Iraq's people share the heritage of ancient Mesopotamia, the “cradle of Western civilization.” Human history is chronicled in sites and museums throughout the country, including the famed temples of Babylon, the Assyrian capital of Nineveh, and the spiral minaret at Samarra.
Prior to 1980, the organization responsible for preserving Iraq's heritage, the State Board of Antiquities and Heritage (SBAH), was staffed by career professionals, often with advanced degrees from abroad and decades of experience in museum management and archaeology. The Iran-Iraq war of the 1980's, the 1991 Gulf War, decades of disinterest in cultural heritage on the part of a repressive government, and the sanctions of the 1990's resulted in a precipitous reduction in Iraq's professional heritage staff, and neglect and deterioration of museum collections and archaeological and heritage sites. Iraq's heritage crisis culminated with the highly visible looting of the Iraq Museum in 2003, which drew international attention to the decades of decline in Iraq's heritage sector.
Since 2008, a truly remarkable U.S.-Iraqi partnership has been building in Erbil, the largest city in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq and home to the ancient 8,000-year-old Erbil citadel. The Iraqi Institute for the Conservation of Antiquities and Heritage (IICAH)—a collaboration between the SBAH, Kurdistan Regional Government, U.S. Embassy Baghdad, the U.S. Department of State, Winterthur Museum, University of Delaware, Walters Art Museum, Getty Conservation Institute, University of Pennsylvania, and University of Arizona—is training Iraq's museum and heritage professionals in the preservation and conservation of their national treasures, ranging from Babylonian archeological sites to exquisite ivory figures from Nimrud and golden jewelry from Ur.
The creation of a conservation and preservation training center in Iraq, now a state-of-the-art educational facility with conservation laboratories, classrooms, and dormitories, offers international-standard programs taught by international experts. IICAH participants include men and women, Arabs and Kurds, Muslims and Christians, Sunni and Shia from across Iraq—all drawn together by a shared passion for the preservation of one of the world's oldest civilizations and home to some of mankind’s most ancient artifacts.
The Iraqi Institute for the Conservation of Antiquities and Heritage to celebrate the full implementation of the Institute's academic programs. Ambassador Ereli personally delivered a letter from Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton congratulating the Institute on its successes. Read more.
The U.S. Department of State's Cultural Heritage Center has awarded $419,000 to expand and strengthen IICAH programming. This grant is just the latest financial support for the Institute, which has received a total of nearly $1.8 million in support from numerous other grants and private donations in the past year. Read more
Since its inception, the IICAH has drawn positive attention from the media. For an updated list of articles and press releases featuring the Institute, click here.
Getty Conservation Institute Iraqi State Board of Antiquities & Heritage Kurdistan Regional Government The Walters Art Museum Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library US Department of State US Embassy Baghdad University of Arizona University of Delaware, ARTC University of Delaware, IGS University of Pennsylvania