National Museum Herat
Herat National Museum was established in 1925 by order of King Amanullah. During the war and under the Taliban, many of the more than 3000 objects were lost. Statues, manuscripts and miniature paintings from the famous Herati school were destroyed and hundreds of coins stolen. Governor Ismail Khan shifted the objects 1993 from the citadel into another building that was opened as museum in autumn 2004. In 57 showcases, about 1000 archaeological and ethnographical objects are on display. Most exhibits come from Herat Province, but some are from neighbouring regions. They present but a narrow picture of the long cultural heritage, reflecting the lack of archaeological research. A new National Archive with manuscripts was inaugurated in autumn 2005 next doors.
The reopening of the museum is the result of personal initiatives of local staff. They lack funds and know-how for the preparation of an inventory of objects, for appropriate conservation and informative display. Other than Kabul National Museum, Herat has not received any international funding. The museum will be supported first on a small scale through assistance in cataloguing the objects and the preparation of information material, later through conservation of selected pieces.
At the end of the 2005 mission to Herat, a documentation of ca. 150 selected objects through photography and description took place, with the intention to gather information on the number, date, context, and importance of the exhibits. Still in Herat, a flyer was composed that can be handed out to the visitors. A more comprehensive information brochure with specialist contributions on selected topics appears in February 2008.
The objects mainly comprise pottery and metal vessels, but also some glass items, coins, architectural decoration pieces, ethnographic objects, and historical photographs of monuments.
The most ancient objects are flint arrowheads, stone columns, alabaster and chlorite vessels, copper daggers, razors, and spearheads from Badghis and Tashkurgan that date back to the late 3rd millennium BC, when the Bactrian-Murghabo Cultural Complex flourished further northeast. Most exhibits date to the 10th to 13th cent., i.e. the time before Herat became political and cultural capital of the Timurid empire in 1409 under Shah Rukh and Queen Gawhar Shad. This unexpected proportion is matched by the many pre-Timurid sites discovered during the survey. Architectural decoration pieces, coins, jewellery, weapons, and ethnographic objects complete the overview.
The exhibition presents a rare view into a so far rather neglected period and region. In addition, aside qualitatively high ranking pieces which are rarely found in excavations it comprises ordinary utensils that usually are not on display in international collections.
In the National Archive, a large collection of old books and manuscripts is presented, some of which date back to the 15th and 16th century. Remarkable are fragments of a thora roll, a rare relict of the former Jewish population of Herat.
Department of Monuments and Sites, Herat
Ministry of Information und Culture, Kabul
German Foreign Office
U. Franke (ed.), 2008 National Museum Herat - Areia Antiqua Through Time (Berlin).