The formation of museums
Museums in the Arab and Ottoman world
Museums arose across the Arab and Ottoman world to preserve and display antiquities from past cultures locally.
In France’s new North African colonies, learned societies mirroring those of the motherland were set up. In Algeria, Louis-Adrien Berbrugger worked to preserve ancient sites, prevent the export of antiquities, and found the Algerian Museum.

In Egypt the khedivè (viceroy) of Egypt made Auguste Mariette the first Conservator of Egyptian Monuments (1858), tasked with preventing plundering, and regulating official excavations. In 1861, he became director of the new Egyptian Museum.

The Ottoman Imperial Museum was founded in 1868. In 1881, the directorship moved from Europeans to the Turkish scholar Osman Hamdi Bey. The stricter 1884 Antiquities Law limited the export of finds from the Ottoman Empire. An active programme of Turkish excavations was begun, to fill the new museums.

In French Mandate Syria, the National Museum of Damascus was founded in 1919. In British Mandate Iraq, Gertrude Bell strove to establish the Iraq Museum in Baghdad (1926).
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The formation of museums

Museums in Europe
Museums in the Arab and Ottoman world
Archaeological Museum of the American University of Beirut


Hamra, Beirut, Lebanon

The Archaeological Museum of the American University of Beirut is the third oldest museum in the Near East after Cairo and Constantinople. The museum collections are organised chronologically and thematically. It was founded in 1868 after Luigi Palma di Cesnola gifted a collection of Cypriot pottery to the newly formed American University of Beirut. Di Cesnola was an Italian-American who used his posting as a diplomat to conduct important archaeological work in Cyprus.

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In this Exhibition
About the Exhibition
The birth of archaeology
The formation of museums
Inspired by the past