During the last six years the National Research Network - The Cultural History of the Western Himalaya (CHWH) as well as the Research Platform - Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Documentation of Inner and South Asian Cultural History (CIRDIS), both directed by Univ.-Prof. Dr. Deborah Klimburg-Salter at the University of Vienna, have established a close cooperation with the National Museum of Afghanistan, Kabul. The financial support of the Gerda Henkel Stiftung (GHS) and The Barakat Trust (TBT) Oxford has enabled us to implement the different programs.

The Barakat Trust program is a capacity building program which provides financial support for intensive English language and computer science courses held in the Kabul Museum for the Museum staff, as well as bilingual secretarial support and English language training for Director Omara Khan Masoudi. The program was formed in 2007, and the first lectures began in February 2008. So far, The Barakat Trust Kabul Museum program has been an enormous success and enables the staff for the first time to gain the skills necessary to participate in international cooperations.

The Gerda Henkel Stiftung has financed the curatorial training program in art history, numismatics, computer science and museology for the Kabul Museum staff since 2005. With their support we were able to organise three training events: in Vienna in 2007 and 2010 and in New Delhi in 2008.

 

Historical review

2003 – Committment

In 2003 Deborah Klimburg-Salter joined the UNESCO working group on Afghanistan and participated at the second plenary session of the UNESCO International Committee (ICC) for the Conservation of the Afghan Cultural Heritage. In accordance with the decisions taken at this occasion, Deborah Klimburg-Salter planned a mission to the Kabul Museum with the goal of contributing to the inventory process of objects in the Kabul Museum.

2004 – Laying the foundation of a cooperation

In 2004 Deborah Klimburg-Salter visited the National Museum of Afghanistan in Kabul together with a small Austrian team in order to plan and conduct a scientific inventory of the Museum’s collections and to design a training program for their museum specialists. During the first mission in 2004, it was possible to begin composing an inventory of confiscated objects from the site of Kharwar and an inventory of small fragmentary objects from the National Museum of Afghanistan that had been destroyed by the Taliban.

2005 – Cooperation and funding

In 2005 Deborah Klimburg-Salter conducted the scientific inventory of the Hindukush Buddhist collections assisted by Susanne Novotny. This work was supported by UNESCO, the Austrian Science Fund, and the University of Vienna. Working on the inventory led also to intense art historical research on the respective collections: various articles by Deborah Klimburg-Salter as well as a M.A. thesis on Fondukistan by Susanne Novotny.

In addition to contributing to the inventory of the Buddhist collections, the Western Himalaya Archive Vienna (WHAV) at the University of Vienna, which is part of the Research Platform CIRDIS and closely linked to the National Research Network CHWH (Austria Science Fund S98), has been digitizing a large collection of historical slides on the art and archaeology of Afghanistan. The goal is eventually to integrate this database into a website at the Kabul Museum.

Since 2005 curatorial training has been financed by the Gerda Henkel Stiftung, and the travel expenses of the Austrian professors have been financed through the Austrian Science Fund.

2006 – Preparation

In February 2006 Sean McAllister and Susanne Novotny participated in the workshop “Information Systems for Science, Cultural Heritage Management & E-Government in Afghanistan” held at RWTH Aachen University. In September 2006 Patrick McAllister and Susanne Novotny visited the Kabul Museum in order to obtain information on the current status of the database, as well as to make preparations for the training of two members of the Kabul Museum staff in database management and numismatics in Vienna.

In order to make further preparations and discuss the training details, Deborah Klimburg-Salter met with Director Omara Khan Masoudi in December 2006.

2007 – First Training

The first training took place in Vienna in January 2007. Two curators from the Kabul Museum, Ezatullah Sharifi and Najibullah Assadi, completed a two-week training program at the University of Vienna and the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna, Coin Cabinet.

Since 2007 The Barakat Trust has funded our capacity building programs in the Kabul Museum.

