The Triumphal Arch in NYC

By: Bryony Smerdon

 The speakers gather under the Triumphal Arch of Palmyra after its unveiling

The speakers gather under the Triumphal Arch of Palmyra after its unveiling

On Monday 19th September, the Triumphal Arch of Palmyra was unveiled in New York City. This was a particularly important moment for the IDA and its partners, and one that could not have occurred at a more relevant political juncture. It had not been anticipated that the official unveil would coincide with a city-wide terrorist manhunt, governmental discussions with the UN regarding Syria, or a downpour of Biblical proportions. Regardless of these stressors, the arch’s cover was lifted just after 1pm, revealing the stunning 11 tonnes of carved Egyptian marble to members of the press and public in City Hall Park. The arch received thousands of visitors during its five day residency in the park, including groups of Syrian nationals, for whom the installation seemed particularly poignant.

Throughout the week the IDA also hosted a number of educational events to coincide with the public installation of the Triumphal Arch in front of City Hall.  One such exhibition, which will continue to run at the Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library until the October 11th, aims to promote inclusive and accessible cultural experiences through the use of technologies such as 3D printing and tactile artefacts. This has already proven to be an incredibly successful and engaging installation, helping to bring Palmyra (and more extensively, the reality of a shared cultural tradition) to those who are blind or partially sighted. We had great fun sharing this experience with our guests, and all their lovely guide dogs!

 Dr. Alexy Karenowska describes the tactile exhibition at its opening at the NYPL Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Books Library

Dr. Alexy Karenowska describes the tactile exhibition at its opening at the NYPL Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Books Library

Amidst of this hectic week of appointments, installations and manual labour, we had time to reflect on the impact of the arch’s presence in the city at an impromptu gathering on Thursday 22nd September, which featured a tribute to the legendary musical influence of Simon and Garfunkel. The arch provided a powerful backdrop for this homage, highlighting that the reconstruction has become a symbolic monument in its own right. This architecture will continue to accumulate new socio-cultural narratives and different identities as it travels further around the globe, so watch this space!