British Museum to help Iraq reconstruct archaeological sites - Museums Association

British Museum to help Iraq reconstruct archaeological sites

Work supported by £3m grant from DCMS
London’s British Museum is to train a group of Iraqi heritage professionals to deal with the aftermath of Islamic State’s destruction of archaeological sites such as Nineveh, Nimrud and Hatra.

The Iraqi Emergency Heritage Management project is funded by a £3m grant from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), which was announced today.

The British Museum intends to recruit two archaeologists who have extensive field experience in the region. They will work over a five-year period to lead a six-month training programme to run twice a year. Five heritage sector Iraqi professionals will be invited for each course, spending three months at the British Museum and three months in Iraq.

The archaeologists will return to Iraq with the trainees to put into practice the skills and techniques they have learned. They will set up programmes within their respective institutions to develop programmes for managing archaeological sites. Excavation projects will be created with the State Board of Antiquities of Iraq to teach detailed techniques of rescue archaeology.

“Thanks to DCMS we can at last do more than monitor from afar the relentless assault on Iraq’s cultural heritage,” said Jonathan Tubb, the keeper of Middle East at the British Museum.

“By preparing our Iraqi colleagues for the day when sites are returned to their control, we are confident that they will know how to systematically record what has been destroyed and employ state of the art technology to allow for reconstruction.”

The British Museum acknowledges that the scheme cannot stop further acts of cultural destruction, because situation on the ground in Iraq prevents direct intervention to protect those ancient sites that are held by Islamic State. Instead, the aim is to plan for the day when the territory is returned to effective and legitimate governmental control.

The programme will build on the British Museum’s work with heritage professionals in Iraq following the damage to Iraqi cultural heritage as a result of the last conflict in the region.

A present there are no plans to roll this initiative out to Syria and Yemen, although the British Museum said it could provide a template to use if the situation in those countries improves.

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