Sunday, September 13, 2009

Iraq’s ancient history in danger

Culture Ministry is ashamed of Erbil Museum
Erbil/ Mariwan Faydullah Salihi
Erbil’s Civilization Museum is a disgrace to Kurdistan’s reputation, says Kanaan Mufti, General Director of the Kurdistan Region Culture Ministry.
“I would be seriously ashamed to take foreign delegations and guests there,” Mufti, the former director of the museum, says.
The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is planning to build a modern Kurdistan National Museum. The new museum will be built and supervised according to international standards, says Mufti. He adds that the KRG will start the project in the first quarter of 2010. The location for the ambitious project – estimated budget not less than 25 million US dollars – is still to be decided upon.
The Civilization Museum, located in downtown Erbil, has not seen any major changes since its relocation in 1989 to the current location. “The museum is in a bad situation, acknowledges Nehayat Abdullah, the current director of the Erbil Civilization Museum.
The rare and valuable artifacts are displayed in halls without climate-control and alarm-system. The numbers of surveillance guards are seven, but only two are awake after 12 midnight.
Abdullah has high hopes of the new, national museum. According to her, the new planned museum will be like any other national museum in the world. “Ours is focused on Kurdistan’s history, including the civilizations of Mesopotamia,” she explains. Her statement was also confirmed by Mufti.
At the end of 2009, Iraq’s first Institute of Archaeology will open in Erbil. It’s funded by the US State Department, the KRG and the UNESCO. “This Institute is vital to our museum and archaeology in general, in Erbil and the rest of Iraq. It will teach and bring us new preservation techniques, never used here before. Currently, our items are unprotected. We don’t use preservation methods here,” says Abdullah.
Erbil’s Civilization Museum, supervised by the Erbil Antiquities Department, a subsidiary of the Tourism Ministry has a collection of around 3,500 items. Its artifacts are displayed in three middle-sized halls dedicated to the Neanderthalers and the Stone Age, the ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia (Sumerian, Assyrian, Babylonian and pre-Islamic Arabian) and the Islamic Abbassid Period. The entrance hall is dedicated to Kurdish folkloric items not older than 200 years.
The capital of Kurdistan Region, Erbil, is located 350 km north of Baghdad. It is Iraq’s most stable and secure area. They often call Erbil the next Dubai, for the its massive new construction sites of shopping malls, five-star hotels and luxurious residential compounds.

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