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Fostering the sustainable development of heritage in post-conflict iraq and its neighbours


Archive for the 'Events' Category

The Baghdadi Cultural Centre in al Mutanabi Street

By Mehiyar Kathem, on 7 July 2022

In May 2022, the Nahrein Network organised a one-day event titled Cultural Heritage: Projects and Partnerships in Iraq. The event was held at the Baghdadi Cultural Centre, in al Mutanabi Street, central Baghdad. The Baghdadi Cultural Centre overlooks the River Tigris and is located in a historic site built during the Ottoman Empire and which was previously an Abbasid-era building. It lies directly opposite al Qushla, the famous Ottoman barracks and administrative building.

The event was attended by Professor Eleanor Robson and Dr Mehiyar Kathem. It was chaired by Dr Ali Naji Attiyah, of Kufa University. Presentations from ten different funded projects in the country covered several of Iraq’s provinces. The public event focused on work supported by the Nahrein Network’s funded activities in the country, including on such things as post conflict digital documentation, intangible cultural heritage, Christian heritage, cultural groups and Babylon.

Speakers, representatives and attendees hailed from Iraq’s universities, media, the State Board of Antiquities and Heritage (SBAH), the Iraq Museum, as well as members of the public.


Ali Naji Attiyah’s brillant chairing of the event made it a huge success. Eleanor Robson spoke about the Nahrein Network’s past work and its future plans in the country.

Since the recent rehabilitation of al Mutanabi street the area has become a major cultural and tourist hub in Baghdad, attracting thousands of people to its cafes, bookshops and cultural sites.

The Baghdadi Cultural Centre is one of Iraq’s most active institutions, working to promote Iraq’s diverse and pluralistic cultures. It houses private museums and libraries, including important collections of books, and offers its space for free to the public and cultural organisers– particularly on busy Fridays, a weekend day in Iraq, to promote handicrafts, theatre and more generally cultural activities.

The Baghdad Cultural Centre houses a growing number of private libraries, donated to it for safekeeping and management. Its director, Mr Talib al Issa, manages the building and organises its weekly events. The private libraries belong to some of Iraq’s intellectuals, including Jews, Kurds, Christians, Assyrians and Arabs, constituting a diverse and visual record of Iraq’s history, all made available for the public to visit.


Not only are private collections donated, but also the personal possessions and such things as furniture, are often transferred to the Baghdadi Cultural Centre, a tradition found across Iraq that preserves a living memory of Iraq’s intellectuals and their lives.

Eleanor Robson and Mehiyar Kathem also visited the heritage museum collections located on site, an initiative of Mr Sabah al Saady, a well known advocate for safeguarding the country’s cultural heritage. Through his personal efforts, Mr Sabah al Asady established the Land of Rafidain (or two rivers) Museum, which displays historical artefacts and heritage pieces that celebrate Iraq’s history.

On site was also Saad Al Adhami, an Assyriology-loving potter, who makes some of these beautiful bowls and other cultural objects.

Saad Al Adhami and Eleanor Robson spoke about Cuneiform writing, and its beauty.








Cultural Heritage in Najaf and London: Visiting Scholarship Report

By Nahrein Network, on 13 October 2020

Dr. Ali Naji Attiyah, University of Kufa, Iraq

I was hosted by Dr. Edward Denison from UCL’s Bartlett School of Architecture, from 10 February to 23 April 2020, on a BISI-Nahrein Network Visiting Scholarship. My main goal was to write an article on the importance of linking both types of heritage, tangible and intangible, in increasing people’s awareness of the role of heritage in their lives.

Seminar at UCL

Eleanor Robson, Sadiq Khalil and Ali Naji at UCL IAS on 13 February 2020

Eleanor Robson, Sadiq Khalil and Ali Naji at UCL IAS on 13 February 2020

The Embassy of Iraq and Nahrein Network-University College London organized a symposium on the sustainable development of cultural heritage and archaeology on 13 February 2020, chaired by Professor Eleanor Robson. First, Dr. Sadiq Khalil presented a paper on heritage management in Iraq. Then I gave a paper on the role of cultural heritage in Najaf.

The attendees were professors with different disciplines such as history, archeology, architecture, and environment, in addition to other attendees who were interested in Iraq’s heritage.

