The Cyrus Cylinder, 539-538 BC, Achaemenid, clay.

WASHINGTON D.C. - An impending snowstorm in the Washington DC area did nothing to lessen the warmth of the welcome at the Freer Sackler on March 5th for the arrival of the British Museum’s Cyrus Cylinder. Those of you who have followed previous blogs will know that this small object with its significant message for humanity (in a show aptly named “A New Beginning”) will now be in Washington DC for some weeks.

Nearly 350 guests from several continents gathered at the cocktail hour to view the gem of an exhibition curated by Dr John Curtis, with the involvement of Sackler’s Dr Massoumeh Farhad and Dr Julian Raby, the Gallery Director. The event also heralded the flagship project of IHF America—a diaspora cultural charity that began some 20 years ago in the UK.

An exquisitely well-displayed exhibition did full justice to the few objects that were accompanying the Cylinder; a favourite for me was one of the Oxus Treasure gold griffin-headed Armlets—so breath-taking in detail and workmanship as to put in question, at least for me, whether we have as a species truly innovated or progressed in craftsmanship since 5 BC!

A glamorous gathering of high-profile guests was especially appreciative of both the message and timing of this cultural diplomacy. In his speech Neil Macgregor recognized the desire of the diaspora Iranian community to move beyond the confines of today’s political axis, and CNN legend Christiane Amanpour affirmed the same dynamic in her after-dinner dialogue with the BM Director.

A project that has received an extraordinary level of support from sources as wide-ranging as art collectors, cultural patrons and Foundations such as the Soudavar and the Ansary, as well as the Iran-American Jewish Federation of NY, the Cylinder will travel to four other major US destinations and carry on its fragile frame the hopes of many Iranians for a better understanding of their civilization and presence on the world stage.

Photos © Hasan Sarbakhshain, 2013