The Safeguarding the Heritage of Syria and Iraq Project (SHOSI) was created in April 2013 as a consortium of the Smithsonian Institution, and the Penn Cultural Heritage Center at the University of Pennsylvania Museum, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the U.S. Institute of Peace. Through research, trainings for local museum professionals, public outreach, and the use of modern technologies to monitor destruction, SHOSI is responding to the threats against cultural heritage in the Middle East.

In the summer of 2014, the Smithsonian organized an emergency workshop for Syrian museum professionals to share Smithsonian expertise in emergency care for museum collections. The workshop gave Syrian museum curators and conservators an opportunity to come together as a community and identify ways to protect objects in place.

The Smithsonian supported emergency conservation and protection efforts by providing equipment, supplies, and training to Syrian cultural heritage professionals and volunteers to safeguard the immovable mosaics collection at the Ma’arra Museum in Idlib Province. When a barrel bomb severely damaged the museum in June 2015, the sandbag barriers held, protecting the mosaics and preventing the walls on which they were installed from collapsing. Altogether, some 1,600 square feet of mosaics were protected.

Later in 2015, SHOSI provided an emergency response for cultural heritage training course for Iraqi colleagues at the Iraqi Institute for the Conservation of Antiquities and Heritage. This training prepared them to respond to destruction of heritage sites by ISIS as well as collateral combat damage during the ongoing conflict. Our work in Northern Syria continues with site documentation and stabilization projects with the generous support of the J.M. Kaplan Fund and the Bank of America.