Advocacy News

March 22, 2003

Task Force on the Cultural Heritage of Iraq

In response to the recent looting of Iraqi museums and other cultural institutions, the AIA has formed a Task Force on the Cultural Heritage of Iraq, chaired by AIA President, Jane Waldbaum. We are working with the State Department, other branches of the U.S. government, and other cultural organizations to assist in the restoration of artifacts and manuscripts stolen from Iraq. Intervention must be swift in order to ensure that the antiquities are recovered prior to their removal from Iraq, or rapidly repatriated if they have left the country. The AIA’s Declaration on the Protection of Iraq’s Cultural Heritage, written in March, was communicated to the Department of Defense before the war began. Another letter specifically urging the protection of Iraqi cultural heritage sites and museums against looting was sent to the White House, the Department of Defense and the Department of State on April 9, days before the looting began. Secretary of State Colin Powell has now announced his support for the restoration of the museums and their contents. Updates on the Task Force’s progress will be posted on this website, as will any information about the recovery/repatriation of the antiquities of Iraq.

The AIA is compiling a list of scholars and others with expertise on the archaeological and cultural heritage of Iraq and who would be able to respond to various needs regarding the cultural heritage crisis in Iraq. Information on participating is available online.

A discussion board on Looting of Cultural Heritage in Iraq has just been established. This forum is intended to facilitate the exchange of ideas regarding the recovery and repatriation of dispersed antiquities, as well as the rebuilding of Iraqi cultural facilities and institutions.

International Appeals
In addition to the AIA’s efforts, numerous international groups are providing guidance on how to deal with the current crisis. Museums, governments and international associations are offering expert advice and assistance.

Documenting the Looted Artifacts
The true scope of the looting may never be known, but many of the artifacts removed from the Baghdad museum were previously photographed. Several efforts are underway to compile these images online.

  • The Art Newspaper has scanned and posted around 300 artifacts from a detailed museum catalogue. Guidelines on how to identify and report the items are included.
  • The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago is posting images in a categorized index of items from the museum. The images are derived from their own archives and from other publications they have been given permission to reproduce.

Iraq in the News
There has been substantial press coverage of the current situation in Iraq. Several sites are keeping up with all of the news.

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