Temple ruins at Hatra, Iraq circa 1988. © http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Victrav

Museums told not to ignore cultural destruction in Iraq and Syria

Nicola Sullivan, 15.04.2015
V&A director Martin Roth calls on sector to offer support
Museums have a critical role to play in helping people working for cultural institutions in Syria and Iraq cope with the devastating destruction of cultural sites and artefacts by Islamic State (IS) militants.

Speaking at a press briefing ahead of the Culture in Crisis conference, held at the Victoria and Albert (V&A) museum yesterday, director Martin Roth said museums have a duty “not to close their eyes” to the desecration of ancient sites in territories held by IS.
 
The most recent reports focus on an IS propaganda video showing militants using explosives to obliterate the ancient city of Nimrud, which is near the northern Iraqi city of Mosul.
  
Jonathan Tubb, the keeper of the Middle East department at the British Museum, said that while nothing could be done on the ground at the moment, measures needed to be put in place so that work to restore the damage could begin when the affected areas were liberated.
 
The British Museum has proposed a programme, to be run in conjunction with authorities in Iraq, that would see curators and archaeologists come to the UK to receive training in emergency heritage management.
 
However, during the press conference, Stefan Simon, the director of the Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage at Yale University, said it was challenging for Iraqi and Syrian experts to get visas to come to Europe and learn heritage disaster management. “You can destroy the artefacts in a museum in just a few hours, but you need half a year to get a visa to come to this country", he said.
 
“This attempt to wipe out our cultural identity, to wipe out our roots definitely requires global response.”

The Culture in Crisis conference was organised by the V&A in collaboration with the Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage at Yale University.

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