One of the goals of SCRI is to educate policy makers and the public on the scope of the problem facing the destruction of heritage in the Near East. Based on research conducted by SCRI, the Penn Cultural Heritage Center of the University of Pennsylvania Museum, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and in consultation with the U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield, this panel exhibition highlighted tragic discoveries: mass looting, illicit trafficking of antiquities, and complete erasure of important religious monuments in both Iraq and Syria.

In October 2015, the “Death of History: Witnessing Heritage Destruction in Syria and Iraq” exhibit was displayed in the Russell Senate Office Building, accompanied by a panel discussion. Speakers included Senator Bob Casey, Senator David Perdue, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Edward Royce, and House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Eliot Engel. Panelists included Dr. Salam al-Kuntar, Fellow, Penn Cultural Heritage Center, University of Pennsylvania Museum; Dr. Patty Gerstenblith, Distinguished Research Professor at DePaul University College of Law and Secretary of the U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield; Dr. Richard Kurin, Under Secretary for History, Art, and Culture, Smithsonian Institution; Dr. Bonnie Magness-Gardner, Program Manager, FBI Art Crime Program; and Dr. Brian I. Daniels, Director of Research and Program, Penn Cultural Heritage Center, University of Pennsylvania Museum. The panelists outlined the damage and steps to prevent further destruction.

For more information about the overall collaborative research project, please read Ancient History, Modern Destruction: Assessing the Current Status of Syria’s World Heritage Sites Using High-Resolution Satellite Imagery.

For more information about the exhibition and the ongoing digitization projects of the Smithsonian, please read Death of History: Witnessing Heritage Descruction in Syria and Iraq.

One panel of the exhibit featured a limestone funerary bust from the collections of the Freer | Sackler Gallery. This object is from the ancient site of Palmyra in Syria and commemorates a woman named Haliphat. As part of the Smithsonian’s broader efforts to digitize its collection, Haliphat was 3D scanned in early 2015. As Palmyra has sustained devastating damage to its monuments, using new technology to preserve artifacts like Haliphat is becoming even more important. Click to take a virtual tour of the scan of Haliphat and discover more about the history of Palmyra.

Want to learn more about our current research efforts? Check out SCRI’s Research section.