News | 2016 Opening

The new Basrah museum celebrating the rich cultural heritage of southern Iraq opened its first gallery at a ceremony in Basrah on 27 September 2016. The gallery, which displays artefacts from the Hellenistic period (c. 300 BC) through to the present, represents the first major milestone in an eight-year project involving the Iraq Ministry of Culture, the State Board of Antiquities and Friends of Basrah Museum, which was set up in 2010 to provide financial, project management and curatorial support to the museum.

 

OpeningImage

For many wonderful images of the opening of the Basrah Museum and the galleries go to www.uniraq.com

 

The new Basrah Museum, housed in the former Lakeside Palace in a park by the Shatt Al Arab, will be a major cultural resource, not only for the city of Basrah but also for Southern Iraq and the wider region. Galleries will focus on the area’s archaeology and history from prehistory down to the development of Basrah as a major trading port (from which Sinbad the Sailor is said to have set sail), renowned as a centre of scholarship, education, poetry and music. 

‘This is a great day for Iraq’s cultural heritage,’ said Minister of Culture Faryad Raundozi. 

An important example of how the international community can work with Iraqi experts and institutions to improve the way we conserve, celebrate and protect our past.’ 

Chairman of the State Board of Antiquities and Heritage Qais Rasheed said: ‘We are delighted that Basrah now has a museum which can properly tell the story of this great city’s past. We will continue to add more artefacts to the exhibition and to build our collaboration with international organisations to better understand the region’s archaeological sites and to improve the training and support for researchers and students’. 

Director of Basrah Antiquities and Heritage, Qahtan Alabeed said: ‘This is a very special day for us. It couldn’t have come about without the support of a great number of people – especially the Friends of Basrah Museum and their principal funders BP. I also want to acknowledge the dedication of colleagues in Baghdad and Basrah, which means we’re able to display many exhibits in public for the first time in years.’ 

Opening Message from FOBM Trustee Dr John Curtis at the formal presentations before the ribbon cutting ceremony on 27 September 2016. 

Like most good projects, the New Basrah Museum project has been a long time in coming to fruition. This beautiful Lakeside Palace was identified as a suitable building for Basrah Museum in 2008, and it has taken until now to repair and fit out part of the building. Many individuals have been involved along the way, and I would like to mention particularly Major-General Sir Barney White-Spunner, Neil MacGregor and Major Hugo Clark who were very supportive in the early stages of the project. Then in 2010 the Friends of Basrah Museum was registered as a UK charity under the chairmanship of Sir Terence Clark.



My fellow trustees are Dr Lamia al-Gailani, Clare Bebbington, Liane Butcher, the Hon Alice Walpole and Dr Salah al-Shaikhly.Its purpose was to provide support to the State Board of Antiquities and Heritage, and to the Director of Basrah Museum, Qahtan Alabeed, and to raise funds for the development of the museum. For financial contributions to the project, and for contributions in kind, we are most grateful to the BP Foundation, Petrofac, the British Institute for the Study of Iraq, the British Council, the Charlotte Bonham-Carter CharitableTrust, HWH & Associates, Bur Alaman Company, IPBD Ltd, Control Risks Group, Field Energy Services and Pulse Brands.

It remains to say that the opening of the museum today starts a new chapter in the protection of cultural heritage in Iraq. Incidentally, 80 years ago last Monday, as I am informed by Dr al-Gailani, the Iraq Government decided to build a new Iraq Museum in Baghdad. I hope today will be similarly auspicious. We are sure that under the leadership of the State Board of Antiquities and Heritage and its director Qais al-Rashid, and under Basrah Museum director Qahtan Alabeed, and with the help of Basrah Provincial Council, this museum will flourish, and it will be not just be a museum for Basrah, but a museum for Southern Iraq and even for the wider region.