Maysoon al-Damluji, former Iraqi deputy culture minister, cuts the ribbon to open the Basra Museum

Basra Museum opens first gallery

Patrick Steel, 04.10.2016
Fundraising continues to complete restoration and open remaining galleries
The Basra Museum in Iraq opened its first gallery to the public last week, the culmination of an eight-year project to create a museum dedicated to the history and archaeology of Southern Iraq.

The gallery displays artefacts dating from 300BC to the 18th century from the region, including silver coins minted in Basra, pottery vases, coffins and tiles. Many of the objects in the gallery were returned from Baghdad, where they had been sent for safe-keeping prior to the 2003 war.

“It has been eight years of quiet persistence,” said Clare Bebbington, a trustee of the UK-based Friends of Basrah Museum. “But the opening exceeded all of our expectations, and the launch was attended by more than 200 people from Iraqi government ministers to local teenagers.

“We were thrilled by the quality of the exhibition.”

The museum, supported by the Iraq Ministry of Culture, the Iraq State Board of Antiquities, and the Friends of Basrah Museum, raised around £500,000 towards the opening, the majority of which was granted by BP, the project’s principal donor, while the British Museum and the British Army were instrumental in launching the project.

The museum was due to open last year, but was delayed after a $2.6m grant from the Basra Provincial Council was frozen. The grant funding has still not been transferred to the museum.

Meanwhile, the Friends of Basrah Museum have applied to the Cultural Protection Fund for funds to open the remaining galleries, and a decision on this is expected in November.

And the museum’s director, Qahtan Alabeed, is seeking further funds to complete the restoration of the building - formerly Saddam Hussein’s Lakeside Palace - modernise the air conditioning system, and create an educational facility.

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