On 21 May 2016 the State Hermitage took part in the yearly event «Night of Museums». The special interactive program «Palmyra: breathing life!», dedicated to the cultural heritage of Palmyra, took place in the Restoration and Storage Centre in «Staraya Derevnya».
The program of events, prepared by the Hermitage volunteer service, included colourful theatrical performances and workshops, all of which allowed guests to be immersed in the atmosphere of ancient Palmyra.
The evening began with a welcome from Mikhail Piotrovsky, the general director of the State Hermitage. He highlighted the importance of the restoration and conservation of the world’s cultural heritage: «Palmyra is an ancient city, which has been destroyed many times, yet has turned out to be impossible to truly destroy».
A multitude of activities awaited guests in the lobby of the Restoration and Storage Centre. Visitors participated in workshops on painting, drawing, decorating Greek vases, making theatrical masks, costumes and laurel wreaths, and learned useful phrases in Greek and Aramaic. A workshop on ancient Greek dance, which took place with Palmyrene costumes, brought guests together in a lively circle dance.
Visitors were encouraged to play the computer game «Palmyrene Market», to put together a model of the temple Bel, and to decorate plaster models of the lion goddess al-Lat – all of which are destroyed monuments from Palmyra.
There was also a concert of Greek music, in which guests listened to the sound of an authentic eight-stringed lyre, which was the most popular instrument of antiquity. This lyre was given to the Hermitage last year by Terpandros, a Cyprian ensemble who play music from antiquity. Dimitris Dimitriou, the Consul General of the Republic of Cyprus in St. Petersburg, visited the Hermitage project «Night of Museums», and was delighted to hear the sound of that unique instrument on an evening dedicated to Palmyra. In the open storage of the Department of Antiquity, musicians played on other instruments from ancient Greece – the cithara and the pan-flute.
The guest of the evening was Waddah al-Jundi, chairman of the Russian-Syrian cooperation. He expressed his great gratitude for the organisation of the project, describing it as ‘like a bridge connecting our cultures’.
Irina Dyubanova, the Head of the Hermitage School Centre, gave a lecture on the history and art of Palmyra. Visitors were also guided on tours along the open storage route in the Restoration and Storage Centre.
The most active participants in the workshops and competitions were awarded certificates and memorable prizes. At the end of the evening the temple Bel – the main temple of Palmyra – was set up on the assembled puzzle map of Palmyra.
The State Hermitage has been taking part in «Night of Museums» since 2009. This year, the program «Palmyra: breathing life!» was visited by around 700 guests.