Biblical Archaeology Review 44:5, September/October 2018

Strata: The Virtual Museum of Iraq: A Work in Progress

The Iraqi National Museum is using technology to save the treasures and cultural heritage of Mesopotamia. With the help of a grant from the Japanese government, the Iraqi National Museum is set to finish by the end of 2018 its digital catalog of artifacts—the Virtual Museum of Iraq—that will allow visitors to the website to explore the museum virtually and engage with the many objects on display. Not only will this project allow greater access to the collections, but it will also help to protect and preserve the items stored in the museum.

Amid the turmoil of the 2003 U.S. invasion of Baghdad, more than 15,000 artifacts were looted from the National Museum, only a fraction of which have been recovered. The creation of the virtual museum has been ongoing since 2005 and has had to overcome financial and technological hurdles as museum curators and cultural heritage managers photograph, classify, and digitize the sizable museum collection.

Currently, the homepage of the virtual museum allows the visitor to enter the various halls of the museum dated from “Prehistory” to the “Islamic” period. Upon entering a hall, visitors can select from a number of artifacts on display and learn more about the object and its cultural context. The website is available in English, Arabic, and Italian. While the website is currently functional, over the coming year the museum hopes to increase the size of its virtual catalog and extend access to a more diverse audience.

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