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Cultures in the Crossfire: Stories from Syria and Iraq

April 8, 2017 – November 26, 2017

Penn Museum, 3260 South Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104 


Nimrud. Aleppo. Palmyra. Ebla. These ancient sites and many others in Iraq and Syria have found their way to the top of international news today, as the destruction of cultural heritage becomes both a by-product and a tactic of ongoing war throughout the region.

What is really at stake? Why does it matter? What is the human story that accompanies this unprecedented loss? And what is being done to prevent further loss of the material culture, vast human history and diverse cultural identities in the region of the world long known as the ‘cradle of civilisation’?

This new special exhibition considers these questions. Developed in conjunction with the Museum’s Penn Cultural Heritage Center, the exhibition explores the rich cultural heritage, human diversity and achievements – as well as the movements and displacements of people and objects caught in the crossfire – through more than 50 objects from the Museum’s exceptional Near East and Mediterranean collections, as well as a range of Arabic manuscripts from the University of Pennsylvania Libraries, music and sounds, and documentary film clips. Contemporary artwork from Syrian artist Issam Kourbaj is interwoven throughout the exhibition, providing a modern-day response to the artefacts and exhibition themes.


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