The August 4 explosion laid waste to many cultural and historical sites and buildings in Beirut. Among those were two national treasures: The Sursock Palace and Museum.
It was the sight of these buildings and their invaluable contents, heavily damaged by the Beirut Port explosion, that gave birth to RestART Beirut, a fund dedicated to restoring the Sursock Palace as a first step toward protecting Beirut’s art and heritage.
The project, which just launched on Thursday, was founded by Luxembourg-based Didier Goossens alongside five other co-founders, based in Beirut, London, Paris, and Lausanne.
Following the devastating blast, the team wanted to help in some way, but recognized that there were bigger and more competent organizations delivering humanitarian support at a large scale.
“We saw there was a less visible emergency, and that is the loss of Beirut’s art heritage that was at risk in those buildings that were, and are, still at risk of collapsing, and also the priceless art collections that lay among piles in those buildings,” Goossens told the Luxembourg-based outlet, Delano.
The fund’s first action will focus on emergency measures for the Sursock collection. These include identifying the highest-risk items and supporting the emergency needs of these items, such as environmental control and handling.
The next step will be inventory and technical assessment, for which, “we’re ready to send students there in early February,” Goossens said.
The money raised for the fund with the help of donors will then be used to make the collection displayable in accordance with international standards.
According to Goossens, the RestART Beirut team has the support of the Sursock family for their project. The fund was established under the aegis of the King Baudouin Foundation of Belgium.
Ultimately, the plan is not just to make the collection accessible to direct visitors of the site, but to people around the world via digital means. “This is about cultural heritage, not just Lebanon,” Goossens said.
Correction: RestART Beirut’s first project is focusing on the Sursock Palace – (December 19th, 2020 at 06:20 PM): We initially reported that the project involves the Sursock Museum. Upon being presented with new information, we reflected this in the corrections.