Cablegate: Iraq Cultural Heritage Project: Capacity Building


DE RUEHGB #2685 2791003
P 061003Z OCT 09



E.O. 12958: N/A

1. Summary: Capacity building is one of the main objectives of the
Iraq Cultural Heritage Project (ICHP), a key program in section IV
of the Strategic Framework Agreement. Six conservators working for
the State Board of Antiquities and Heritage (SBAH) at the Iraq
National Museum spent six months at the Field Museum of Natural
History in Chicago taking part in the ICHP-funded "Conservation of
Archaeological Materials" course. They learned modern methods of
conserving archaeological material, including organic and
non-organic preservation techniques. They will now be able to
perform paper and textile conservation at the Iraq National Museum
themselves. End summary.

Background on ICHP

2. The Iraq Cultural Heritage Project (ICHP)has three main goals:
providing improvements at the Iraq National Museum, establishing a
conservation institute in Erbil, and providing professional
development and capacity building training for the SBAH staff. Two
of the participating institutions providing training are the Field
Museum of Natural History in Chicago and the Oriental Institute at
the University of Chicago. They are providing three six-month
courses for six students each: two on conservation of archaeological
materials and a course on management of archaeological collections.
The first class of six students participated in the initial course
from March 24 to September 26, 2009. PAS Baghdad conducted a
debriefing session with the participants on October 4.
Successful Program

3. All six participants returned to Iraq after their training in
Chicago with enthusiastic reviews. They each enjoyed different
aspects of the course, but collectively found the hands-on workshops
most useful. The training they received made them realize that
"there is at least a 100-year gap of knowledge between Iraq and the
rest of the world." The participants were honored to be part of the
first wave of Iraqis stepping in to rectify the situation. They
were confident they would be able not only to apply the skills they
learned at their jobs at the Iraq National Museum, but also to share
their knowledge with their colleagues. One subject they all kept
stressing was the friendliness of all Americans they met. They were
able to establish professional ties, but also made friends with
students housed at the university.

A few concerns

4. While all participants felt they gained invaluable knowledge,
they expressed concern that the equipment they trained on in Chicago
is not available at the Iraq National Museum. However, they hope to
be able to adapt the skills they learned in the U.S. to the current
situation in Iraq. They all felt six months was too long to be away
from home and wondered if shorter three month courses could be
offered that focused on specific topics, such as conservation of
wood and leather. More than once they mentioned experiencing
"culture shock," mostly because of the size of the buildings, the
price of food and necessities, and the diversity of the population.

5. Comment: The participants appreciated ICHP making such a course
possible. They are eager to apply their recently acquired skills,
especially conservation of paper and textile. Prior to the course,
paper and textile conservation was sub-contracted outside the SBAH
offices. Thanks to this training, paper and textile conservation
now can be performed at the Iraq National Museum by SBAH staff. End


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