Museum of Iraq Moving Forward

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

Rare Look Inside Baghdad Museum

(See related news from minute 2.44)

Article by: Cara Buckley at The New York Times (December 12, 2007)

BAGHDAD — For a few brief hours Tuesday, three dozen spectators — journalists, local politicians and their guards — gathered at the National Museum of Iraqhere, their voices echoing through its vast, darkened halls. It was one of the few times outsiders had been allowed inside since Baghdad fell, looters stripped the galleries of some 15,000 Mesopotamian artifacts, and the museum became a wrenching symbol of the losses of the war.Aside from a brief opening in late 2003, when officials and other guests were invited in, the museum has been shuttered since the invasion. But there has been a great push to reopen it of late. Its directors have managed to recover 4,000 missing pieces, among them gems, Islamic coins and carved stones. The pace of recovery picked up as word spread that rewards were offered for items returned.Still, the executive director, Amira Eidan, said Tuesday that she could not forecast when the museum might reopen again because restoration efforts had been slowed by insufficient financing. The cost of recovering the artifacts has consumed the bulk of her museum’s budget, and pieces sometimes have turned up at foreign auctions and been too expensive or difficult to retrieve, she said.

The museum still houses hulking centuries-old statues and intricately patterned stone panels, items too heavy for plunderers to haul off. Its most valued items, including pieces of Assyrian gold known as the Nimrud treasures, were saved because they had been sealed in crates and locked in a bank vault.

Yet on Tuesday, much of the museum’s collection remained out of sight. Many of the ancient heavy stone statues were covered in plastic. Dozens of glass display cases sat empty but for thick layers of dust. Workers were mixing epoxy in one gallery, the Assyrian Hall, where walls were lined with great stone bas-relief and little else. The 4,000 pieces that have so far been recovered remained in the museum’s underground vaults.

Ms. Eidan, who had recently said that two halls of the museum would reopen this month, said Tuesday that even if the museum was fully restored, she was not certain that the city was stable enough to ensure a safe reopening. She also lamented the illegal digging that continues at Baghdad’s 12,000 largely unguarded archaeological sites. According to Abdul Zahra al-Taliqani, a spokesman for the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Antiquities, thieves have stolen, and likely trafficked, 17,000 pieces from these sites so far.

American forces have been widely faulted for failing to protect the museum as pillaging swept Baghdad after the invasion. Concern over the museum’s fate peaked again in August 2006, when the museum’s director, Donny George, resigned and left Iraq, saying he had been threatened by extremists with ties to the Shiite-led government.

The museum visit on Tuesday, a media event, was organized by Ahmad Chalabi, the Shiite politician and former exile leader who helped shape the Pentagon’s case for war. By organizing the visit, Mr. Chalabi sought to highlight the museum’s restoration efforts and insert himself in the recovery process. Before a row of photographers and cameramen, he presented the museum’s director with some 400 missing artifacts that he had procured through a friend.

“We need help from international experts,” he told Ms. Eidan. “We have so many more missing pieces, we need to do active search to get them back.”

In violence in Baghdad on Tuesday, two policemen were killed when a car bomb exploded near security booths guarding the homes of Ayad Allawi, the former prime minister, and Saleh al-Mutlak, a member of Parliament.

Mr. Mutlak is the head of the Sunni-Arab party, the National Dialogue Front. Twelve policemen and guards were wounded, though neither Mr. Allawi nor Mr. Mutlak was hurt.

Video: Mosaic, April 14, 2003

Museum of Iraq for the International Museums Day

Cuneiform script at Brooklyn MuseumTo celebrate the International Museum Day, at lamusediffuse we have started a new Flickr group called Museum of Iraq 2.0 Our goal is sharing photos on Sumerian, Assyrian, Babylonian, Mesopotamia or Iraqi art, artifacts and cultural heritage disseminated in collections from all over the world. We want to create an online reference for all those who love that museum by gathering photos and videos of art and artifacts from Iraq.
After the Cadlelight Vigil for the Iraq Museum and because today is a day internationally devoted to Universal Heritage, why do not we re-open that wonderful museum, although virtually. If it is not possible in Baghdad, we can do it online from outside. Any volunteer for a Second Life one?

Día Internacional de los Museos: Patrimonio ¿Universal?

Este año, el Día Internacional de los Museos está dedicado al Patrimonio Universal. Con motivo de esta celebración el Consejo Internacional de Museos (ICOM) recoge en su página web un listado de las actividades que tendrán lugar en todo el mundo. Lo más probable es que, afortunadamente, tu país figure entre los que estén organizando actividades. Pero en e-artcasting queremos subrayar la presencia de “los que no están”.

