Media only: Brenda Kean Tabor, 202.633.0523
Rebecca Fahy, 202.633.0521
Public only: 202.633.1000

May 27, 2005

On Monday, May 23, the president of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, visited the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, where he was greeted by Vice President Cheney; Julian Raby, the galleries’ director; Bruce Cole, the chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities; Sheila Burke, Smithsonian deputy secretary and chief operating officer, and others, and was accompanied on a private tour of a Sackler Gallery that includes Afghan objects created along the ancient Silk Route trade route. This was the president’s first official visit to a U.S. museum.

Following the tour and remarks, Assistant Secretary Michael J. Garcia (U.S. Department of Homeland Security) presented the U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad and President Karzai with two ancient coins that had been stolen by unknown looters from the Kabul Museum and were recently recovered by U.S. customs agents.

During his presentation, Cole announced a new NEH initiative, “Rediscovering Afghanistan,” designed to promote research, education and public programs about Afghan history and culture. A private reception followed the announcement and presentation.

The Freer Gallery of Art (12th Street and Independence Avenue S.W.) and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery (1050 Independence Ave. S.W.) together form the national museum of Asian art for the United States.