The story of civilization in Iraq spans some 10,000 years. As a birthplace of writing, the wheel, and countless other human inventions, Iraq’s past has shaped our present. The U.S. Department of State is committed to working with Iraq to protect and preserve this shared heritage by engaging American institutional partners to collaborate with the Iraq State Board of Antiquities and Heritage on a variety of projects. These include infrastructure upgrades at the Iraq Museum in Baghdad, site management planning and architectural conservation in Babylon, and training Iraqi professionals in the conservation of objects, sites, and monuments at a specialized institute in Erbil. These projects manifest America's deep respect for the people of Iraq — heirs to a cultural and artistic legacy revered throughout the world.

The Projects

Conservation Institute

The Iraqi Institute for the Conservation of Antiquities and Heritage (IICAH) is a state-of-the-art educational facility in Erbil, where international experts are training Iraq’s museum and heritage professionals in the preservation of their national treasures. The IICAH offers a two-year program in objects conservation and collections care, and additional curricula in architectural and site conservation, archaeological site preservation, and first aid for cultural heritage in crisis. Since 2009 more than 500 Iraqi professional men and women from all of Iraq’s social, religious, and ethnic communities have attended courses or workshops at the IICAH. 
First established under the Iraq Cultural Heritage Project (ICHP), the Institute is now managed by an Iraqi board of directors, and supported by a U.S.-Iraqi advisory council. The Cultural Heritage Center of the U.S. State Department’s Educational and Cultural Affairs Bureau and U.S. Embassy Baghdad have continued to be actively involved in implementing the Institute's educational programs. In addition to the initial ICHP grant, since 2009, the State Department has contributed $3.3 million in funding to support preservation training programs at the IICAH, and a range of non-U.S. government sources have contributed an additional $3.5 million. 

IICAH Partners:

  • Iraq State Board of Antiquities and Heritage
  • Kurdistan Regional Government
  • U.S. Department of State (Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ Cultural Heritage Center, and U.S. Embassy Baghdad)
  • University of Delaware (Art Conservation Department, and Institute of Global Studies)
  • Smithsonian Institution
  • Winterthur Museum
  • Walters Art Museum
  • Getty Conservation Institute
  • University of Arizona
  • University of Pennsylvania

Future of Babylon Project

The U.S. Department of State is assisting with management planning, preservation, and educational development at the ancient site of Babylon, home to the “Tower of Babel” and Nebuchadnezzar’s wondrous “Hanging Gardens.” After concerns surfaced in 2004 about damage to Babylon, ECA’s Cultural Heritage Center published a comprehensive 618-page illustrated report (PDF) on harm done to the site during the rule of Saddam Hussein and use by coalition forces. This report has laid the foundation for current ameliorative actions. The Department has awarded $2.7 million in funding to the World Monuments Fund (WMF) to collaborate with the Iraq State Board of Antiquities and Heritage in the development of policies and practices that will ensure future preservation of the site, and serve as a model for the management of other Iraqi heritage sites. WMF also works closely with Iraqi preservationists to conserve key ancient structures damaged by erosion, neglect, and inappropriate use, including the 2,500-year-old Nabu-Sha-Khare Temple and Ishtar Gate. A $1 million field training initiative, funded by the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, will enable comprehensive classroom instruction and on-site training of Iraqi preservation specialists involved in the project.


Iraq Cultural Heritage Project

This multi-tiered project was developed by ECA's Cultural Heritage Center in collaboration with the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and the Iraq State Board of Antiquities and Heritage. Project activities included infrastructure upgrades to the Iraq Museum in Baghdad through refurbishment of the museum’s roof, 11 exhibition halls, 9 conservation labs, 3 floors of collections storage facilities, and installation of a new environmental control system. Other project outcomes included establishment of the Iraqi Institute for the Conservation of Antiquities and Heritage in Erbil, and increased professional capacity in Iraq’s heritage and museum communities through:

  • A training program for Iraqi professionals in preservation of buildings and sites, collections care and conservation, and museum education and management, conducted at the Field Museum of Natural History;
  • The bilingual publication of reports on past excavations by Iraqi archaeologists, in collaboration with The American Academic Research Institute in Iraq; and,
  • The provision of paper and electronic publications to museum libraries in Baghdad and Mosul, coordinated by Stony Brook University in collaboration with the Iraq National Museum.

The ICHP was funded by the Embassy through a $12.9 million grant awarded to the NGO International Relief and Development. Project partners included the Iraq Ministry of Culture and State Board of Antiquities and Heritage; Kurdistan Regional Government; University of Delaware Art Conservation Department; Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library; Walters Art Museum; Field Museum of Natural History; U.S. National Park Service; Stony Brook University; and the American Academic Research Institute in Iraq.

March 30, 2017
U.S. Department of State and Smithsonian Partner on Emergency Cultural Heritage Work in Iraq