The seminar was in the first week of the scholarship and it was a good opportunity to meet other specialists in heritage with different disciplines. Moreover, in the discussion after the seminar, the attendees responded very positively to my paper, finding that relating both types of heritage, tangible and intangible, is an attractive strategy to get a more holistic view of the importance of heritage.

Ph.D. Research Projects 2020 Conference at Bartlett School of Architecture

Bartlett Faculty's exhibition space UCL

The exhibition space of the Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL

My host institute was the Bartlett School of Architecture at UCL and the host professor was Dr. Edward Denison, who has an interest in heritage. On 18 February 2020, the Bartlett ran an interdisciplinary conference and exhibition, featuring the work of students from across the faculty who are developing or concluding their doctoral research.

The conference and the exhibition aim to encourage discussions between students, staff, invited guests and critics, and the public. I attended the conference and exhibition to listen to the research ideas in architecture and those trends related to cultural heritage.

One presentation was particularly relevant to my work, by Amr El-Husseiny, whose PhD title is: “The Boundaries of Heritage: A Socio-Political Approach to Heritage Spaces in the Egyptian Context”.

Heritage Workshop at Barcelona

The participants of the conference on heritage for peace, Barcelona, 5 March 2020

The participants of the conference on heritage for peace, Barcelona, 5 March 2020

A workshop was organized by Heritage for Peace, together with the International Alliance for the Protection of Heritage in Conflict Areas (ALIPH) and Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), 4–5 March 2020. The workshop was on the empowerment of civil society for the protection of cultural heritage in conflict areas and was held in Barcelona, Spain.

The event was attended by many representatives of civil society NGOs from Syria, Libya, Yemen, and Iraq, as well as members of State Boards of Antiquities, who had the opportunity to present their work and discuss their needs, as well as experts from the University of Oxford, Blue Shield, Syrian Heritage Archive Project, University College London, and others. I gave a presentation titled “Holistic View of Cultural Heritage in Historic Centre of Najaf City”, in which I tried to describe the role of local communities represented by NGOs in the protection of cultural heritage.

The event concluded with the launch of the Arab Network of Civil Society to Safeguard Cultural Heritage, ANSCH. I am delighted to be one of the founders of this network, which has the following objectives:

  • To create a network of civil society organizations.
  • To identify and define the heritage protection projects needed in Arab countries.
  • To enhance the visibility of civil society organizations and their work.
  • To empower local communities’ participation in the management of cultural heritage.
  • To foster inclusive social development.
  • To foster inclusive economic development.
  • To promote the protection of the environment.

The website https://ansch.heritageforpeace.org/ will be a platform to exchange ideas between peers from countries that have a similar unsettled situation.

Meeting with ICOMOS-UK

On 12 March 2020 I held a Skype meeting with Clara Arokiasamy, the Chair of the ICOMOS-UK’s Intangible Cultural Heritage Committee, which she founded in 2012. The main points discussed were establishing ICOMOS-Iraq and the relationship between tangible and intangible heritage.

Webinar at the University of Oxford

On 17 March 2020 I gave a webinar for the Endangered Archaeology in the Middle East and North Africa (EAMENA) project, based at the Universities of Oxford, Leicester, and Durham. I described the role of intangible cultural heritage in the revival of tangible heritage, using historic City of Najaf as a case study. The discussion with experts following the webinar was very fruitful.

Research visits

Dr Ali Naji in Letchworth Garden City, March 2020

Dr Ali Naji in Letchworth Garden City, March 2020

On 21 March 2020, I visited Letchworth, the world’s first Garden City, with Yasmin Shariff, the Director of Dennis Sharp Architects. Letchworth was created as a solution to the squalor and poverty of urban life in Britain in the late 19th century. The garden city movement is a method of urban planning in which self-contained communities are surrounded by “green belts”, containing proportionate areas of residences, industry, and agriculture. It shows how the life of local communities can be modernized while keeping their cultures and traditional way of life.

To increase my knowledge of tangible heritage and how it can be used to improve the lives of people, I visited three cities: London, Cambridge, and Liverpool. Apart from London’s four world heritage sites, there are many places inside Zone 1 that maintain their cultural characteristics such as buildings facades and streets. The same thing can be seen in Cambridge, where the buildings and streets are the same for hundreds of years, while six areas in the historic centre and docklands of the maritime mercantile city of Liverpool bear witness to the development of one of the world’s major trading centres in the 18th and 19th centuries.

