On March 15, 2011, at a ceremony at the National Museum of Afghanistan, hosted by His Excellency, Minister Makhdoom Raheen of the Ministry of Information and Culture (MOIC), the United States pledged $5 million to support the MOIC's vision for planning, designing and constructing a new museum building. The MOIC will also commit $2 million to support the new museum building.
In a ceremony held in the Nuristani room at the National Museum of Afghanistan today, Ambassador Karl W. Eikenberry joined Minister Raheen to announce the development of a master plan which will lay out a strategy to improve the condition of the National Museum as well as the collections and cultural heritage it houses.
The proposed new museum building will have state of the art security, conservation and administrative space and will include beautiful new exhibition space. The parcel of land for the site of the new museum building was donated by the Ministry of Defense.
"The United States stands strong with our Afghan partners on vital issues of cultural heritage and national pride. An exciting new National Museum will contribute to the development of a renewed Afghan national identity, the growth of a peaceful Afghan civil society, and be at the foundation of the social reconciliation process," said U.S. Ambassador Karl W. Eikenberry, who attended the ceremony.
The proposed new building will one day serve as the home of the "Hidden Treasures of Afghanistan" exhibition currently traveling the world. The exhibit, which includes examples of carved ivories from Bagram, gold jewelry worn by ancient nomads, and Hellenistic sculptures found in Northern Afghanistan, among other treasures, is currently on display in London at the British Museum. The exhibit toured various museums in the United States in 2008 and 2000.
Attendees at the ceremony were also treated to the first viewing of the new exhibition at the National Museum titled "Along the Silk Road -- Recent Excavations from Mes Aynak." This exhibit at the National Museum was funded by the U.S. Embassy in Kabul and was organized by the National Museum staff. It displays some of the most remarkable objects recovered so far in the ongoing excavations at Mes Aynak.
Mes Aynak, located in Logar Province, is the site of a recent archaeological discovery. Buddhist artifacts dating from between the first and eighth century AD have been recovered there. The site is collocated with the world's second largest copper deposit and Afghan and international teams of archaeologists are working to recover as much cultural heritage from this site as possible before mining operations begin in 2014.
Minister Raheen said during his remarks, "My vision is for a museum that will be an even greater source of pride for Afghans from all regions. Afghans need a museum so that our children can learn about our nation's rich cultural history at the crossroads of East and West."
The U.S. Embassy in Kabul has also pledged at least $1 million to fund a three-year museum partnership with an American institution in order to facilitate training and capacity building for the National Museum staff.
The Afghan National Museum was founded in 1919. The museum was destroyed by rockets in 1994. It was rebuilt in 2004 with contributions from the international community. The current Museum Director, Mr. Omara Khan Masoudi, expressed thanks to all the individuals who contributed their expertise and shared their time and attention in support of the existing museum, which has served as an important symbol of Afghan cultural heritage.