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IRAQ: The Rehabilitation of the Mosul Cultural Museum

Learn about the Smithsonian’s work with Iraqi colleagues and an international alliance to rehabilitate the Mosul Cultural Museum.

The Mosul Cultural Museum, Iraq’s second largest museum, was founded in 1952, expanded in 1972, and underwent significant rehabilitation and expansion again beginning in 2012.  It was about to open again in 2014 when ISIS took it over. In February 2015, ISIS released videos, seen around the world, of its members destroying statues and artifacts in the museum. When allied forces retook Mosul in 2017, the Iraqi State Board of Antiquities staff documented heavy damage to the museum and collections.  

The Iraqi government requested funding from the ALIPH Foundation who committed funds for the initial study and plan for the Mosul Cultural Museum. The major goals were to conduct a needs assessment and feasibility study for the plan of the ultimate rehabilitation. The Iraqi State Board of Antiquities and Heritage, Mosul Cultural Museum, Smithsonian Institution, ALIPH, and Musee du Louvre formed a collaboration to support the renovation of the museum. 

The Smithsonian and engineering colleagues from the Czech firm, GEMA Art International, conducted a detailed forensic documentation and damage assessment of the museum. Smithsonian staff documented the damage in photographs and drawings, and collected evidence while GEMA inspected the museum’s structural integrity, drainage, and infrastructure.

This effort resulted in a comprehensive damage and needs assessment and action plan for reconstruction. The World Monuments Fund joined the collaboration as an additional partner. As the hard work of renovation and restoration continues, the museum has begun presenting community events, like this Mshakht Concert Performance.

The Smithsonian is working on Phase Two of the project, slated for 2024, a museum skills training course. It will be held in collaboration with the Smithsonian’s long time in-country partner, the Iraqi Institute for the Conservation of Antiquities and Heritage in Erbil. 

Image: A Smithsonian-Iraqi team documents the destruction and damage in the Mosul Cultural Museum in Iraq. Smithsonian Institution / Sebastian Meyer