Museums Responding to Mosul and Nimrud

According to reports received by the New York Times, ISIS has “destroyed parts of two of northern Iraq’s most prized ancient cities, Nimrud and Hatra. On Sunday, residents said militants destroyed parts of Dur Sharrukin, a 2,800-year-old Assyrian site near the village of Khorsabad.”  The extent of the destruction is shown in this video (not for the faint of heart):

It’s a reminder of the important role that museums and historic sites play in preserving heritage and culture–and how easy it is for it to be destroyed and lost. It’s also a reminder that places far away from America can affect us, both politically, economically, and culturally. Some museums have found a way to make this connection through temporary exhibits, including this vacant vitrine at the Field Museum:

Exhibit case at the Field Museum noting destruction at the Mosul Museum in Iraq.

Exhibit case at the Field Museum noting destruction at the Mosul Museum in Iraq.

If your organization is also responding to the destruction of museum collections and historic sites in Iraq, please share your ideas in the comments below.

2 thoughts on “Museums Responding to Mosul and Nimrud

  1. Michelle Zupan

    In recent stories from NPR and National Geographic we now know that many statues and artifacts were actually moved to Baghdad to protect them from just such a fate. Experts have viewed many of the video clips and have pointed out the rebar inside and the plaster dust — things not used by the Assyrians. So, the destruction may not be as total as we believe it to be. Much like the inflated numbers of artifacts looted from the Baghdad Museum during the US invasion we need to wait until experts can safely view the cities and museums to assess the actual scope of the losses. As we now know, IS has a powerful propaganda program and this is directly feeding it.


    1. Max van Balgooy Post author

      Thanks for the hopeful comments, Michelle. And just to keep readers up to date, the Archaeological Institute of America, Society for American Archaeology, the Association of Art Museum Directors, American Schools of Oriental Research, the American Anthropological Association, the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, US/ICOMOS, World Archaeological Congress, and the J. Paul Getty Trust have issued formal statements deploring the destruction and urging the field to help with repairs and to identify and reclaim missing objects. More at


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