I learned that in order to keep the cultural heritage in any city, which is still full of human activities, it is necessary to give priority to infrastructure. For example, London, a city of about 18 million people, needs an effective public transport system for daily travel to take pressure off car use. The University of Cambridge is a good example of the use of heritage buildings in new functions, encouraging people and authorities to be aware of the conservation of those monuments. The world heritage site in Liverpool represented by the docks was used for tourism and it was the identity of the city at the same time. Recently, its heritage value was threatened because of the new development project (Liverpool Waters) in the harbour. This is a good example of the sensitivity of the over-commercial use of heritage sites.

While in London I also visited the British Museum, the Science Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, and Sir John Soane’s Museum, as well as the History Museum of Catalonia when in Barcelona. While all very different in their aims, they share the idea of inter-generational communication of heritage.

Chapter in Handbook of Sustainable Heritage

As an outcome of this Visiting Scholarship, with UCL archaeologist Dr. Caroline Sandes I will co-author a chapter of the new Handbook on Sustainable Heritage, to be published by Routledge and CRC Press. Titled “Najaf, Iraq: developing a sustainable approach to threatened heritage”, it will examine the problem of threatened heritage in Najaf and how a more holistic approach, particularly involving the city’s intangible cultural heritage, will help to work towards a more sustainable conservation program that will encourage and involve local inhabitants to protect Najaf’s important heritage.

Dr Ali Naji in Liverpool, March 2020

Dr Ali Naji in Liverpool, March 2020

Cultural heritage and reconstruction — a view from Mosul University

By Nahrein Network, on 7 January 2020

Panellists at the Chatham House round-table on cultural heritage in Iraq

Panellists at the Chatham House round-table on the role of cultural heritage in the reconstruction of Iraq, 2 October 2019

On 3 October 2019, The Nahrein Network organised a round-table discussion on the role of cultural heritage in state-building, as part of Chatham House Iraq Initiative’s conference, Iraq in Transition.

Professor Kossay al Ahmedy, Chancellor of the University of Mosul, gave a local perspective.

I will speak about the University of Mosul.

DAESH’s occupation of Mosul has been hugely detrimental. Nineveh, capital of the ancient Assyrian state, saw a great deal of damage and destruction. 83% of the Old City of Mosul was destroyed, including its most iconic and historic sites.

DAESH undermined and attacked culture.

One of the most important cultural sites is the University of Mosul. Large parts of it were also destroyed – we had 70% destruction and over 300 buildings damaged and destroyed.

The electricity network of the university was 80% destroyed. 50% of the water network, 50% of the road network were also destroyed.

217 university vehicles disappeared from the university.

The central library lost 1 million books.

Now, the question is, why did ISIS target and destroy Mosul University so severely?

We have 48,000 students enrolled. 8,091 staff and 24 huge faculties. 125 scientific institutions and 7 research centres.

Mosul University is like a city within a city.

It’s a learning and education zone. That is why it was targeted – the intellectual class was attacked and undermined, including culture.

With international friends we are working to rebuild Mosul University. The university is not about formal education only. Its role is to rebuild ideas. We have achieved a military victory but not yet a victory in thoughts and ideas. The university is key to rebuilding this.

The university is a key institution, able to rebuild the city and to rebuild the intellectual life of the city.

People lost hope. Most historical landmarks have been lost – destroyed. How can we revive hope for the people, especially the youth?

How to access the youth is key. Key question: Do youth watch and observe media – no! They don’t, they only focus on social media. Our university publishes a monthly newspaper. Most youth do not read newspapers, therefore we need to focus on social media.

We have 16 workers in the media department, and we set up tens of websites and social media sites – to transfer knowledge, using the language they understand.

Key to our work is to use media and knowledge to rebuild youth and their understanding of the situation in Mosul.

Now I am always smiling. My smile is a message – that we can rebuild Iraq and rebuild Mosul and build our culture and society who share our ideas.

We need international assistance. The challenges are immense and therefore we need to work together. We all have a responsibility to rebuild so that we can prevent this catastrophe from happening again.


This summary of Professor Al-Ahmedy’s words was compiled by Dr Mehiyar Kathem.

This event is part of a project funded by a UCL Public Policy Expert Engagement grant.

Cultural heritage and state-building — an international view

By Nahrein Network, on 7 January 2020

Panellists at the Chatham House round-table on cultural heritage in Iraq

Panellists at the Chatham House round-table on the role of cultural heritage in the reconstruction of Iraq, 2 October 2019

On 3 October 2019, The Nahrein Network organised a round-table discussion on the role of cultural heritage in state-building, as part of Chatham House Iraq Initiative’s conference, Iraq in Transition.

