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December 5, 2019

Network “Museums: The Casket of our History” an important step in reinforcing ICOM’s role in the Middle East

On November 19-20, 2019 ICOM took part in the workshop Museums: The Casket of our History, organised by the European Union Advisory Mission in Iraq (EUAM Iraq) and focused on Iraqi museums and cultural heritage protection.

The workshop, the third organised by EUAM Iraq on this matter, aimed to strengthen the collective effort to safeguard Iraq’s cultural heritage by illustrating the situation of Iraq’s museums and how to address the physical protection of these structures.

The event was attended by the Directors of the most important Iraqi museums, by senior officers of law enforcement agencies and by representatives of the Ministry of Culture and the Academic world. The participants praised the workshop for its content and highlighted the importance of sharing expertise and networking with de facto colleagues from different Iraqi institutions and abroad.

A global response to illicit traffic in cultural goods

Along with ICOM’s Heritage Protection and Capacity Building Department, experts from INTERPOL and the Italian Carabinieri Cultural Heritage Protection unit (Carabinieri TPC) lectured during the seminar. ICOM’s presentation served as both a general overview of the organization and a focus on its role in cultural heritage protection. Along with the other tools developed by ICOM (Object-ID and the International Observatory on Illicit Traffic in Cultural Goods), great attention was given to the Red Lists and their importance in the fight against illicit traffic of cultural heritage.

We had the chance to speak with Luigi Spadari, Head of Database Unit of the Carabinieri TPC and Senior Strategic Advisor of Heritage Protection at EUAM Iraq, about the practical application of the Red Lists:

Thanks to [ICOM] Iraq Red List, my Italian unit was able, across 2016 and 2018, to find on the Internet market, more than 400 archaeological items of Iraqi Mesopotamian origin. They were not stored in any stolen artifacts database, but […] the owners had not a clear origin documentation and above all they were similar to the items presented in the Red List.”

The starting point for a new National Committee

The workshop was also a gateway for Iraqi museum professionals to our international network, and a great opportunity to present the activities of the organization in the country. Thanks to it we were able to welcome the first Iraqi ICOM member!

Dr. Abbas Abed Mandil, Director of Provincial Museums, shared with us his excitement for this new important representation in ICOM’s membership base:

This cooperation gives a clear message of the effectiveness of ICOM to build bridges of trust and cooperation among colleagues and to contribute to the development of our joint museum work.”

This is the first step towards the creation of an Iraqi National Committee and an important one to reinforce ICOM’s role in Heritage Protection and professional development in the country.

Fighting illicit traffic in cultural goods: ICOM’s tools

ICOM Red Lists database

International Observatory on Illicit Traffic

Object ID