The British Museum and UNESCO organize the rescue of Iraq's cultural heritageParis – The second meeting of international experts to save Iraq’s museums and cultural property will be held in London on April 29, at the initiative of the British Museum and UNESCO.
“I am very pleased to see, once again, the exemplary way in which heritage conservation professionals have mobilized to try to save Iraq’s cultural property. I would like this meeting to study all possible means of ensuring the restitution of artefacts stolen from Iraqi museums. The treasures of Iraq’s cultural heritage, which bear witness to a particularly fertile history, are irreplaceable for the world scientific community, but even more so for the Iraqi people, for the conservation of their cultural identity and their confidence in the future,” said UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura in a message that will be read by the Organization’s Assistant Director-General for Culture, Mounir Bouchenaki, who will co-chair the meeting with Neil MacGregor, the Director of the British Museum.
The meeting will be attended by the curators of the largest collections of Mesopotamian antiquities outside Iraq – from the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Berlin’s Middle East Museum, the Louvre in Paris, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the British Museum in London.
They will try to work out the best ways to rapidly help their colleagues in Baghdad and, in the longer term, Iraqi curators and archaeologists in other parts of the country.
During a closed morning session, John Curtis, the British Museum’s Keeper of Ancient Near East Antiquities who has just returned from Baghdad, and Donny George, head of research at the Baghdad Museum, will report on the state of the city’s museums.
Participants will also discuss measures to fight the illicit trafficking of Iraqi cultural property, notably within the framework of the 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, for which UNESCO is responsible.
A second session, open to the press, will start at 2 p.m. at the British Museum’s Clore Education Centre, attended by British Secretary of State for Culture Tessa Jowell. A discussion and press conference will begin at 2.30 p.m.
The meeting follows up recommendations made at the first meeting of international experts on Iraqi cultural heritage, which was held at UNESCO on April 17. Participants at that meeting called for an immediate ban on international trade in Iraqi cultural heritage, and for an international effort to help Iraq’s cultural institutions.
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