After the campaign for raising awareness on the looting of the National Museum of Iraq, there is some hope about the recovering of such a marvellous museum,
The Baghdad Museum, which has been sealed with concrete, is to be reopened to staff. Shortly before antiquities head Donny George went into exile last August, he had all the entrances to the building blocked, because of the deteriorating security situation in Baghdad. Dr George admitted that this could have created environmental problems, but he felt it was too dangerous to protect the museum with just locked doors.
Dr Abbas al-Hussainy, the new director of the state board of antiquities, told The Art Newspaper last month that he is now “very worried about underground water”. This could cause dampness, or even flooding, since the museum is located close to the Tigris. Ivories and cuneiform tablets would be particularly vulnerable. There are also concerns that rats may have multiplied in the museum over the past year.
After facing the dilemma of having to balance security and environmental risks, Dr Abbas has decided that the building should be reopened to staff. In the current security situation, there is no immediate prospect of the museum being open to visitors.
The Italian government recently provided a massive steel security door for the Baghdad museum. Last month a gap was breached in the wall and the new door was cemented into place. Beyond the security door there are two further locked doors, and when we went to press, these had not been entered, so conditions inside the stores still remain unknown.
Dr Abbas also revealed that there have been three attempts by Coalition troops to enter the museum and antiquities office in the past two months. The first two incidents involved Americans. On the first occasion they forced their way into the compound (but not the buildings); there was a similar incident a week later. On the third occasion a group of westerners in civilian clothing brandished an unsigned letter of authority, but retreated on being questioned.
Meanwhile the British Museum is in discussions with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport about financial assistance to aid the Baghdad museum and Iraq’s archaeological service. (The Art Newspaper)
However, the reopening of the museum still seems to be very far. In addition to the important budget constraints for the rehabilitation of the building, the recovering of the looted artifacts and the restauration of the remaining pieces; another crucial problem is the lack of security for protential visitors. For this reason at lamusediffuse we have started a project on Flickr called “Museum of Iraq 2.0” on Photos on Iraqi art, artifacts and cultural heritage disseminated in collections from all over the world. Add to this pool all the art works which belonged to the looted National Museum of Iraq in Baghdad or are part of the Iraqi Heritage and currently are in other museums’ collections. We are looking forward your contributions to make this museum and Iraqi culture open to everybody.
Image: Wahish: Beauty, 2006