Wednesday, October 22, 2008
By Riyadh Muhammad New York Times At least 15,000 items were taken from the Iraqi National Museum after 2003 and about 6,000 have since been recovered. (Photo: Iraqi National Museum) BAGHDAD — U.S. and Iraqi officials launched a two-year, $14 million initiative on Monday to help preserve Iraq’s cultural heritage. The State Department grant will create a conservation and historic preservation institute in Erbil, help refurbish the Iraqi National Museum and train museum employees. Goli Ameri, the assistant secretary of state for education and cultural affairs, unveiled the program at the Iraqi National Museum, which she said “will remain closed in the near term.” Ambassador Ryan Crocker stressed the need to create ties to Iraq beyond security agreements. “This includes cooperation in economic development, in science, in technology, in education and in culture,” he said. Thousands of cultural artifacts were been stolen from Iraq after the war began in 2003. At least 15,000 items were taken from National Museum and about 6,000 have since been recovered. “The world of course knows Iraq as the birthplace of civilization,” said Ms. Ameri, an Iranian-American on her first trip to Iraq. “And this museum is a premier repository for Iraqi history and culture and world treasure.” The initiative was first announced in Washington on Thursday by First Lady Laura Bush and the Iraqi ambassador, Samir Sumaidaie. The U.S. embassy will provide a $13 million grant to the International Relief and Development Fund and the State Department’s bureau of educational and cultural affairs will provide an additional $1 million while leading efforts to raise additional money through private donations. The initiative will receive technical support from the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore and the Winterthur Conservation Program at the University of Delaware as well as the Field Museum of Natural History and the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago.