Cultural Heritage Projects
Iraq Cultural Heritage Project: The Iraq Cultural Heritage Project (ICHP) is a multi-tiered cultural heritage project funded through the U.S. Embassy Baghdad. ICHP, the embassy’s largest cultural heritage grant to date, was completed in April 2011. This multi-tiered cultural heritage provided upgrades to the Iraq Museum in Baghdad, provided professional development training in the United States, and established a conservation institute in-country. The infrastructure upgrades to the Iraq Museum focused on the new wing of the building, and included refurbishing eleven exhibit halls, nine conservation laboratories, three floors of collections storage facilities, and the roof. The other major component of the work was the installation of a heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system for the museum. With the completed work, modern storage facilities provide a safe and secure environment for the artifacts, while new laboratory equipment allows conservators to work on artifacts in a proper facility. The civic upgrades in the exhibit halls that have just been completed will allow museum staff to move artifacts that have remained hidden for years into the new halls this year. Pedestal repairs to the large limestone statues in the Hatra Hall provide a noticeable aesthetic improvement, but also help to stabilize the pieces. Over one hundred new exhibit cases were purchased to replace old and damaged ones. The new cases are being disbursed throughout the rehabilitated galleries and will provide a secure environment for the artifacts. All these improvements move the museum one step closer to providing staff with a professional working environment, and opening its doors to the general public once again.
ICHP also supported the establishment of the Iraqi Institute for the Conservation of Antiquities and Heritage, located in Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan, where courses were taught by international subject matter experts in artifact conservation and historic preservation. The program graduated 14 students from the Collections Conservation Management course, and 16 students from the Historic Preservation course. Eleven different provinces were represented by an even mixture of male and female students. The institute is now under the management of a specialized Iraqi board of directors, with continued support from the U.S. Embassy. The Iraq Cultural Heritage Project also provided training for 20 museum professionals from across Iraq at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, IL. Those training courses covered topics ranging from Exhibit Design and Education, to Archaeological Site Excavation and Stabilization. The main museum libraries in Baghdad and Mosul received hundreds of books, and cultural institutions across Iraq now have access to on-line periodicals through our funding the State University of New York at Stony Brook’s digitization project. Lastly, six archaeological site reports have been translated from Arabic to English by The American Academic Research Institute in Iraq (TAARII), and are either already published or will be in publication soon. ICHP has been able to provide Iraqi cultural heritage professionals with training in modern scientific techniques, and nourish professional relationships with their international counterparts. [Photo Gallery]
Future of Babylon Project: Our second largest grant is the Future of Babylon Project, which is funded by the United States Government. The Future of Babylon Project is a partnership between the U.S. Department of State (DOS), the Iraqi State Board of Antiquities and Heritage (SBAH), and World Monuments Fund (WMF). The project is focusing on developing a site management and conservation plan for the archaeological site of Babylon. The plan addresses immediate preservation needs, long term conservation issues, and preparing the site for future scientific study and eventual tourism. A fundamental aspect of the project is providing training for SBAH subject matter experts in order to strengthen their capacity in site management skills. To date, the site has been cleared of debris, a boundary survey is in-progress, a property plot map and visitors map are being produced, and the site history is being documented. The Ishtar Gate and Nabu sha-Khare Temple have been mapped, and the management plan is underway. The DOS recently received addition funding for the project through the Ambassadors' Fund for Cultural Preservation, which was awarded to WMF. The addition funding will allow WMF to further map and provide stabilization for several of the main structures on site, and prepare detailed documentation to address and remove water drainage problems at Ishtar Gate, and several of the temples. In addition, environmental monitoring systems will be installed on the structures, and training for SBAH employees will continue. [Photo Gallery]
Ambassador's Fund for Cultural Preservation: The Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation (AFCP) was created by the United States Congress ten years ago, in support of cultural heritage projects worldwide. Each year U.S. Embassies posted across the globe are given the opportunity to submit projects for cultural heritage venues in need of assistance. U.S. Embassy Baghdad has completed two cultural heritage preservation projects with AFCP funding, providing a generator for the National Library and Archives (INLA) in 2007, and collections storage cabinets for the Iraqi Heritage House of Historical Textiles and Ceramics Preservation in 2008. The INLA generator project compensates for the intermittent city power supplied in Baghdad. The generator provides the library with consistent power to run equipment in the conservation laboratory, micrographic department, and the IT department. In addition, power for air conditioning and heating units in the public reading rooms are now reliable due to the generator. Textiles and ceramics housed in the Iraqi Heritage House of Historical Textiles and Ceramics suffered damage during looting in 2003. Staff were eventually able to repair and recreate hundreds of textiles and ceramics, but lacked capacity to store and care for objects, and had no means of cataloging items. The AFCP provided funding to purchase display cabinets for storage, as well as computers and other office equipment for documenting collections. Future projects are pending for the year 2011. [Photo Gallery]
Provincial Support: Our office worked in partnership with the Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) stationed in the 18 provinces across Iraq on cultural heritage projects. Work with the Public Diplomacy Officers at the PRTs supported infrastructure upgrades at provincial museums in Kirkuk, Babil, Mosul, and the suburbs of Baghdad. The majority of provincial museum collections are currently stored at the Iraq Museum in Baghdad. The upgrades provided by the PRTs have readied the provincial museums for the eventual return of their collections. Upgrades have been completed at the Agar Quf site museum, the Babylon site museum, and the Kirkuk and Mosul Provincial Museums. In addition to supporting work at the local museums, the PRTs provided funding to repair and paint visitor wall murals at Babylon, a skylight project at Nimrud, a fence project at Kish, and a stabilization project at St. Elijah’s Monastery in Mosul. A sidewalk and fence project was completed at Ur, and a visitor sign project just wrapped up at Uruk. Projects are still pending in the Ninewa and Baghdad Provinces. Other support has been in the form of our office designing, printing and donating cultural heritage display posters to museums in Nasiriyah, Tikrit and Baghdad. We plan on providing as much support as we can during the remaining year. [Photo Gallery]
Upcoming Projects: The Embassy proactively seeks programming that builds on or compliments existing projects. In 2011 we will have a Museum Residencies Program underway, which will partner U.S. based institutions with Iraqi professional and emerging museum specialists to participate in month-long internships. Details of the program will be posted soon as more information is available. In addition, opportunities for U.S. based universities to partner with Iraq’s antiquities authorities in field training methods are forthcoming.