Skip to Main Content

Release Date: May 8, 2008

Afghanistan Exhibition Inspires Wide Array of Programs at National Gallery of Art, Washington, May 25 through September 7, 2008

Washington, DC—Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures from the National Museum, Kabul, a landmark exhibition co-organized by the National Geographic Society and the National Gallery of Art, and comprising 228 extraordinary artifacts uncovered in modern-day Afghanistan, will begin its U.S. tour at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, where it will be on view from May 25 through September 7, 2008.

The Gallery will offer a diverse program of lectures, films, and family activities related to the exhibition. All programs are free and open to the public. For more information, call (202) 737-4215, visit the Web site at, or inquire at the Information Desks.

Opening Day Celebrations: Sunday, May 25
East Building Auditorium (*unless otherwise noted)

Lost Treasures of Afghanistan (National Geographic, 2006, 56 mins.), 11:30 am

Traditional Afghan Music, 1 p.m.–2 p.m.
Renowned Afghan musician and composer Vaheed Kaacemy and ensemble
*West Building, East Garden Court

Children’s Songs from Afghanistan, 4 p.m.–4:30 p.m.
Vaheed Kaacemy and local Afghan children
Book signing follows

Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures from the National Museum, Kabul, 2 p.m.
Fredrik Hiebert, exhibition curator and National Geographic Archaeology Fellow
Book signing follows, 3 p.m.

Film Festival: Afghanistan on Film
East Building Auditorium

A ten-part series presenting a portrait of the country through recent documentary, contemporary fiction, and short media works. The program includes European, American, and Afghan perspectives.

From the Archives: 16 at 12
The Glassmakers of Herat
(Elliott Erwitt, 1979, 26 mins.)
June 3, 10, 17, 24; August 5, 12, 19, 26 at noon
Filmed by one of America's most distinguished journalistic photographers on location, this archival documentary showcases two artisans discovered in a one-room glass factory in Herat, still making glass as described in 7th-century BC Assyrian cuneiform tablets.

The Giant Buddhas (Christian Frei, 2005)
July 4 at noon

The Kite Runner (Marc Forster, 2007)
July 18 at 2:30 p.m.

New Video Art from Kabul (discussion and screenings)
July 20 at 4:30 p.m.
A presentation by Leeza Ahmady, independent curator, New York, relates recent work on video to traditions of theater and storytelling.

Mon Kabul (Whahid Nazir, 2007) and Osama (Siddiq Barmak, 2004)
August 1 at 2:30 p.m.

Standing Up (Waise Azimi, 2007)
August 3 at 4:30 p.m.

Kabul Girls Club (Johnson McKelvey, 2007) with View from a Grain of Sand (Meena Nanji, 2006)
August 8 at 2:30 p.m.

The Beauty Academy of Kabul (Liz Mermin, 2007)
August 9 at noon

Stray Dogs (Marziyeh Meshkini Makhmalbaf, 2004) with Kandahar (Mohsen Makhmalbaf, 2001)
August 15 at 2:30 p.m.

Film for Children and Teens
Buddha Collapsed Out of Shame
(Hana Makhmalbaf, Iran/France, 2007, 81 mins., Farsi with English subtitles)
August 23 at noon
August 24, 31 at 11:30 a.m.
August 30 at 2:00 p.m.
Ages 11 and up

The beauty and grief of present-day Afghanistan receive poetic treatment from 18-year-old Iranian filmmaker Hana Makhmalbaf. Set in central Afghanistan’s Bamiyan Valley—where in 2001 Taliban soldiers destroyed centuries-old sculptures of Buddha carved into the cliffs—the film is a haunting journey into the minds of the children who live in this desolate area. Amidst the rubble of the massive statues, a 6-year-old Afghan girl, Bakhtay, wants to learn to read and write and sets out to attend a school for girls across the river. Bakhtay faces many obstacles, including her family’s poverty and indifference to education. She must also traverse a no-man’s- land, where she is “captured” by a band of boys who delight in playing war games that mimic the violence they have witnessed.

The Film Program for Children and Teens is made possible by the generous support of

Voice of the Moon (short film, Richard Stanley, 1990) with Earth and Ashes (Atiq Rahimi, 2004)
September 1 at 2:00 p.m.

Two archival films from the Afghan Archive, Akhter Maskaneh (1979) and Talabgar (1969)
To be announced

Gallery Talks
East Building Information Desk

Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures from the National Museum, Kabul (60 mins.))
J. Russell Sale and Carla Brenner
May 30; June 6, 7, 30; July 2, 3, 17 at noon
June 10; July 8, 16, 31; August 1, 11, 13, 15 at 1:00 p.m.

The Burials of the Bactrian Nomads (60 mins.)
Faya Causey
July 18, 21, 22 at 1:00 p.m.

Archaeology, Afghanistan, and the Ancient Silk Road (60 mins.))
Faya Causey
August 5, 8, 12 at 1:00 p.m.

Exhibition Documentary Film
Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures from the National Museum, Kabul (National Geographic, 2008)
East Building, Small Auditorium, daily, noon–3:00 p.m., with minor exceptions
East Building Auditorium, Wednesdays and Sundays, 11:30 a.m., with minor exceptions

The documentary Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures from the National Museum, Kabul (National Geographic, 2008, 28 mins.) is narrated by Khaled Hosseini, author of The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns. It features footage of the 2004 recovery of the collections of the National Museum, Kabul, which had been hidden in the vaults of the Central Bank in the Presidential Palace. The film also includes interviews with exhibition curator Fredrik Hiebert and National Museum director Omara Khan Massoudi. A 12-minute version of the film will be shown in the exhibition.