Las razones por las cuales ciertos países del mundo no tienen información disponible en internet sobre sus museos y su patrimonio cultural son complejas a la vez que tristes, tal como estamos comprobando en nuestra investigación sobre museos en Libia. Esta falta de presencia en internet provoca que la indiferencia mundial esté encubriendo los saqueos masivos de los que están siendo víctimas ciertas áreas del mundo. e-arcasting colaboró recientemente en la campaña de sensibilización y recuerdo del saqueo al Museo Nacional de Irak y participó activamente en la vigilia celebrada en San Francisco el mes pasado. Sin embargo, muchos son los que están haciendo una tremenda labor por la recuperación de los artefactos robados, como los que ayer y hoy mismo están siendo robados en Irak.

Aunque el blog de Francis Deblauwe, The Irak War and Archaeology Blog, se dejó de editar hace ya casi un año, todavía podréis encontrar en él magníficos recursos y enlaces sobre el tema que esperamos os hagan más conscientes de la gravedad del problema.

SAFE, Saving Antiquities for Everyone, la organización con la que hemos estado colaborando recientemente en la vigilia a la luz de las velas para recordar el saqueo del Museo Nacional de Irak, también publica en su página web interesantísimos recursos y enlaces.

Asimismo, otra página compilatoria de recursos llamada Iraq Museum International, también incluye con interesantes enlaces sobre el tema entre los que destacamos el maravilloso Museum Open Directory.

Pero mientras nosotros estamos aquí tratando de evitar el pillaje y colaborando en la recuperación objetos robados a sus museos, los museos (aquellos en los que la seguridad de sus colecciones no está en inmediato peligro) parecen estar en otros menesteres. Así pues, el debate del papel contemporáneo de los museos en la sociedad tecnológica, la “cultura del espectáculo” y el papel de las tecnologías interactivas en ellos parece seguir siendo controvertido a juzgar por el artículo de Román Gubern, “¿Han desertado las musas de nuestros museos?”

Aunque entendemos que Gubern está dirigiendo sus críticas a aquellos museos cuyos directores parecen preocuparse más de las fiestas y de su propia persona que de los contenidos de sus colecciones y la consolidación de su valor, queremos subrayar que el papel de la tecnología en los museos ha de ser siempre positivo, pues es un instrumento que complementa los objetivos de los propios museos. De hecho, nuestro objetivo fundamental en lamusediffuse es utilizar las tecnologías sociales para hacer la cultura accesible a todo el mundo, ya se trate de un Rembrandt o del último premio Turner.

De modo que ¿por qué no dedicamos este Día Internacional de los Museos a hacer un positivo de estas tecnologías para los museos? El reto que te proponemos es compartir información sobre museos de algún país que no figure en la lista de celebraciones del ICOM. Nosotros hemos empezado con Libia.

Imagen: Duimdog: Jamahiriya Museum en Tripoli, publicada en abril del 2006.

>What People Say… about the National Museum of Iraq: Raising Awareness on that Shameful Looting to the Humankind


What people say about the National Museum of Iraq in Baghdad is certainly not enough. The shame that the looting of Iraq Museum in Baghdad meant to the so called “civilization” is nothing in comparison with its irreversible loss, better said: our irreversible loss. That crime was something that not only affected thousands of museum professionals, archaeologists, art historians, and researchers from all over the world; that crime was a looting of our history, of our humankind heritage.

The first sentences of the Iraq Museum Database created by the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago can give an accurate vision of the scope of the looting,

No other museum can rival the collections of Mesopotamian artifacts in the Iraq Museum. Spanning a time from before 9,000 B.C. well into to the Islamic period, the Iraq Museum’s collections includes some of the earliest tools man ever made, painted polychrome ceramics from the 6th millennium B.C., a relief-decorated cult vase from Uruk, famous gold treasures from the Royal Cemetery at Ur, Sumerian votive statues from Tell Asmar, Assyrian reliefs and bull figures from the Assyrian capitals of Nimrud, Nineveh, and Khorsabad, and Islamic pottery and coins–an unrivaled treasure not only for Iraq, but for all mankind.

To the ones who maybe could think that the stolen objects be recovered with a lot of effort, money and politics’ will; we would say that nothing can be done to retrieve Iraqi antiquities to their original state before the looting, nothing. Apart from the massive pillage, lots of art works were literally destroyed and smashed as you could see in the video titled “Remember Iraq’s Heritage, Our Heritage” posted on the social software by non-profit organization Saving Antiquities for Everyone (SAFE.) This organization dedicated to preserve cultural heritage worldwide has organized “A Candlelight Vigil for the Iraq Museum” to raise awareness about that terrible crime.

April 10-12, 2007 will be the fourth anniversary of the looting of the Iraq Museum in Baghdad. SAFE/Saving Antiquities for Everyone is organizing a worldwide candlelight vigil to end the looting and destruction of cultural heritage in Iraq, and around the world.

