Syrian family help Scots museum tell story of ancient glass collection

The family are helping Paisley Museum shed light on the history of Syrian glass dating back over 2,000 years.

It’s Scotland’s largest cultural heritage projects and when the Paisley Museum reopens next year, it will feature ancient glass artefacts from Syria.

A Syrian family, who fled conflict in the country in 2015 and have since made Scotland their home, have been working with curators to tell the stories of the 2,000-year-old items in the collection.

The museum is currently undergoing a £45m transformation and is set to reopen in 2024 when these items will be put on public display.

Glass was invented in Syria 4,000 years ago and is a prominent feature in mosques and other buildings.

Hajar Ayyash, 11, told STV News: “It’s really cool, describing something invented 4,000 years ago. Some of the glass is used for mascara, perfume, shampoo, they don’t use regular shampoo, it’s just like soap.”

Kassem Ayyash, now living in Paisley added: “This is my dream to see that in Scotland. I didn’t see it before in my country but I’m happy to see it here.

A glass jug, part of the collection at Paisley Museum

“Scotland’s like a second country for me, maybe in the future it’ll be a first country for me because Syria is not safe at this moment.”

When the family fled the war in 2015, Hiba Almasri was pregnant with their daughter. 

She’s now studying and settling into their new family life.

She said: “Scotland is very beautiful and the people are very nice. I’m very happy here.

“I’m learning English, level two, three, four, to intermediate and I am learning beauty at level four.”

Work to identify the cultural links between the glass and the Syrian community began in 2018.

Kirsty Devine, project manager at Paisley Museum said: “It’s their generosity and their knowledge that’s really expanded our knowledge about the collection we hold here, the stories we can tell and the importance of the Syrian glass.

“It’s a long relationship but one we really enjoy and have massively benefitted from.”

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