Narrated by Gallery director Earl A. Powell III, this tour includes commentary by Fredrik Hiebert, exhibition curator and National Geographic Archaeology Fellow; Sanjyot Mehendale, University of California, Berkeley; and archaeologist Paul Bernard, Paris, France. $5 rental fee

Gallery Shop

During the exhibition, visitors to the East Building Shop (located on the concourse level) will see a broad selection of one-of-a-kind items made by Afghan craftspeople using ancient traditional methods. Textiles will include wall hangings, pillow covers, coasters, carpets, scarves, and ladies’ bags and related accessories. A full range of jewelry includes various designs of necklaces, bracelets, and earrings—some with stones or pearls. Stone bowls, wood carved boxes, metal bowls, water-pouring vessels, and musical instruments will also be offered. Additional items include postcards, bookmarks, magnets, and a boxed set of note cards, all of which depict artifacts in the exhibition.

The exhibition shop will feature a wide selection of books related to the exhibition and to Afghanistan as well as a 2009 Silk Road wall calendar, music CDs of traditional Afghan music, and variety of films about Afghanistan in DVD, in particular the film produced by National Geographic, The Lost Treasures of Afghanistan. The film produced for the exhibition will be available in July in DVD format.

The shop will feature delightful children’s books about Afghanistan and the new publication Children’s Songs from Afghanistan/ Qu Qu Qu Barg-e-Chinaar: A CD and Book for Schools and Families, a wonderful resource for families, educators, music teachers, and anyone interested in sharing children’s songs across cultures. With the support of National Geographic, a special bilingual English/ Dari edition has been created to bring these delightful songs to a wider audience. The 32-page songbook features an English translation and transliteration for each song and informative liner notes, and the accompanying CD features Afghan children singing the songs. It will be available from the Gallery Shops beginning May 25, 2008, for $17.95 (hardcover). To order, call (800) 697-9350 or (202) 842-6002; fax (202) 789-3047; or e-mail [email protected].

Exhibition Catalogue

Published by National Geographic Books, the 304-page catalogue is edited by Fredrik Hiebert, exhibition curator and National Geographic Archaeology Fellow, and Pierre Cambon, scientific researcher, Laboratoire d’archéologie, ENS Ulm-CNRS,Paris. The catalogue includes a foreword from President Hamid Karzai; an introduction from Omar Sultan, Deputy Minister of Information and Culture; and a preface by Hiebert. Essays on the four archaeological sites and object entries have been written by Paul Bernard, former director, The Délégation Archéologique Française en Afghanistan (DAFA); Cambon; Hiebert; Carla Grissmann, member of the Society for the Preservation of Afghanistan’s Cultural Heritage (SPACH) and Kabul museum specialist; Jean-François Jarrige, director, Musée national des Arts asiatiques Guimet; Omara Khan Massoudi, director, National Museum, Kabul; Sanjyot Mehendale, lecturer, department of Near Eastern studies, University of California, Berkeley; Viktor Ivanovich Sarianidi, senior researcher, Institute of Archaeology, Russian Academy of Science, Moscow; and Véronique Schiltz, scientific researcher, Laboratoire d’archéologie, ENS Ulm-CNRS, Paris.

The catalogue showcases 300 color photographs and will be available in May 2008 from the Gallery Shops for $30 (softcover). To order, call (800) 697-9350 or (202) 842-6002; fax (202) 789-3047; or e-mail [email protected].

Web Sites

On the National Gallery of Art Web site, a short trailer for the documentary film highlights the dramatic 2004 recovery of ancient objects hidden during the decades of turmoil in the country. The video is also available via Apple iTunes™. The 28-minute version of the National Geographic documentary will air later in the year on public broadcasting stations. A "timeline of treasures" highlights close-ups of artifacts from the Bronze Age (2200 BC) through the rise of trade along the Silk Road from c. 300 BC to c. 200 AD. The timeline includes descriptions of the areas where the artifacts (on view in the exhibition) were originally found. The site will also offer a print-friendly PDF of a special Family Guide to the exhibition, available in late May.

In addition to the short trailer, the National Geographic Web site provides video, maps, and six audio slideshows featuring historical and cultural information from many important archaeological and cultural sites in Afghanistan. Included are the Kabul Museum, Tillya Tepe, Bamian, Aï Khanum, and Begram, as well as other information about Silk Road cultures. Stories about how the artifacts in this exhibition were hidden for some 25 years—from just before the Soviet invasion in 1979, through the Afghan civil wars, and during Taliban rule—and contemporary stories about the country shed new light on this former heart of the Silk Road. Visit

Family Guide

Introducing children ages 8 to 12 to the ancient treasures of Afghanistan, this discovery guide with activities for young visitors to the exhibition. The guide was originated by the Musée Guimet in Paris and adapted for use in Washington. It will be available as a PDF for download from the Gallery’s Web site.

Exhibition Organization and Support

The exhibition is organized by the National Geographic Society and the National Gallery of Art, Washington in association with the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

It is supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.

The exhibition at the National Gallery of Art is made possible by the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation. It is also supported by The Charles Engelhard Foundation.

The works in the exhibition are the sole property of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.

General Information

For additional press information please call or send inquiries to:
Department of Communications
National Gallery of Art
2000 South Club Drive
Landover, MD 20785
phone: (202) 842-6353
e-mail: [email protected]
Anabeth Guthrie
Chief of Communications
(202) 842-6804
[email protected]

The Gallery also offers a broad range of newsletters for various interests. Follow this link to view the complete list.