Iraq’s National Museum is scheduled to open on Monday, 2/23, unless it isn’t. Controversy rages over which ministry controls the museum, amid continued worries about security.
On February 11, Dr. Zainab al Bahrani, a former curator of the Met, Dr. Lamia al Gailani, a former curator of the Iraq National Museum, Dr. Donny George Youkhanna, a former Chair of Iraq’s Board of Antiquities and Heritage, and two others, signed a letter to Iraq’s government requesting postponement of the opening of the National Museum, for security reasons. The full text is available here.
The reopening would be a great step forward for Baghdad and Iraq. The collection, even reduced by looting, is one of the country’s crown jewels. The positive economic value of museums for tourism and education is undisputed, and much-needed in Iraq. However, it would be tragic to incur any further loss due to inadequate security, which is tantamount in a country with shaky peace. Over 12,000 items were stolen after the 2003 invasion, only half of which have been returned.