Ms Alice Walpole, Deputy head of mission for the United Nations Assistance Mission to Iraq, spoke about the role of international organisations in supporting heritage for state-building.

In September 2016, while I was working in Mali, the International Criminal Court in The Hague handed out its first ever sentence for cultural crimes. An Al Qaeda commander was convicted of involvement in the destruction of nine mausolea and a mosque in Timbuktu. This case gave rise to renewed international debate on the significance of culture in conflict. Why do parties to conflict target cultural heritage, and should an attack on a cultural artefact – building, manuscript, statue – constitute a war crime?

Throughout history, culture, ethnicity, religion or language have been leveraged to promote, intensify or justify conflict. Our cultural heritage describes who we are; it sets us within our historical context; it links us to our ancestors and will, in due course, link us to our descendants. An assault on our cultural heritage, then, is an attempt to deny our very identity. Da’esh’s physical destruction in Iraq and Syria of archaeological sites, places of worship, schools, cultural centres such as theatres and museums, and historical artefacts are a recent violent example of that urge to erase history; the desire to obliterate all narrative that runs counter to their world view; to deny human rights and freedom of expression with the imposition of a restrictive ideology.

An imposition against which many have fought back over the centuries. Our cultures make us proud. And protective. I suspect it was that proud and protective impulse that compelled my friend Father Najeeb, now Chaldean Archbishop of Mosul and Akra, and others to load the priceless library from a Dominican monastery into vehicles, and remove them, at considerable personal danger, from Mosul to a safe house in Erbil in the face of advancing Da’esh forces. The library comprises a unique collection of ancient manuscripts dating back to the 9th century, and printed books from as early as 1515; in addition to Christian texts, there are works on geography, history and mathematics, as well as Islamic, Jewish and Yazidi literature.  We start to understand the value placed on cultural heritage when we learn what risks our fellow citizens will take to protect it.

Those of us in a position to be able to support the rehabilitation of cultural heritage post-conflict, are eager to tap into that popular pride and affection. Because while culture can be exploited to cause conflict, in the aftermath of conflict, it can also play a vital role in reconciliation and inter-communal understanding. In fact, many of us believe that culture sits at the heart of all sustainable recovery and rehabilitation of societies.

Disputes over political access, land rights and the distribution of wealth and resources often remain unresolved in post-conflict environments and then serve to exacerbate future community tensions. But culture – the product of historical interactions between individuals and communities, representing shared understandings of the world – can serve as an entry point to a resolution of these disputes by reminding all parties of their religious, literary, linguistic or philosophical links to each other; or even simple commonalities such as a shared traditional dress, cuisine or dance.

This is culture as a unifying power. It is the reason the United Nations believes that the work of UNESCO is integral to the comprehensive, complex UN-supported rehabilitation programme currently underway in Iraq’s governorates liberated from ISIL.

Today, the United Nations in Iraq is seeking to promote a counter-narrative to Da’esh. A narrative of peaceful co-existence, reconciliation, respect for diversity and creativity. At the heart of this is the project ‘Reviving the Spirit of Mosul’, constructed around three pillars: rebuilding historical, cultural and religious infrastructure; strengthening education and returning children to school; reviving the cultural life of the Old City. It is important to note that the project goes beyond physical infrastructure – the EU has just approved a 20m euro project for urban rehabilitation in Mosul’s Old City, targeting youth and other returnees to provide them with skills and job opportunities. A similar project will be rolled out in Basra, again with a focus on urban regeneration. It will be important, in the longer term, that the Iraqi state takes full ownership of these projects, along with a strategy to protect, maintain and promote access to Iraq’s rich cultural heritage in all its forms for future generations.

I have long viewed culture as a driver for reconciliation. In 2009, I was appointed British Consul General in Basra, on the heels of the departing British Army. One of the items I inherited from them was an assessment, by the Iraqi State Board of Antiquities and Heritage, British Army Royal Engineers and British Museum, that Saddam Hussein’s former Lakeside Palace in Basra would make an ideal new antiquities museum for Basra and southern Iraq.

