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News IICAH archive joins collections at UD's Disaster Research Center

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​The Iraqi Institute for the Conservation of Antiquities and Heritage (IICAH) in Erbil, Iraq.

In 2008, the Iraqi Institute for the Conservation of Antiquities and Heritage (IICAH) was established in Erbil, Iraq as part of the US State Department's Iraq Cultural Heritage Program (ICHP). The institute would bring together the US State Department, the Iraq State Board of Antiquities and Heritage, the Kurdistan Regional Government, and various international institutions and experts, including the University of Delaware, Winterthur Museum, and the Walters Art Museum. The goal was to provide Iraqi professionals with long-term theoretical and practical training in conservation and historic preservation. Years of war and sanctions had left the Iraq cultural heritage sector unable to actively engage with the international preservation community and with limited access to resources. The IICAH has become a unique model for providing conservation training in post-conflict areas.

The success of the IICAH continues through the work of the Iraqi participants. Currently, many students are preparing with the Smithsonian to work on the Nimrud Rescue Project. These students are playing a vital role in the recovery of cultural heritage following the driving out of ISIS from Mosul by Iraqi forces in the spring of 2017. The ancient city of Nimrud sits about 20 miles south of Mosul and was destroyed by ISIS during their occupation of the region beginning in 2014.

Taylor Pearlstein, an undergraduate Art Conservation major, with support from the UD Art Conservation Department, the Disaster Research Center (DRC), and the Undergraduate Research Office, created an archive to document the work and development of the IICAH from 2008-2017. The archive will be permanently kept in the Disaster Research Center's E.L. Quarantelli Resource Collection. (Pearlstein recently received the Outstanding College Graduate Award from the Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists; read more about that award here.)

The heart of the archive features oral history interviews conducted by Pearlstein with individuals involved with the IICAH in varying capacities including American advisors, instructors, and Iraqi students. The participants interviewed ultimately included directors at the IICAH, six members of the IICAH Advisory Council, and an Iraqi student. The interviews serve to better understand the work of the IICAH including their successes, the obstacles they faced, the students and organizations they worked with, their thoughts on the future of the institute, and advice.

This research sought to begin to understand the key features of the IICAH that have allowed it to continue over these past ten years and it is hoped that this archive will serve as a resource to future cultural heritage professionals who may look to the IICAH as a model for long-term, international conservation education. Circumstances and needs may be different, but it can provide a starting point for identifying funding sources, stakeholders, obstacles, and the level of passion that is needed to move this type of project forward and preserve the world's heritage.

The archive was created as part of Pearlstein's undergraduate honors senior thesis entitled The Preservation of Memory: Archiving and Assessing the Mission to Protect Cultural Heritage in the Middle East, which may also be accessed via the Disaster Research Center (click here) or through the Undergraduate Research Program's page on UDSpace.

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ARTC major Taylor Pearlstein has created an archive to document the work and development of the Iraqi Institute for the Conservation of Antiquities and Heritage.

​ARTC major Taylor Pearlstein has created an archive to document the work and development of the Iraqi Institute for the Conservation of Antiquities and Heritage.

6/10/2018
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