Kerning Cultures | Middle East

Collateral Damage

28:40 | Dec 18th, 2019

11 recommendations

In 1942, Lebanon’s National Museum opened in Beirut, celebrating the country’s golden age and inside, it housed some of the region’s most important artifacts. So when the Lebanese war started in 1975,...Show More


alexatack recommended:Dec 18th, 2019

Hey! I’m Alex, a producer at Kerning Cultures and the lead producer on this story. I’m hosting an AMA (ask me anything) about our most recent story about how a small group of museum employees saved some of the Middle East’s most important historical artifacts during the Lebanese civil war. Have a li...Show More

dballoutDec 18th, 2019

@alexatack hi Alex! How did you come across this story??

alexatackDec 18th, 2019

@dballout This was something that a few people told me about just anecdotally when I was living in Beirut. But nobody seemed to know the full story - just that somebody had encased the museum’s artifacts in concrete during the war. I always had it in the back of my mind as a story to pursue but ther...Show More

nadeenshakerDec 18th, 2019

@alexatack what happened to maurice and his family?

alexatackDec 19th, 2019

@nadeenshaker Hey Nadeen- Maurice died in Lebanon on December 22nd 1994... Suzy went to see him in the hospital right before he died. His wife Olga died a few years later, in around 1999, as best I can tell. They did have children, but we aren’t sure how many and we couldn’t locate them, although we...Show More

ann recommended:Dec 19th, 2019

@alexatack Hi Alex, Great story and telling of it. Thank you! So, kind of an obvious questions these days, but where do you stand on the argument that the cultural treasures of the Mid East are safer in Western museums...

alexatackDec 19th, 2019

@ann hey Ann! Oof.. big question. Speaking personally, and using the British Museum as my main reference point because I’m English... I would sympathize more with that argument if they had any significant track record of giving artifacts back once they were no longer in danger. But they don’t. So fr...Show More

mmDec 19th, 2019

@alexatack @ann Your question & answer here reminds me of the G'psgolox totem pole that someone cut down from a Indigenous village in Canada. An Indian agent sold it overseas, and it resurfaced in a Stockholm museum where it was considered state property by the Swedish government. The Indigenous c...Show More

alexatackDec 19th, 2019

@mm Woah, crazy story! Will definitely check that documentary out.

annDec 19th, 2019

@mm In the G'psgolox totem pole case, I totally support the return of the pole, and thank you for the link. But these days with the failed states in the Mid East and the terrorists groups in others targeting tourists & non-Islamic artifacts, I can see both sides of the argument. I wonder what...Show More

annDec 19th, 2019

@alexatack I mostly agree, but yet how would one know for sure when they are no longer in danger? Lebanon could slip into more chaos, it seems.

annDec 19th, 2019

@alexatack You write: "There’s actually a bigger story I wanna do around this one day, because it’s such a fascinating topic." Any hints?

alyjo007Dec 19th, 2019

@mm Thanks for tagging me! I've heard of many occasions in which curators at an institution refuse to return items, but I haven't seen that documentary or heard about the G'psgolox totem pole case. @ann I support the repatriation of artifacts always (I haven't seen a case that I disagree with yet). ...Show More

danny recommended:Dec 19th, 2019

Thanks for doing an AMA @alexatack! I don't think you I heard you mention this, but did you get a chance to visit the museum?

alexatackDec 19th, 2019

@danny hey Danny.. yes I did! Embarrassingly, I had lived in Beirut for a year and a half before I got around to visiting, but I did eventually.

dannyDec 19th, 2019

@alexatack Glad you got to see it in person, sounds like that is a pretty common anecdote :) And thanks for sharing the story.

alyjo007 recommended:Dec 19th, 2019

Super interesting episode and I’m glad it was suggested to me. As a historian who works with an archaeology team, this really hit me. We’re always concerned about losing history to weather, war, and other disasters, so it’s wonderful to know that there are people who have successfully protected thei...Show More

alexatackDec 19th, 2019

@alyjo007 So glad you listened, Alyssa. Something I wondered whilst doing this story was.. are there any other examples in history where museum staff have coveted objected up with concrete, or was the Beirut team’s solution unique? I couldn’t find any other examples of this particular move. Do you k...Show More

mmDec 19th, 2019

@alexatack Ahhh! I was super curious about the concrete technique too @alyjo007. Also, I had all the feels when the woman was saying how she was so sad that she had to cover all the artifacts up, because her job is to uncover history, not bury it. But the meta part of this that by doing what they ...Show More

alexatackDec 19th, 2019

@mm 🤯🤯🤯

alyjo007Dec 19th, 2019

@mm @alexatack I haven't found any other examples of covering objects in concrete before, either! It's a radical move, so I assume most museum staff are too afraid of using that technique, even as a last ditch effort to save the artifacts. Hah, everyone has been asking such great questions that I k...Show More

rmmiller364 recommended:Feb 11th, 2020

The story of how a museum was saved from war.... by covering its treasures in concrete!

mm recommended:Dec 23rd, 2019

This episode about how the Lebanon National Museum survived the civil war truly feels like one for the history books and incredibly important for the history of Lebanon and its national museum. @alexatack I hope the Lebanon National Museum will be using your podcast as a permanent exhibit and will ...Show More

mmDec 23rd, 2019

@alexatack: I guess I have two questions for you related to my thoughts above. 1. Will the Lebanon National Museum be using this segment you produce in some way going forward? They should! 2. What is your answer to your question of "What purpose does keeping 3000 year old artifacts in a museum s...Show More

annDec 23rd, 2019

@mm Thank you for hosting a discussion with KC. I love the ease of the Podyssey platform. I found the closing line in yr comment above, noting how both the curators and the KC team work to retain/document culture, to be esp apt and moving.

mmDec 24th, 2019

@ann Thanks for sharing those links! This quote from the first link really hit me: "I believe that in 100 years all these antiquities will be gone because of climate change". I haven't even really thought about this before. Beyond antiquities, entire cities, towns and island and all of its history a...Show More

annDec 31st, 2019

@mm I know the Q & A closed, but I still thought of you & our discussion when I read this article today:

hebahfisher recommended:Dec 18th, 2019

Love loved this episode. @alexatack was Maurice Chehab a real prince?

alexatackDec 18th, 2019

@hebahfisher haha... as much as I would’ve loved that (then we could’ve called the episode The Prince’s Protective Measures, or something), he wasn’t a real prince - it was more like a term of endearment or respect.

hebahfisherDec 18th, 2019

@alexatack Hahah!! I'm going to try and get my circles to call me Emira :p

epekilis recommended:Jan 13th, 2020

Finally got around to listening to this terrific episode. Thanks to everyone for the recommendation. If you liked this episode, you might want to check out BBC 4’s Museum of Lost Objects podcast, which memorializes antiquities that have been looted or destroyed in the Middle East and India/Pakista...Show More

mmJan 14th, 2020

@hebahfisher @alexatack ICYMI!

hebahfisherJan 14th, 2020

Thanks for tagging us @mm! Someone else mentioned the Lost Objects podcast and I've been really enjoying it since. If you can find a reference for the 99pi episode, please paste it here I love these stories!