Afghanistan.

SPACH is currently also focusing its attention on assisting the Museum in organizational and managerial issues and providing training for its staff. SPACH is providing computer and language training in the Museum to enable the staff to take full advantage of restoration, conservation and inventory training provided by foreign specialists. SPACH is facilitating a modern computerized inventory of the remaining objects of the collections in conjunction with the National Geographic Society. As a result, in the coming years the Kabul Museum will have a state-of-the-art electronic inventory and museum management database at its disposal for both collection management and research purposes. We are also providing preliminary support for a national survey of monuments and sites which will assist local and foreign scholars, governments and international organizations in prioritizing conservation requirements and the use of scarce resources for this purpose. It also aims to be a powerful research tool, assisting local and international scholarship in general.
In the coming years, SPACH will also continue to work closely with the Kabul and other museums in Afghanistan and abroad, and with local and international organizations active in cultural heritage. SPACH will also continue to agitate within its advocacy and awareness-raising mandate for the preservation of sites and monuments in Afghanistan, for better educational opportunities for Afghans in the sphere of cultural heritage, for development that is sensitive to cultural heritage values, and for any and all projects that will better serve the preservation of cultural heritage in Afghanistan for those generations of Afghans to follow.

Top


Sitemap