L’Enfant Plaza’s exploding trinkets


Gold funerary mask from Saudi Arabia, 1st century C.E. from the “Roads of Arabia” exhibit opening next month at the Sackler Gallery. (Courtesy National Museum, Riyadh)

The building was evacuated, we’re told, nearby streets were closed for a few hours and Metro closed the Maryland Avenue SW/Seventh Street entrance to the L’Enfant Plaza station.

Seems the Smithsonian is putting on an exhibit in November at the Sackler Gallery of ancient Saudi Arabian art and artifacts.

The Saudi museum that put the exhibit together may have provided samples of items it had sold in its gift shop in conjunction with the show — or a vendor may have sent some unsolicited samples.

The problem apparently was that the crate didn’t arrive at the office that was handling the exhibition but rather at the Smithsonian office that runs the gift shops for the museums. Worse yet, the crate was, naturally, covered with Arabic script. Uh-oh.

Building security personnel were called. The security folks, our colleague Peter Hermann reports, then called in the D.C. police bomb squad. We’re told the squad detected wires among the contents of the crate. A spokesperson said only that “miscellanous items, no hazardous material” were discovered.

The crate was safely exploded outside, near or on the loading dock. (So much for the lovely trinkets.)

All in a day’s work.

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993.

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