Antiquities and Archaeology Iraq

Backlog in Baghdad

Staff struggle to finish Iraq museum inventory, at current rate project could take a century

A US tank outside the Iraqi National Museum in Baghdad in 2003 (REUTERS/Gleb Garanich)

Baghdad. The staff of Iraq’s National Museum are struggling to create an inventory of its war-torn collection, so far documenting 20,000 antiquities, less than 10% of its approximately 240,000-strong holdings. These figures have been revealed by Lamia al-Gailani Werr, a London-based scholar who used to work at the museum and recently returned from a visit to Baghdad. At this rate it will take the museum nearly a century to catch up on the backlog .

Planning the digitised inventory began after the coalition invasion of 2003, when the Baghdad museum was looted. Half of the 15,000 stolen items have yet to be recovered.

The slow progress on the inventory is partly due to many small items losing their identifying tags, while others have numbers that do not match the old inventory (recorded in ledgers or on index cards). The inventory involves taking digital photographs of the objects, which has proved time consuming. Some objects, such as coins, have not been conserved and have deteriorated. After the invasion, staff faced security problems getting to work and morale has been low.

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