Accordingly, in 2010, a small group of us, including a renowned Iraqi archaeologist, a former British Ambassador to Iraq and former Iraqi ambassador to Britain and a senior curator at the British Museum, formed the Friends of Basrah Museum to help bring this idea to life. BP made a very generous donation to get the project off the ground and other donors, including international companies active in southern Iraq, chipped in.

After much consultation between Baghdad, Basra and London, a constructive dialogue with the Basra Provincial Council, and sustained, resourceful and dedicated activity led by the Museum Director Qahtan al-Abeed, the first gallery of the Basra Museum opened in September 2016 and three more galleries (displaying some 2000 Sumerian, Assyrian and Babylonian artefacts) in March 2019.

Strikingly, since the museum’s opening, some 600 historical artefacts have been handed over by private citizens to the Basra Museum. Six hundred historical artefacts that families kept safe during times of war and instability. And which they are now eager to share with the wider community.

It’s this human dimension that is key if Iraq is to repair and sustain its cultural heritage. When I was in Erbil recently, I called on Father Najeeb. In the front room of his home, a young woman was repairing a damaged historical manuscript. I could see from her dress that she was Christian. The manuscript was an Islamic hadith. I commented that she was working on a Muslim text. Of course, she said; I am an Iraqi, and this document is part of my Iraqi heritage.

This event is part of a project funded by a UCL Public Policy Expert Engagement grant.

Iraqi cultural heritage – a national view

By Nahrein Network, on 7 January 2020

Panellists at the Chatham House round-table on cultural heritage in Iraq

Panellists at the Chatham House round-table on the role of cultural heritage in the reconstruction of Iraq, 3 October 2019

On 3 October 2019, The Nahrein Network organised a round-table discussion on the role of cultural heritage in the reconstruction of, as part of Chatham House Iraq Initiative’s conference, Iraq in Transition.

Dr Abdulameer al Hamdani, Iraq’s Minister of Culture, gave his vision of the role of heritage in Iraq’s future. 

The Ministry of Culture has 15,000 employees working across Iraq. The Ministry is responsible for diverse fields of culture, including cinema, fashion, theatre and antiquities.

Cultural heritage could be a unifying force in the country, used as a tool to unite people. It can be used to respect minorities, indigenous minorities – all communities, but ultimately, we are looking for a national identity.

Heritage can be used for peacebuilding and peacemaking. Wars did not help us to focus on these priorities.

We need to avoid another Halabja. We need to open a dialogue with each other. Excavations in Iraq attest to this shared history.

Heritage can be used as a tool for unification.

Culture and heritage will determine the future of Iraq.

Culture is key. SBAH is encouraging Iraqi universities to work on excavations and of course also international excavations. We have 60 expeditions in the country.

Since the 1980s, the previous regime and dictatorship, Iraq has been isolated. We are now back to normal in terms of field work and excavations. A few month months ago we were able to inscribe Babylon as a World Heritage Site, working closely with UNESCO to do this. Given this energy, we are working now to inscribe 12 new sites, including the Yezidi site of Lalish. This shows the Iraqi Government does care about minorities in the country.

There is increasing interest in heritage in Iraq and from the international side.

We believe heritage in Iraq is a global heritage and SBAH is responsible for that. We need to focus on cultural diversity.

The international community is helping us, standing with us.

Looters in 2003 said that heritage artefacts belonged to Saddam or were non-Islamic. But I worked with the Shia Clergy to put a stop to this looting. An edict and amnesty helped return 30,000 looted artefacts.

Our museums are open, which shows that Baghdad is a normal city.

We are organising the first international conference on cultural heritage, planned for April 2020, to share knowledge and unify the country. We hope to see 300/400 participants in this conference.

The purpose of the conference is to think about whether it is just stones we are looking at, or is it more?

We will build a new cultural complex, a new museum. The current one will be used as an Islamic civilisation museum.

SBAH has experience with international institutions since the 1950s.

We are open to dialogue, to discussions about how we can use heritage for peace and development.

We consider the country’s communities as natural heritage, organic to the country.

This summary of Dr Al-Hamdani’s words was compiled by Dr Mehiyar Kathem.

  • Read a summary of Professor Kossay Al-Ahmedy’s presentation
  • Read Alice Walpole’s presentation

This event is part of a project funded by a UCL Public Policy Expert Engagement grant.

