France’s Contribution to the Protection and Recovery of the Beirut Cultural Heritage

France, among the funders of the International Alliance for the Protection of Heritage in Conflict Zones (ALIPH), has allocated a first amount of 5 million dollars for financing emergency measures to stabilize, protect, or rehabilitate Beirut’s cultural heritage. For the implementation of this first envelope, ALIPH will carefully apply the principles of urgency, efficiency and coordination mentioned during the International Conference on Assistance and Support to Beirut and the Lebanese People (Paris, 9 August 2020), and closely evaluate the concrete nature of the projects that will be submitted via its online grant platform.

“We must preserve this heritage at all costs”
Valéry Freland, Executive Director of the ALIPH Foundation

Sursock-Cochrane Palace after the explosion,
Rmeil area, Beirut. ©J. Kallas (2020)

ALIPH intervention is based on the priorities and, in general, on the results that have emerged by the studies carried out by the Directorate General of Antiquities of Lebanon (DGA) with UNESCO, in association with several international institutions active in the region. As a response to the damage caused by the blast, experts and representatives from ICCROM, ICOM, ICOMOS Lebanon, IFLA, APSAD, Blue Shield Lebanon, provided their expertise in several assessment missions in the field. ICOMOS Lebanon and the Alumni of the Centre for Restoration and Conservation of the Lebanese University, in coordination with Blue Shield Lebanon, assisted the DGA in order to establish an inventory of all the historic districts and monuments. Consequently an emergency programme, the BEIRUT BUILT HERITAGE RESCUE 2020, was set up, bringing together more than 40 volunteer architects-conservators and experts. According to their assessment studies, nearly 650 houses or buildings listed as cultural heritage property suffered severe damages, particularly in the Gemmayzeh district. In addition, the explosion damaged several museums, including the National Museum, which houses archaeological collections, and the Sursock Museum, a jewel of XIX century devoted to modern and contemporary art, as well as libraries, monuments, and religious buildings.

The DGA submitted a project for emergency relief to ALIPH titled “Beirut Assist Cultural Heritage (BACH) – Plan for the recovery of the National Museum and DGA Headquarters” whose implementation is overseen by the Louvre Museum, in cooperation with the Prince Claus Fund and the Lebanese Committee of the Blue Shield. With a budget of slightly over 200,000 dollars, the project addresses urgent emergency measures such as securing the building and collections as quickly as possible by repairing the doors, windows destroyed by the blast.

The Director of the French National Heritage Institute (INP) accompanied President Emmanuel Macron to Lebanon at the very beginning of September. After this visit, a mission of graduate restorers from INP followed in two sites: the AUB – American University Museum and the Sursock Museum. Their mission allowed collecting and securing all 74 glass objects from a display case that had been knocked over by the blast of the explosion. This work, carried out in collaboration with the AUB museum team, consisted of methodically removing the shards, to be able to find the correspondences between the fragments according to their location on the ground, under the overturned and broken display case. In addition, INP is also liaising with the French Institute of the Near East (IFPO) and the Louvre Museum for participating in the reconstruction and restoration of ancient neighbourhoods of Beirut. Furthermore, two trainings addressed to the personnel of the Lebanese General Directorate for Antiquities will be organised October and December 2020. Finally, the George Pompidou Centre proposed its support to the Sursock Museum, the ancient private building hosting a precious modern and contemporary art collection that has suffered damages assessed as amounting to millions of euros

ALIPH will devote a first envelope of 5 million dollars to the stabilization and rehabilitation of Beirut’s damaged cultural heritage, ALIPH Press Release, 24 August 2020
Cultural heritage damaged in Beirut: ICOMOS, ICOM and ALIPH conduct a joint mission, ICOMOS Web site
The Louvre Museum and ALIPH are mobilizing alongside the Directorate General of Antiquities of Lebanon to rehabilitate the National Museum of Beirut, Louvre Museum Web site, 31 August 2020
Au Liban, la restauration du patrimoine culturel beyrouthin commence – FRANCE24, 19/9/2020
Coopération avec les professionnels du patrimoine du Moyen-Orient au Liban notamment, French National Heritage Institute, September 2020
Beyrouth : Les musées français se mobilisent pour le patrimoine libanais
Le patrimoine libanais à l’agonie, Documentary on Arte Channel – In French and German only