Iraq Plans to Build ‘Grand Museum’ Under Way
|May 26, 2013||Filled under Iraq Daily News|
The Iraqi government hopes to begin work on a massive new museum that will house the antiquities of Mesopotamian civilizations before the end of this year.
The Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities is now completing the legal steps to take ownership of the site of the future museum, an approximately 200-dunam tract in the former Al-Muthanna Airport in the heart of Baghdad, officials said.
“The Grand Museum of Iraq”, which will feature artefacts from pre-historic times through the Ottoman era, will be one of the “largest museums in the Middle East region”, said ministry advisor Bahaa al-Mayahi.
There will be sufficient space in the new museum to house all the objects currently stored or displayed at the National Museum, with space for future discoveries as new pieces are unearthed during archaeological excavations, he told Mawtani.
The present National Museum, which opened in 1966, has 18 halls which display thousands of antiquities from the Sumerian, Assyrian and Babylonian civilizations, in addition to artefacts from the Islamic era.
But thousands of archaeological pieces and recently discovered findings are stored at the museum which cannot be exhibited due to shortage of space.
When completed, the new museum will have more than 35 halls and will be equipped with the latest technologies for the display and storage of antiquities. It also will have a manuscripts centre, a library, a section for the repair and maintenance of archaeological pieces and a huge auditorium for convening international conferences.
In addition to its efforts to secure the museum’s site, the ministry has allocated an estimated $1 billion for its construction, al-Mayahi said.
The first phase of the project — completing the technical and engineering designs — is expected to begin this year and last one full year, he said.
AN ARTISTIC LANDMARK
During a meeting last year with Tourism and Antiquities Minister Liwaa Sumaysem, noted Iraqi architect Zaha Hadeed agreed in principle to produce the designs, though a final agreement has not yet been reached, said the minister’s media spokesman Hakim al-Shammary.
The ministry hopes the new museum will be an artistic landmark, unique in its class, with designs that depict the historical depth of the land of Mesopotamia, al-Shammary said.
“We hope this museum will occupy an exceptional spot among the museums of the world” he said, adding that the ministry hoped it will become a tourist destination promoting Iraq’s civilizational and humanitarian heritage.
Hussein al-Sharifi, a member of parliament’s tourism and antiquities committee, said he agreed Iraq needed a new museum, built to modern specifications that can house all the stored antiquities.
“We at the committee had endorsed the idea of building the Grand Iraqi Museum, and were among its supporters,” he told Mawtani. “We hope the Ministry of Tourism will take fast steps to start the construction of this edifice in view of its civilizational and touristic importance for the country.”
Al-Sharifi said many artefacts stolen from Iraqi archaeological sites are still missing, and urged the ministry to “make extra efforts on the retrieval of antiquities”.
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