Report on a workshop for managers of Iraqi museums

By Nahrein Network, on 15 January 2019

Workshop held at the Imam Hussein Holy Shrine, Karbala, 26 November 2018: report by Paul Collins

Organized by Dr Paul Collins (Nahrein Network), Dr Alaa Ahmed (Imam Hussein Museum), and Dr Jaafar Jotheri (Qadisiyah University)


The museums workshop in progress

The workshop brought together twenty-three representatives of seventeen museums (out of twenty-one museums that had accepted an invitation to attend) from across Iraq, along with interested parties from the Prime Minister’s Office, Mosul University, and Najaf University:

  1. Al-Ataba al-Husseiniya, Imam Hussein Holy Shrine, Karbala
  2. Al-Kafeel Museum, Imam Abbas Holy Shrine, Karbala
  3. Al-Muthanna Museum
  4. Amarah Museum
  5. Anbar Museum
  6. Babylon Museum
  7. Basrah Museum
  8. Diwaniyah Museum
  9. Diyala Museum
  10. Green Zone Museum
  11. Kut Museum
  12. Mosul Museum
  13. Najaf Museum
  14. Nasiriyah Museum
  15. Samarra Museum
  16. Samawah Museum
  17. Wasit Museum

Not in attendance: Duhok Museum, Erbil Museum, Kirkuk Museum, and Sulaymaniyah Museum.

Although the majority of the museums represented at the workshop are run by the SBAH, a small number are linked to universities or religious institutions with different organisational structures and resources. The museums vary considerably in the size of the populations they serve, ranging from cultural heritage sites to provincial centres and major cities like Basra and Baghdad. This inevitably means that there are many variables around local and regional demographics and infrastructures that need to be considered in evaluating the responses to the workshop questions. Indeed, some museums are not open (e.g. Mosul) and lack display cases (e.g. Diyala).

The principal aim of the workshop was to bring together museum professionals from across Iraq to assess the current situation and explore opportunities for knowledge exchange, especially around best practice. This is the first occasion that such a meeting has been taken place in Iraq, certainly within the last three decades. It was hoped that one outcome might be the formation of a network of country-wide museum professionals. An offer by Dr Alaa Ahmed, Director of the Imam Hussein Museum, to lead on the establishment of an Iraqi Museums Association to be based in Karbala was warmly welcomed by the participants.

Fortunately the workshop venue did not completely stifle discussion

The plan for the workshop was to use break-out spaces where small groups could discuss a series of questions, record their answers on flip charts, before coming together to share and discuss the results. The available space—a lecture room with fixed, tiered seating—meant it was necessary to change the format; there was little opportunity for conversations other than between colleagues from the same museum who sat together on a row. The workshop questions were delivered from a podium at the front of the room (translated from English into Arabic by Dr Jaafar Jotheri) and, after time for discussion/thought, representatives of each museum gave their answers in turn. Dr Jaafar recorded these on a white board (see below). Not every museum responded to every question.

Dr Jaafar Jotheri records answers from Basrah Museum

The questions posed were deliberately very broad with the intention of revealing the range of audiences currently visiting the museums as well as aspirations for creating greater diversity in the future. Participants were asked to identify their museum’s top three visitor groups – suggestions were offered on a slide. Some museums chose to provide longer lists but for consistency these details have not been included in the following summaries.

The format of the workshop meant that there was time to explore only four questions.

1. Who are your current visitors?

Bar graph showing current types of visitors to Iraqi museums

Current types of visitors to Iraqi museums

School children represent a significant component of museum visitors followed by university students. Few museums identified local tourists as significant, although foreign tourists figured heavily for some institutions. Other museums had distinct visitor profiles because of their location (Green Zone) or collections (Al-Ataba). Only the Iraq Museum and Al-Ataba identified academic researchers as sizable.

2. Who would you like to visit?

Bar graph of types of visitor wanted by managers of Iraqi museums

Types of visitors wanted by managers of Iraqi museums

A clear desire for many museums is to attract a greater number of families, while a current lack of female visitors was also noted. There was also a desire to see more visitors from the surrounding countryside. Some institutions who didn’t regularly receive school and university students saw this as priority. A small number of museums were interested in attracting people on low income and those with special needs.

3. How would you encourage visitors to your museum?

Bar graph of the ways in which managers of Iraqi museums would like to encourage future visitors

Ways in which managers of Iraqi museums would like to encourage future visitors

A variety of very interesting approaches were suggested. Multimedia – both in galleries as well as through social-media – was viewed as an important method of engagement. A significant concern was the lack of transport links to museums, many of which were considered to be poorly located. A greater understanding of the country’s rich cultural heritage, which might be provided through school education, was also viewed as an important method for encouraging visitors.

