Site History and Significance
An Important Example of Iraqi Modernist Architecture
The Mosul Cultural Museum was inaugurated in 1952, but its main building, an important example of Iraqi modernist architecture designed by the acclaimed Iraqi architect Mohamed Makiya, first opened to the public in 1974. Today, the Mosul Cultural Museum remains the second largest museum in the country after the Iraq Museum in Baghdad.
Financed by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, the museum's three main halls covered around 28,000 sq. ft. (2,600 m²) and spanned over two and a half levels, including a semi-basement floor, a main exhibition floor, and a mezzanine level. Today, the museum is one of the city's few extant modernist structures.
In 2003, the museum was closed in order to avoid looting during the second Gulf War. A significant part of the collection (comprising around 1,500 pieces) was moved to the Iraq Museum; the Mosul Cultural Museum retained only monumental pieces and some important objects. Nearly a decade later, in 2012, the museum underwent a thorough renovation project intended to renew its mezzanines, interior configurations, and primary entrance facade.
Destruction of the Mosul Cultural Museum
In June 2014, just as the Mosul Cultural Museum prepared to reopen after years of renovation, ISIS captured the city; in February 2015, the group published video of the museum's destruction.
Although it was retaken by the army in March 2017, the site remains significantly damaged and is closed to the public.
The Mosul Cultural Museum Rehabilitation Project
The museum is being brought back to life through a unique international partnership between the Iraqi State Board of Antiquities and Heritage (SBAH), the Musée du Louvre, the Smithsonian Institution, World Monuments Fund (WMF), and the International alliance for the protection of heritage in conflict areas (ALIPH). Since 2018, the founding members have been training and equipping the Mosul Cultural Museum team to prepare for the full-scale rehabilitation of the Museum and its collection, and in 2020, WMF joined the consortium to take on the building's restoration. The restoration and rehabilitation program will enable the museum to be returned to the citizens of Mosul as quickly as possible, allowing this important cultural landmark to showcase Iraq's rich culture once again.
In September 2021, the project to rehabilitate the Mosul Cultural Museum entered a new phase, transitioning from stabilization of the building to planning the museum’s future as a vibrant gathering place that will aid in the city’s post-conflict recovery. Thanks to support from the International alliance for the protection of heritage in conflict areas (ALIPH), WMF is working closely with museum officials on a design for the building and landscape that both honors Makiya’s vision and improves the visitor experience. A community-driven approach that engages local experts and residents in the design process will result in the reestablishment of the museum as a living center for culture and education.
The project includes preparing a heritage assessment and condition survey of the site; the development of a rehabilitation design adapted to the building’s structural conditions, historical and architectural significance, broader urban context, and future needs in terms of its reuse; and the implementation and delivery of this design.
World Monuments Fund safeguards cultural heritage around the globe, ensuring our treasured places are preserved for present and future generations.
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