With that aim, SAFE has interviewed Dr. Doony George Houkhanna, former responsible of Iraq Museum in Baghdad’s collection and currently visiting professor of Stony Brook University, in a video that we wish you will hopefully help to spread in blogs, workplaces and classrooms.

On April 10, 2003 news broke that shook the world. During three days and nights, thousands of priceless artifacts from the cradle of civilization were systematically looted from the Iraq Museum in Baghdad. As Director of Research, Dr. Doony George Houkhanna has been responsible of the museum’s collection for decades and became a witness to a terrible event.

lamusediffuse, the organization behind e-artcasting project, is an international collaborative team exploring the forms, impact, and possibilities of electronic technologies in contemporary culture. Our mission is improving lives for individuals by improving access to culture through digital technologies and their creations, and in fact, some of us are from Baghdad. Witnessing the looting that our beloved country has suffered and still does exceeds the irreparable impact of the pillage at National Museum of Iraq in Baghdad, as it is accurately underlined by Dr. Houkhanna when he speaks about the loss and destruction in Iraqi excavations. As Dr. Houkhanna proposes, “Let’s gather together and see what we can do, so that people will not forget what happened.”

In addition to SAFE, some other organizations have implemented praiseworthy initiatives for the Iraqi cultural relief. Apart from the cited Oriental Institute of Chicago and its comprehensive website Lost Treasures from Iraq, the International Council of Museums (ICOM) has implemented a specific webpage entitled Resources on Iraqi Museum Collections in addition to the Emergency Red List of Iraqi Antiquities at Risk, which has been placed among other sad and shameful bunch of red lists on cultural heritage. Do not also forget to check the comprehensive SAFE List of Resources on Iraq.

“A Candlelight Vigil for the Iraq Museum” will take place on April 10-12, 2007 to, “show your support for Iraq. Demand the return of the missing Iraq Museums artifacts. And demand the end of the looting and destruction of the world’s cultural heritage.” lamusediffuse will of course join this wonderful initiative and we will do it in different places.

At the moment, one of the venues in which we will be part of and where can not be a better context because it is a museum professional meeting, the Museums and the Web 2007 International Conference for Culture and Heritage Online at San Francisco. Another venue we are trying to implement will be at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago. We will provide you more specific details about it at e-artcasting.

However, in some places this gathering call is going to have no visible face, because life for Iraqis working for humankind’s culture is not easy, as Dr. Houkhanna explains to Cindy Ho in this 38-minute interview to SAFE. We will be there, be sure. We just need you too.

SAFE: Flyer of “A Candlelight Vigil for the Iraq Museum.” 2007
savingantiquities: Remember Iraq‘s Heritage, Our Heritage. Posted on March 20, 2007
namirkh: End of Civilization. Posted on February 15, 2007
BI30: “Stuff Happens!” – Rumsfeld on looting after fall of Baghdad. Posted on August 01, 2006

>Lo que la gente dice… del Museo Nacional de Irak: concienciando sobre aquel vergonzoso saqueo a la humanidad


Lo que la gente dice del Museo Nacional de Irak en Bagdad está siendo ciertamente insuficiente. La vergüenza que el saqueo del museo de Irak en Bagdad supuso a la así llamada “civilización” no es nada en comparación con su irreversible pérdica, mejor dicho: nuestra irreversible pérdida. Ese delito fue algo que no sólo afectó a los miles de profesionales de museos, arqueólogos, historiadores del arte, o investigadores de todo el mundo; ese delito fue un saqueo a nuestra historia, al patrimonio de la humanidad.

Las primeras frases de la Base de Datos sobre el Museo de Irak creada por el Oriental Institute of Chicago de la Universidad de Chicago, pueden proporcionar una idea muy ajustada del alcance del saqueo:

Ningún otro museo puede competir con las colecciones de artefactos mesopotámicos del Museo de Irak. Abarcando un período desde antes del año 9.000 A.C. bien adentrado en el Período Islámico, las colecciones del Museo de Irak incluyen algunas de las más tempranas herramientas hechas por el ser humano, cerámicas policromadas del sexto milenio A.C., un vaso ceremonial decorado con relieves de Uruk, famosos tesoros de oro del Cementerio Real de Ur, estatuas votivas sumerias de Tell Asmar, relieves asirios y figuras taurinas de las capitales asirias de Nimrud, Nineveh y Khorsabad, y cerámica islámica y monedas –un tesoro sin rival no sólo para Irak, sino para toda la humanidad.