4. What one thing would you change about your museum?

  • Change the location of the museum
  • Refurbish the museum building/gallery
  • Provide unique exhibitions
  • Provide transportation to the museum

Answers focused on concerns around the museum’s location, infrastructure and transport links. There was also an interest in providing temporary exhibitions.


Future workshops would benefit from a more flexible meeting space to provide greater opportunities for discussion and debate. This meeting was, however, very successful in attracting a large number of Iraq’s museum professionals; there was a clear sense that they valued the opportunity not only to meet collectively but to contribute personally. Participants were also keen to be part of an Iraq museums association, which would provide a means for developing future workshops/gatherings.

The broad questions around museum audiences addressed at this workshop fits with a growing interest within museums globally about identifying visitor types and developing ways to encourage specific segments, e.g. http://intercom.museum/documents/1-4Waltl.pdf, including in the Middle East: https://lra.le.ac.uk/bitstream/2381/37244/1/2015AlAliMPhD.pdf. Finding ways of expanding the number of visits by families to museums is of particular interest and there are a wide range of case studies to draw upon, e.g., https://gulfnews.com/uae/family-fun-at-sharjah-musuems-1.1093567

A future workshop might explore in greater detail what Iraq’s museums are currently doing to support their visitors as well as identify a segment, such as ‘families’, as a focus for sharing ideas around best practice and to develop new approaches. Other areas of interest, such as the use of multimedia, could also be explored in a workshop, not least around identifying sources of funding as well discussing inherent issues of equipment and software maintenance and update.

In order to deliver in these areas, future meetings could also be opportunities for training in areas such as audience evaluation and management; desirables also identified at a workshop held at Basrah Museum in January 2018: http://www.friendsofbasrahmuseum.org.uk/sites/default/files/report_on_fobm_jan_2018_training_programme_evaluation.pdf


The answers in full

Translation provided byRahma Ismail,Project Administrator, Centre on Culture, History and Humanities for Sustainable Development, University of Kurdistan Hewler.

Question 1

Photo of museum managers' answers to questions (in Arabic) - 2Photo of museum managers' answers to questions (in Arabic) - 2Photo of museum managers' answers to questions (in Arabic) - 3

  1. Babylon Museum:
    1. Tourist groups
      1. Local
      2. International (foreign)
    2. School trips
    3. Family trips
    4. Foreign individuals
  2. Mosul Museum:
    1. School trips
    2. Researchers and specialists
    3. Tourist groups
  3. The Green Zone Museum (mobile)
    1. Diplomats
    2. University students
    3. Cultural events
  4. Anbar Museum:
    1. High school students
    2. University students
    3. Post graduate students
    4. Senior citizens
  5. The Iraqi Museum:
    1. Elementary, secondary, high school and university students
    2. Researchers
    3. Senior citizens and ?
    4. Foreign visitors
  6. Samawa Museum:
    1. Elementary school students
    2. University students
    3. High school students
    4. Others
  7. Nasiriya Museum:
    1. Local schools: elementary, high school
    2. Local universities
    3. Local tourist groups
  8. Diyala Museum:
    1. Local elementary schools
    2. Local secondary schools
    3. Local high schools
    4. Local universities
    5. Local researchers
    6. Miscellaneous
  9. Al-Ataba Al-Husseineya (Manuscripts)
    1. Foreign and others:
      1. Universities
      2. Researchers and academics
      3. Religious institutions
    2. Schools
    3. Miscellaneous
  1. Al-Kafeel Museum:
    1. Foreign tourists
    2. Schools
    3. Universities and researchers
    4. Families
    5. Institutions
    6. Diplomats

Question 2

Photo of museum managers' answers to questions (in Arabic) - 4Photo of museum managers' answers to questions (in Arabic) - 7

