Three years after it was closed amid political turmoil, the National Museum in Baghdad, Iraq opened to public on Monday.
The National Museum was founded in 1920s by British archaeologists after numerous discoveries of cultural importance in the region. It has artifacts dating back to ancient Mesopotamian, Persian and Abbasid civilizations. In 2019, the museum closed its doors during anti-government protests that were centered in Baghdad. This decision was taken due to fears that the museum might be damaged if riots broke out.
On Sunday, the museum was re-opened by Iraq’s prime minister himself, Mustafa al-Kadhimi. The prime minister’s office also issued a statement saying that the museum was being reopened after “a long period of maintenance and rehabilitation.” While the protests were the reason for the museum being shuttered, the pandemic also contributed in the hiatus, as revealed by Laith Majid Hussein (Head of Antiquities Authority, Iraq). After that, the museum was renovated for its formal re-opening.
This was far from the first time that Baghdad’s National Museum suffered from closure and re-opening. In 2003, a significant portion of the museum’s collection was looted after the US forces ousted Iraq’s dictator Saddam Hussain. This pushed the country into instability and chaos, leading to widespread loot and riots. The museum was closed in the aftermath and remained so for next 12 years, finally opening in 2015. Many other museums were similarly closed in the ensuing battle between US forces and ISIS. However, the re-opening of the Baghdad Museum suggests that normalcy is returning in Iraq’s art world.