Beiruting - Events - Italy donates 1 million euros for the rehabilitation and reopening of the Sursock Museum under UNESCO's Li Beirut initiative
Italy donates €1 million for the rehabilitation and reopening of the Sursock Museum under UNESCO’s Li Beirut initiative

Beirut, 16 May 2021 – The Government of Italy and UNESCO signed today a €1 million funding agreement in support of the rehabilitation and reopening of the Sursock Museum in Beirut, through the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation (AICS) and under UNESCO’s flagship initiative Li Beirut. The Italian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Marina Sereni, and the Director of UNESCO’s Beirut office, Costanza Farina, signed the Memorandum of Understanding at the esplanade in front of the Sursock Museum, in the presence of the Chairman of the Museum’s Board of Trustees, Dr. Tarek Mitri, following a visit to this historical Lebanese landmark, which was severely damaged by the Beirut blasts on the 4th of August, 2020.

Responding to the call for support of the Li Beirut initiative, endorsed during the 210th session of the UNESCO’s Executive Board in November 2020, Italy was the first country among UNESCO Member States that committed, beyond first emergency interventions, to invest in a large-scale project for a long-term recovery of cultural heritage and its institutions.

The Italian funds will be invested over the course of one year to ultimately contribute to reopen the museum to the public through the implementation of rehabilitation works, while providing adequate conditions to preserve the heritage and the collections and making them available to the public, and playing a fundamental education role within the urban fabric and vibrant historical neighborhoods of the capital. In light of the 2015 UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Protection and Promotion of Museums and Collections, their Diversity and their Role in Society, Italy and UNESCO will assist the museum in regaining its ever-increasing role in the city while stimulating creativity, revamping cultural life, providing opportunities for creative and cultural industries, and contributing to the material and spiritual well-being of both citizens and visitors.

“The Sursock Museum, as the first rehabilitation project to be jointly launched by Italy and UNESCO in the field of cultural heritage after the explosion, represents a first crucial demonstration of our engagement for the recovery of Beirut after the blast, said the Italian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Marina Sereni. We firmly believe that culture and the protection of heritage are needed in times of crisis, more than ever. To this end, the Lebanese population can continue counting on the support and the partnership of the Italian Government and its people”.

On her side, Costanza Farina pointed out that “the Li Beirut initiative, which was launched by the UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay during her visit to Beirut in August 2020, represents UNESCO commitment and pro-active engagement to mobilize partnerships and resources in support of the reconstruction of the city”. She added: “I am delighted to sign this agreement with Italy today, as it constitutes the largest financial contribution of a UNESCO Member State to the Li Beirut cultural heritage activities and to the Sursock Museum itself. I salute Italy for its positive response to our call that will support the rehabilitation and revitalization of the museum as a heritage building as well as a promoter of cultural life”.

“The Sursock Museum is a cultural institution that also serves as a public space for exchange and encounter, in a city that is severely lacking in public spaces, said Zeina Arida, Director of the museum. The Italian Cooperation and UNESCO’s support for the reconstruction of the museum is invaluable. It will allow Beirut and its citizens to reclaim a space that has become a second home for so many people in the cultural sector and the local community at large, a space which aims to promote openness and support knowledge production”.

Located in Ashrafieh, the Sursock Museum is one of the few landmarks and witnesses to the Lebanese architecture and mansions of the 18th and 19th centuries in Venetian and Ottoman style in Beirut. It is housed in the 1912 villa of Nicolas Sursock who donated it, together with his collections, to the Municipality of Beirut, binding the use of the villa as a museum of modern and contemporary art. Inaugurated in 1961, the museum now hosts in its permanent collection over 1,500 pieces including paintings, sculptures, tapestries and installations, in addition to more than 30,000 valuable photographs, postcards and manuscripts, from the Fouad Debbas Collection, among others. In September 2020, following the Beirut blasts, the museum estimated the funds needed for the rehabilitation to USD 3 million. The Italian funding will significantly enable to achieve this objective.

Li Beirut is an international flagship initiative launched from Beirut by the Director-General of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay, in the aftermath of the explosions, on August 27, 2020, to support the rehabilitation of schools, historic heritage buildings, museums, galleries and the creative industry, all of which suffered significant damage in the deadly explosions.
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