2008 – Second Training at JNU in Delhi

The second phase of curatorial training began in October 2008 and was shifted from Kabul to Delhi due to security issues. Curatorial training in art history, numismatics, and database and website management was conducted in cooperation with the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and the National Museum of India in Delhi from October 6 – 31, 2008. Admission to the curatorial training depended on the successful completion of The Barakat Trust language and computer courses and was financed by the Gerda Henkel Stiftung.

Deborah Klimburg-Salter met again with Director Omara Khan Masoudi in 2008 to discuss the current programs.

2009 – Agreements and further goals

In January 2009 Sean Mc Allister and Arezou Azad went on a fact-finding mission to Kabul. Meetings took place with Director Masoudi and representatives of the Ministry of Culture and Information to work out an agreement as to the future status of the University of Vienna – Kabul Museum programs. A bilingual document establishing the goals of this project was drawn up under Director Masoudi’s guidance.

In 2009 Mr. Wahid took over the position as the new English instructor. In June 2011 he left the museum and since that pointthe English language training has been handled by the British Council.

The program was extended to include training on exhibition design and management. In the course of this work, Kabul Museum curators worked together with the Vienna team on creating small exhibitions for display in the Kabul Museum. Exhibition training was conducted via email.

2010 – Third training session in Vienna

In January 2010 Director Masoudi visited Vienna to discuss the possibility of a Kabul Museum exhibition in Vienna and also the curator training planned for summer 2010. Mr. Masoudi assured us that “The Barakat Trust Kabul Museum Staff Program” is running successfully, and he expressed his gratitude for this most important initiative.

From May 31 – July 10, 2010 a training seminar was held in Vienna for eight curators from the National Museum of Afghanistan in Kabul under the sponsorship of the Gerda Henkel Fund in Germany. This training seminar was conducted jointly at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna and the University of Vienna as well as at the Joanneum in Graz. It encompassed training in the fields of art history, numismatics, database management and museology.

The curators were chosen according to their level of English and their success in the English program financed by The Barakat Trust. However, it was obvious that the level of spoken English had increased enormously, and the curators as well as the teacher have certainly put much effort into achieving this level of proficiency. Thus the curators were able to participate successfully at the training program as well as at the EASAA (European Association for South Asian Archaeology and Art) Conference held in Vienna from July 4-9, 2010.

In the final days of the Vienna training program, the curators participated in the EASAA Conference. They worked independently under the guidance of our experts to design posters for each curatorial section which were then displayed at the Afghanistan session of the Conference.

In November 2010 Deborah Klimburg-Salter travelled to Kabul, and aside from scientific tasks, she dedicated much of her time to planning various future aspects of the program together with Director Masoudi. The working hours of the English teacher were increased to 30 hours a week. In addition to the English courses, he supports the curators with database entries, work on exhibitions and communication via e-mail.

2011 – Visits in Kabul and fourth training session in Vienna

Sean McAllister spent a week in Kabul in January 2011 to configure a better internet connection for the Kabul Museum and to assist the curators with some problems that had occurred with the database.

Deborah Klimburg-Salter and Michael Alram of the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Coin Cabinet, visited the Kabul Museum in September 2011 to discuss future goals of our cooperation.

From Oktober to Dezember 2011 five curators from the National Museum of Afghanistan (Nasrin Balali, Ajmal Yaar, Farhad Sediqy, Mohammad Atiq Hamdard and Mohammad Fahim Rahimi) were in Vienna in order to continue their studies at the University of Vienna and to receive training in the active use of the numismatic database system that the Kabul Museum project (Dr. Vondrovec) developed for the Kabul Museum. In fact there are two database systems – two curators were trained in the object database system of the Western Himalaya Archive Vienna (WHAV) and the other two worked with the numismatic database. Additionally, the curators had the possibility to be part of our research group and use our extensive facilities at the Department of Art History and related institutions. These scholarships were financed by The Barakat Trust, Oxford.

Vienna, April 2012

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