In the past few years, Damascus, like many other Syrian cities, has witnessed major transformations brought by the gruelling conflict in the country. The visual and cultural identity of Damascus suffered many distortions, some old neighbourhoods were destroyed, historical buildings were left in ruin, and a significant portion of the city’s material and documentary heritage was lost due to negligence and corruption.
In the autumn of 2016, we decided to establish a non-government non-profit organisation aimed at preserving what was left of the historical memory of Damascus, and we called it ‘the Damascus History Foundation’. The first meeting of the Foundation was held in a small Damascene house in al-Ward neighbourhood in the Sarouja quarter of Damascus. This house later became the headquarter of DHF, managed by a group of volunteers, executives and the founding board of trustees.
Together, we searched for old photographs, films, musical records, personal papers, unpublished manuscripts, old monographs and private correspondence. All of these treasures, or what is left of the them, are located either in the warehouses of government departments or in the homes of Old Damascus. Many of these historical documents are on the verge of destruction due to neglect and to the the poor conditions in which they are being kept. On the other hand, a significant portion of such documents appeared in research centres in Paris, London and Washington D.C. after they were smuggled out of Syria in the past few years.
The Damascus History Foundation seeks to collect these scattered documents and make them available researchers and students of the history of Damascus first through an electronic museum, and later on, when the circumstances allow, in an actual museum.
The Damascus History Foundation Board of Trustees
Damascus, 17 April 2017.