I came across this picture whilst updating our slideshow Afghanistan: Nation at a crossroads, which aims to illustrate not only the ongoing war and frequent terror attacks that afflict the country but also to encapsulate other, more positive aspects of Afghan life.
The National Museum of Afghanistan, also known as the Kabul Museum, has had a turbulent history. Joanie Meharry, a scholar in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies who has recorded the recent history of the museum, writes that the collection began in 1919 as a modest 'Cabinet of Curiosities'.
National Geographic reported that officials at the museum, worried that priceless artifacts would be destroyed or looted during the civil war, secretly transferred many of the objects to hidden vaults in the late 1980s:
Among the hidden treasures were Bronze Age gold pieces, hundreds of ancient coins, and the famous "Bactrian hoard," a collection of some 20,000 gold, silver, and ivory objects from burial plots at Tillya Tepe in northern Afghanistan.
In 2003, after the Taliban had been removed from power in Kabul, a team of local and international experts assembled to open the secret vaults. Some of the museum's "hidden treasures" were exhibited at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., in 2008, and then embarked on an international tour.
It's good to see those objects back on display for the Afghan people. It seems the museum has a fairly liberal policy in terms of touching the artwork, too.