Saturday, August 29, 2009

Better Late than Never: Iraq Museum Told to Register Possessions Anew

Archaeologists and Iraqi officials have been quick to vilify collectors and to assume any Mesopotamian antiquity "must be stolen," but they have evidently been all too slow to track exactly what the Iraq Museum's collection actually holds.

"Azzam" (via the Iraq Crisis List) reports that the Iraq Museum has finally been ordered to complete a proper inventory of its collections.

The article can be found here:

It states in full:

Iraq Museum told to register possessions anew

By Zainab al-Rubai

Azzaman, August 28, 2009

The government has set up a commission to recount Iraq Museum possessions in the light of the standards applied in international museums, an Antiquities Department official said.

Abdulzahra Talaqani, the department’s information officer, said the registering of the possessions is part of measures by the government to check smuggling and trace items stolen from the museum.

Not only relics on display will be recounted, but also items kept in the museum’s stores and warehouses, Talaqani said.

Prior to the 2003-U.S. invasion, in the early days of which the museum was looted, Iraq boasted of having about 200,000 relics worthy of display.

The number of items kept in the museum cellars such as cuneiform tablets was much higher.

These items were only displayed for scholars investigating and studying Mesopotamia.

The commission will include specialists and auditors who will oversee the inventories and registers.

“There will be constant supervision and the new count will be done in accordance to international standards,” Talaqani said.

He said each category will have its own inventory with information on the antiquity, significance, digging and excavation."

As is well documented, the archaeological community used the looting of the Iraq Museum as a cause celebre to convince the world's governments to not only enforce an international embargo on Iraqi cultural artifacts, but also to lavish millions in aid to fund the Iraq Museum and Iraqi archaeology.

Under the circmumstances, that such an inventory is only being considered now should be viewed as a scandal in its own right. It has been over six (6) years since the Iraq Museum was looted in the aftermath of the 2003 American invasion.

Where did all that money to fund Iraqi archaeology go, if not to fund a proper inventory?

Shouldn't preparing such an inventory been "job one"?

1 comment:

Ed Snible said...

A friend from India tells me that soda machines are rare there because "it's cheaper to have a person sell soda." I can imagine robotic inventory scanning machines but is there really no labor in Iraq that can cheaply inventory museums? Maybe free labor in exchange for college credit in Iraqi history?

A few weeks ago I read [ ] that "Iraqi government officials handed over 531 items, *including ancient coins* ... which had been in the possession of two unidentified members of parliament" missing from the Iraq museum. This is surprising because no coins were taken from the museum!