Religious and Ethnic Communities Affected by ISIS in Iraq Learn Skills for Heritage Documentation and Preservation

July 10, 2019


Workshop participants learn about photographic techniques for documenting important cultural heritage Workshop participants learn about photographic techniques for documenting important cultural heritage

In April 2019, the Smithsonian Institution (SI) led a three-day workshop at the Iraqi Institute for the Conservation of Antiquities and Heritage (IICAH) in Erbil for Iraqi religious and ethnic groups affected by ISIS whose cultural heritage remains at risk. The workshop, funded by the Cultural Antiquities Task Force, included 54 representatives from the Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Yezidi, Zoroastrian, Kakai, Baha’i, Sabaean, and Mandaean communities. Speakers included SI and IICAH staff, members from non-governmental organizations, private foundations, officials from USAID, U.S. Consulate Erbil, State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom, Kurdistan Regional Government, and the Erbil Provincial Governorate.

The workshop included lectures on identifying cultural heritage, disaster risk management, and funding opportunities for cultural heritage protection and preservation projects. In sessions taught by IICAH Master Trainers and SI staff, participants learned hands-on skills such as photographic documentation and safe object handling. This is the second such workshop supported by State Department and led by SI to address concerns by minority religious and ethnic communities about their cultural heritage and to equip them with the skills and information to protect their sites and artifacts from looting, destruction, and theft.

This latest workshop contributes to the State Department’s longstanding commitment to protecting and preserving the cultural heritage of Iraq. Since 2003, the department has funded approximately $33 million to support programs that have direct impact such as critical infrastructure upgrades at the National Museum in Baghdad, establishment of the IICAH, emergency stabilization of ancient structures at Nimrud, and comprehensive site management planning and preservation at Babylon.

About the Cultural Antiquities Task Force

Created by the State Department in 2004 at the direction of Congress, the CATF comprises federal agencies that share a common mission to combat antiquities trafficking in the United States and abroad. Since its creation, the CATF has supported more than 80 domestic and international cultural property training programs. CATF is managed by the State Department’s Cultural Heritage Center.