The Baghdad Museum Project

The Baghdad Museum Project

This section is a work-in-progress, a collection point for models, drawings, photos, and other data to enable us to faithfully recreate for the Virtual Baghdad Museum the interior spaces and exterior of the Iraq National Museum in Baghdad. To see where you can assist, please note our Help Needed notes throughout this section.

The following bit of history of the museum itself comes to us from Rasmi Shoocongdej, Ph.D., Department of Archaeology, Silpakorn University, Bangkok, after consulting her former professor, Dr. Henry Wright from the University of Michigan.

“The Iraq Museum was founded in the 1920s. Its first Director was Gertrude Bell, the famous British Arabist, archaeologist and diplomat, who helped to organize modern Iraq under a British mandate from the League of Nations. Bell and subsequent Director-Generals made sure that the most important archaeological discoveries remained in Iraq. The Directorate of Antiquities began its own excavations in 1943 with work at the Ubaid and Uruk site of Tell ‘Uqair, followed by work at Eridu, a town of the same periods (and according to Sumerian tradition, the oldest city in the world) in the late 1940s.

A new Iraq Museum was built in the early 1960s, and this has been transformed again more recently, I am not sure when. It was truly a world class museum. During this period, many new projects were undertaken, and the staff, library, and laboratories were expanded.

I have been helping to organize help for the Museum. It is alleged that the attack was initiated by professionals, who encouraged the mob to come in and ‘cover their tracks,’ but we really do not yet know who did it and exactly what was taken.

There is a lesson in this for all museums. Any city in the world could have a breakdown in civil control. Any museum is vulnerable. They all need plans to protect collections and archives from such disasters.”

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This preliminary model was created by Mahesh Butani and is available in .dwf, .dwg, .3ds, and .wmf formats in the Baghdad Museum intranet. To produce it Butani used the pictures of our floor plans and traced over them. The approximate scale was derived from estimating the door size (an average of 3 feet). The plan has been adjusted for distortions in the pictures. A 3-foot grid was used to scale the plan. Ceiling heights have to be approximated from our museum photographs.



Help Needed: We need more photos and drawings of the museum’s exterior, in particular, multiple views of the front entrance structure. Also needed are photographs and drawings of the courtyard or interior gardens.

The Ground Floor Plan and Upper Floor Plan below were provided by Pr. Dr. Remo Mugnaioni, Université de Provence (Aix-Marseille I), Centre des Lettres et Sciences Humaines. Also indicated are the specific collections associated with the Halls, Rooms and Corridors. According to Mugnaioni, these are not true architectural plans, but do show relative sizes of spaces, and position of doors and staircases. The red lines indicate balconies on the Upper Floor. Halls are illuminated by square windows positioned close to the ceiling.


Help Needed: We need to properly identify the collections in the unlabeled spaces, and we need to mark within the Halls, Rooms and Corridors the position and orientation of glass cases and the numbered objects (1-296) listed in our Photo Databases section.

The following are news photos showing the destruction to the museum from the looting of April, 2003. These were compiled by Francis Deblauwe, Ph.D., for his running account, “The 2003 Iraq War & Archaeology,” featured in our section, “An Archaeologist’s Weblog.” Several interiors are shown. Note the illumination.

Help Needed:  We need more photos of the exhibits before April, 2003, and more exterior shots showing roads and the landscaping around the building.

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