One of the two museums in Malakand Division, Swat Museum, which was scarred by earthquake and militancy, will be reconstructed soon, it has been learnt. The reconstruction project was been signed by Istituto Italiano per l’Africa e l’Oriente (IsIAO), an Italian archaeological body, and the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) Department of Archeology and Museums. Rehabilitation activity at the museum will start this month and will be completed by December 2012.
While talking about the longstanding closure of the museum, Svastu Arts and Culture Association Director Usmanulas Yar said, “Museums are a major resource for learning about history, culture and heritage. Our museum, which was badly affected by the 2009 bombings, is still closed, but rehabilitation will start soon.”
“I suggest that the traditional style of architecture be followed during reconstruction,” said Dr Luca Maria Olivieri, Co-director of IsIAO, while talking to The Express Tribune. He added that the rehabilitation process was part of the Archaeology-Community-Tourisms Field School project, which is being financed by the Pakistani-Italian Debt-Swap Agreement for about Rs221 million. The project, which was implemented by the IsIAO and K-P Archaeology and Museums Department, has been put under the Economic Affairs Division’s umbrella.
Olivieri further said that the project is primarily focusing on the reconstruction of the Swat Archaeological Museum in Saidu Sharif. The master-plan of the museum, after being shared with all the Swat district authorities, has been approved by the archaeology department, which gained control of the compound after the devolution to provinces.
Sharing historical background of the museum, Dr Olivieri said, “Swat Archaeological Museum in Saidu Sharif is one of the most important cultural tourist attractions in Malakand. The museum was built in 1959 by the Wali of Swat with contributions by the Italian Archaeological Mission in Pakistan. In 1970, the building was expanded to the existing layout and the prospect in the front was constructed in 1979. The present museum’s facade does not resemble traditional Swati architecture, like the museum’s reserve collection building, which will be restored to the original design. The roof of the front hall collapsed in 1999 and was later reconstructed.”
He added that the damages incurred in the 2005 earthquake and 2009 bombings have led to cracks in the ceilings, beams and load-bearing masonry walls. Later in June 2011, the University of Engineering (UET) Department of Civil Engineering Peshawar carried out structural assessment of the building to evaluate its condition. The assessment concluded that the front galleries should be demolished and rebuilt. Moreover, no additional load should be added to the existing floors, and load-bearing walls and stone masonry should be strengthened with efficient retrofitting.
“Four galleries of the museum will be rehabilitated and strengthened. The newly-construction galleries will be seismic-resistant according to international codes. Reconstruction will start in September, and will be completed in December,” he said, adding, “In the next six months, excavation and restoration training involving another batch of 120 local workers in the project camp sites, will be carried out in collaboration with Hazara University and the Taxila Institute of Asian Civilisations at Quaid-i Azam University, Islamabad.”
Dr Olivieri further said that the project was started in March, and that since then, a series of trainings in archaeology and conservation were implemented. During the first six months, a total of 120 local workers were trained at sites in Barikot, Udegram, Saidu Sharif and Gumbat. Preliminary excavations and conservations activities covering a total of 1.7 hectares were carried out at a Hellenistic site in Barikot (the ancient city of Bazira according to Alexander the Great’s historians, second to fifth century CE.)
Preservation of the Ghaznavid Mosque of Udegram has been completed; and the site is also accessible after the Pakistan Army donated a bridge, and a 1.9 km concrete road was constructed as part of the project. The Gumbat site in Kandak valley, a Buddhist shrine dating back to the fourth century CE, was completely restored by the contribution of the army and the cooperation of Hazara University. Moreover, the Saidu Stupa site has been preserved along with sites like Ghalegai and Gogdara, Kamal-China, Sarghasar, Talang, and Kakai-Kandao (in Kandak and Kotah valleys). All the sites have been given information boards, he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 20th, 2011.
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