  1. Babylon Museum:
    1. The poor, countryside residents, slum residents
  2. Mosul Museum:
    1. Families
  3. The Iraqi Museum:
    1. Elementary school students
  4. Anbar Museum:
    1. Families
    2. University faculty members
    3. Politicians
  5. The Green Zone Museum:
    1. Women
  6. Nasiriya Museum:
    1. Persons with special needs
    2. Children under school age
  7. Al-Muthenna:
    1. Families
    2. Countryside residents
  8. Al-Ataba Al-Husseineya Manuscripts
    1. No problem?
  9. Najaf Museum:
    1. Women
    2. The educated class
    3. Businessmen
    4. Countryside residents
  10. Waset Museum:
    1. Families
    2. Countryside residents
    3. Persons with special needs
  11. Diyala Museum:
    1. Families
    2. Politicians
    3. Countryside residents
  12. Basra Museum:
    1. Families
    2. Craftsmen
    3. Countryside residents
  13. Al-Kafeel Museum:
    1. Children
  14. Al-Ataba Al-Husseineya Manuscripts
    1. Visitors
    2. Schools
    3. University students
    4. Religious institutions
    5. Charities
    6. Researchers
    7. Religious scholars
    8. Diplomats
    9. Religious events
    10. Government activities and training courses
    11. Religious visits
  15. Basra Museum:
    1. Students:
      1. Schools
      2. Universities
      3. Colleges
    2. Civil society organizations
    3. Miscellaneous; writers, media, companies, diplomatic missions
    4. The military

Question 3

Photo of museum managers' answers to questions (in Arabic) - 5Photo of museum managers' answers to questions (in Arabic) - 6Photo of museum managers' answers to questions (in Arabic) - 7

  1. Babylon Museum:
    1. Digital folders
    2. Mobile teams
    3. Free entry for the poor
  2. Diwaniya Museum:
    1. Cultural awareness for students
  3. Mosul Museum:
    1. Media
    2. Develop a museum visit schedule at schools
  4. The Iraqi Museum:
    1. Non-museum activities; political events
    2. Media coverage important heritage pieces
    3. Museum visits for children
    4. Free entry on special days/ holidays
    5. Cultural conferences
    6. Publicity promotion at borders and airports
  5. Anbar Museum:
    1. Library inside the museum
    2. Collaborations with government institutions
    3. Researching audience needs/ interests
    4. Folders
  6. The Green Zone:
    1. Rehabilitating exhibition location
    2. Publicity prior to visits
  7. Wasit Museum:
    1. Selecting appropriate location for the museum
    2. Use of social media
    3. Changing the exhibited pieces
    4. 3d stereoscopic images/ sculptures
    5. Folders
    6. Presenting results of ? in the museum
    7. Non-museum activities
  8. Diyala Museum:
    1. Screens
    2. Lectures and workshops on paintings and antiques
    3. Games for children
    4. Library
    5. Folders/ filing
    6. Presenting results of?
  9. Basra Museum:
    1. Exhibitions presenting the current situation
    2. Subjective workshops for materials not present in the museum
    3. Media promotion
    4. Presentation technology
  10. Nasiriya Museum:
    1. Virtual visits
    2. Developing divisions that represent the society
  11. Samawa Museum:
    1. Folders/filing
    2. Exhibitions for paintings not owned by the museum
    3. Book signings
    4. Countryside visits (mobile museum)
  12. Al-Ataba Al-Husseineya Manuscripts
    1. TV channels & satellites
    2. Rehabilitation of manuscripts division in the university
    3. Awareness/education through trainings and workshops
  13. Najaf Museum:
    1. Find out audience (tribes) interests
    2. Exhibit paintings representing cultural heritage in the museum
    3. Renewing exhibit structures periodically
    4. Use of media
    5. General awareness raising

Question 4

Photo of museum managers' answers to questions (in Arabic) - 8

  1. Babylon Museum:
    1. Move the museum to the presidential palace
  2. Diwaniya Museum:
    1. New building for the museum
  3. The Iraqi Museum:
    1. Professional management
  4. Anbar Museum:
    1. Exhibit original pieces
  5. The Green Zone Museum:
    1. Sculptures for well-known personalities
  6. Nasiriya Museum:
    1. Expanding the museum
  7. Samawa Museum:
    1. A building for heritage maintenance
  8. Al-Ataba Al-Husseineya Manuscripts:
    1. Academic institution
  9. Najaf Museum:
    1. Transpiration facilities
  10. Al-Ataba Al-Husseineya Manuscripts:
    1. New halls?
  11. Wasit Museum:
    1. Move the museum outside the university
  12. Basra Museum:
    1. Transportation facilities
  13. Diyala:
    1. Install vitrines
  14. Mosul Museum:
    1. Rehabilitate the museum