I'm breaking with my "no posts about work" policy simply to say this -- if you are in DC and have the time, I hope you will go visit the exhibition "Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures from the National Museum, Kabul" at the National Gallery. It opens this weekend, but I had the pleasure of seeing it this morning at a press event. These priceless, millennia-old items on display - gold, ivory, bronze, glass, stone - represent the cultural wealth of a country that once thrived at the heart of the Silk Road. The pieces of gold you may have heard of before, referred to as the "Bactrian Hoard." Equally as remarkable are the Begram ivories (featuring some curvaceous babes of Bactria) and delicate glass bottles and goblets that somehow have not shattered to dust over the course of 2,000 years. (I love the fish-shaped bottles!) Honestly, it's all quite magnificent.
My friend and colleague, Dr. Fredrik Hiebert, National Geographic Explorer and Archaeology Fellow, is the curator and driving force behind the exhibition. His work to inventory the rediscovered artifacts - hidden by heroic Afghans who put their lives on the line to protect these precious pieces of history from the Taliban - led us down the path to the exhibition that now graces the National Gallery for a few short months this year before heading to San Francisco, Houston, and NYC and then back overseas.
A tremendous amount of work went into making this exhibition happen. I can guarantee you - a lot of weekends, late nights, and vacation days were lost to securing the funding, negotiating relationships, handling logistics. So many people, both here and abroad, have worked so hard to bring the project to fruition. And today, seeing Fred and his Afghan colleagues so warmly received and applauded for all their efforts was so cool.
It's at moments like that when you realize you are part of something much bigger, much better... it makes it all worthwhile... the endless paperwork, revisions, budgets, careful diplomacy - everything needed to actually get this stuff funded and off the ground... suddenly, you're not a paperpushing scribe - for a fleeting moment, you're part of history, peering out from behind the curtains as the main players take the stage. At one point in my life, I wanted to be one of those players, but now, I am happy to make things happen behind the scenes. (The dress code is more casual backstage.)
One of the great things about Fred is that he doesn't forget the people who help make things happen. He takes the time to thank you and recognize you. Along with being a scholar, he's a real gentleman and a fine human being. When I opened up a copy of the exhibition catalog, I was really touched to see my name among those he personally thanked. How neat!
Thank you, Fred. And thanks to the people of Afghanistan for sharing these remarkable pieces of the past with us.