Spring 2006 Vol. IV, No. 3
Exhibiting the Past: Priceless
The AUB Archaeological Museum has waited 138 years for its first major
renovation that will protect a collection that has survived the rise and
fall of civilizations.
Visiting the AUB Museum will soon be a very different experience than
it has been in the past. You may feel that you are being pulled along
from one collection to another. This is no accident. All of the exhibits
are being reorganized according to the latest principles of museology
to make visiting the museum a more enjoyable experienceand to ensure
that these wonderful treasures are protected for future generations.
The building housing one of the oldest museums in the region was originally
built without any insulation in the floors, explains Museum Director Leila
Badre. Over the years, water and humidity have seeped into the building,
putting at risk the impressive collection of artifacts from the Bronze
Age and Iron Age and the Roman, and Byzantine periods. One lead
piece disintegrated completely because of the humidity, said Badre.
Other pieces bear the dark spots of permanent damage. The updated structural
design will permit a new system that will maintain internal humidity at
In addition, the layout of the museum did little to optimize the museum
visitors experience or even highlight the value of the objects on
display. Visitors had to zigzag through the museum. The lighting
and labeling systems were outdated, lamented Badre.
Come June 2006, all this will become history. This is the date when renovation
is scheduled to be complete and the new museum will open its
doors to the public once again. (Actually, the museum never closed during
renovation; most items were simply moved to the Study Collection Hall.)
An architect, a graphic designer, and archeologists worked together using
software simulations to develop a painstakingly designed layout for the
new museum. It will have a chronological skin, which will
go along the walls of the museum and tell the stories of the various historical
period, spanning from 25,000 BC to the nineteenth century. In the center
of the museum space, several thematic displays will highlight the glass
collection, the Phoenician civilization and the birth of writing, the
Islamic period, and other collections. The museum will also feature a
particularly impressive, near-complete Byzantine mosaic on the floor.
The entrance will be moved to the side of the museum and there is also
a new elevator in the museum, which allows visitors to go from the ground
level to the second floor.
At the main entrance, visitors will be greeted with the Cesnola pottery
collection, named for General Cesnola, the American Consul in Cyrpus who
donated the first collection to the museum and which led to the museum
being founded in 1868.
The museum could not have been renovated without the generous support
of Artemis A.W. Joukowsky, Martha S. Joukowsky and the continuous efforts
of the Society of the Friends of the AUB Museum. Martha Joukowsky, professor
emeritus at Brown University and AUB trustee since 1987, excavated in
Lebanon between 1967 and 1972. She has strong ties to the country and
to AUB, where she earned her Masters in Archaeology in 1972. The
Joukowsky Family Foundation made a $1-million donation that