Accepted Paper:

Archaeology and Archives: The Destruction of Cultural Heritage in Iraq  
John MacGinnis (British Museum)Rebecca Whiting (University of Glasgow)

Paper short abstract:

The conflicts of the past twenty-five years have seen appalling damage to the cultural heritage of Iraq. The archaeological inventory has suffered from looting, and archives have been requisitioned, destroyed or dispersed. This paper considers the impact of this looting and considers the implications for questions of ownership and access to cultural heritage.

Paper long abstract:

Over the course of the past twenty-five years the cultural heritage of Iraq has suffered appalling damage. This has been the result of both the First and Second Gulf Wars and of the rule of ISIS. Archaeological sites have been looted, museums ransacked and historic monuments destroyed. Less well known is the case of five collections of Iraqi archives which were removed from Iraq through US intervention. These include records created by the Iraqi state and the Ba╩┐th Party, as well as historic records seized by the state from the Iraqi Jewish community. The majority of these documents remain under US control today. The displacement of this documentary heritage is traced through interviews with individuals involved in the seizure and movement of the archives, as well as with those who have catalogued, preserved and maintained them. Many of the actors involved in the displacement of the archives have justified their movement as necessary for the preservation of the records, both as bearers of information and as material objects. This defense raises important questions as to whom the information and the property of a fallen state belong to, as well as to the relationship between access rights and imperatives to preserve heritage.

Panel P088
Deliberate Destruction of Cultural Heritage