A quienes quizá puedan pensar que los objetos robados serán recuperados con mucho esfuerzo, dinero y voluntad política, les diríamos que nada se puede hacer para recuperar las antiguedades iraquíes a su estado orginal previo al saqueo, nada. Además del pillaje masivo, infinidad de obras de arte fueron literalmente destruidas y machacadas, tal como puedes ver el vídeo titulado “Recuerda el patrimonio de Irak, nuestro patrimonio”, publicado en el software social por la organización sin ánimo de lucro Saving Antiquities for Everyone (SAFE) (Salvando Antigüedades para Todos). Esta organización dedicada a preservar el patrimonio cultural en todo el mundo ha organizado “Una llamada de alerta a la luz de las velas por el Museo de Irak” para concienciar sobre aquel terrible delito.

Del 10 al 12 de abril de 2007 será el cuarto aniversario del saqueo del Museo de Irak en Bagdad. SAFE/Salvando Antigüedades para Todos está organizando una llamada de alerta a la luz de las velas en todo el mundo para finalizar con el saqueo y la destrucción del patrimonio cultural en Irak y en todo el mundo.

Con esa intención, SAFE ha entrevistado al doctor Doony George Houkhanna, antiguo responsable de la colección del Museo de Irak en Bagdad y, en la actualidad, profesor visitante de la Universidad Stony Brook, en un vídeo que deseamos nos ayudes a difundir en blogs, lugares de trabajo y aulas.

El 10 de abril del 2003 una noticia sacudió el mundo. Durante tres días y tres noches, miles de artefactos de incalculable valor de la cuna de la civilización fueron sistemáticamente saqueados del Museo de Irak en Bagdad. Como Director de Investigación, el doctor Doony George Houkhanna ha sido responsable de la colección del museo durante décadas y testigo de un terrible acontecimiento.

lamusediffuse, la organización que se haya detrás del proyecto e-artcasting, es un equipo de proyectos colaborativos que explora las formas, el impacto y las posibilidades de las tecnologías electrónicas en la cultura contemporánea. Nuestro objetivo es mejorar la vida de las personas mediante la mejora del accesso a la cultura a través de las tecnologías digitales y sus creaciones y, de hecho, algunos de nosotros somos de Bagdad. Ser testigos del saqueo al que nuestro amado país fue y está siendo sometido excede el daño irreparable del pillage en el Museo Nacional de Irak en Bagdad, como acertadamente señala el doctor Houkhanna cuando habla de la pérdida y destrucción en las excavaciones iraquíes. Tal como propone el doctor Houkhanna: “Unámonos todos y veámos que es lo que podemos hacer, así la gente no olvidará lo que sucedió”.

Además de SAFE, otras organizaciones han puesto en marcha iniciativas dignas de elogio para ayudar a la cultura iraquí. Aparte del anteriormente citado Instituto Oriental de Chicago y su completa página web Tesoros perdidos de Irak, el Consejo Internacional de Museos (ICOM en sus siglas en inglés) ha puesto en marcha una página web llamada Recursos sobre las colecciones del Museo de Irak en añadidura a la Lista roja de emergencia de antigüedades iraquíes en peligro que ha sido puesta entre otro triste y vergonzoso grupo de listas rojas sobre patrimonio cultural. No olvides además visitar la completa Lista de recursos sobre Irak de SAFE.

“Una llamada de alerta a la luz de las velas por el Museo de Irak” tendrá lugar entre el 10 y el 12 de abril del 2007 para “mostrar nuestro apoyo a Irak. Reclama la devolución de los artefactos perdidos del Museo de Irak. Y reclama el final del saqueo y la destrucción del patrimonio cultural del mundo”. lamusediffuse por supuesto se sumará a esta maravillosa iniciativa y lo haremos en distintos lugares.

De momento, una de nuestras celebraciones no puede ser en mejor ocasión que la de un encuentro de profesionales de museos: la Conferencia Internacional Museos y la Web 2007 por la Cultura y el Patrimonio en Internet en San Francisco. Otra celebración que estamos intentando poner en marcha es en el Instituto Oriental de la Universidad de Chicago. Iremos dando más detalles sobre ello en e-artcasting.

En cualquier caso, en algunos lugares esta llamada no va a tener una cara visible, ya que la vida para los iraquíes del ámbito de la cultura no es fácil, tal como el Dooney George Houkhanna explica a Cindy Ho en esta entrevista de 38 minutos concedida a SAFE. Nosotros estaremos ahí, estad seguros. Sólo necesitamos que vosotros también.

SAFE: Cartel de “Una llamada de alerta a la luz de las velas por el Museo de Irak”. 2007
savingantiquities: Recuerda el patrimonio de Irak, nuestro patrimonio. Publicado el 20 de marzo del 2007.
namirkh: El fin de la civilización. Publicado el 15 de febrero de 2007
BI30: ¡Cosas que pasan! – Rumsfeld sobre el saqueo después de la caída de Bagdad. Publicado el 1 de agosto de 2006



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