An Important Example of Iraqi Modernist Architecture
Designed by the acclaimed Iraqi architect Mohamed Makiya and inaugurated in 1974, the Mosul Cultural Museum is an important example of Iraqi modernist architecture.
Today, the Mosul Cultural Museum is 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 cover around 28,000 sq. ft. (2,600 m²).
In 2003, the museum was closed to avoid looting during the Iraq War. Nearly a decade later, in 2012, the building underwent a thorough renovation of its mezzanines, interior configurations, and primary entrance facade.
In June 2014, just as the Mosul Cultural Museum prepared to reopen, ISIS captured the city. Months later, in February 2015, the group published a video of the museum's destruction.
The Mosul Cultural Museum Rehabilitation Project
In 2018, an international coalition of cultural heritage organizations launched the Mosul Cultural Museum Rehabilitation Project, training and equipping the museum’s staff to prepare for the full-scale rehabilitation of the building and its collection.
Preliminary work at the museum included documentation and damage assessment after clearing the rubble in its main halls, as seen in this photo of the Assyrian hall in October 2019.
In 2020, WMF joined the coalition, partnering with the Iraqi State Board of Antiquities and Heritage (SBAH), the Musée du Louvre, the Smithsonian Institution, and the International alliance for the protection of heritage in conflict areas (ALIPH), to bring the museum back to life.
Surveys and Assessments
WMF’s work at the Mosul Cultural Museum began with structural surveys, restoration project design, and the development of a heritage assessment of the building and its surroundings.
In September 2021, the project to rehabilitate the Mosul Cultural Museum entered a new phase, with the preparation of the restoration design to plan the museum’s future as a vibrant gathering place, aiding in the city’s post-conflict recovery.
In addition to addressing severe damage to the Assyrian hall caused by a bomb explosion, this new phase will modernize the building, taking in consideration Makiya’s original concept as well modern museum standards to ensure the long-term sustainability of the museum’s operations.
Considering the building’s larger urban context, the immediate landscape and unused exterior spaces will be redesigned to link with Al-Shuhada Park and Al-Baladia Square, creating much-needed green space in the city of Mosul.
In addition to restoration and rehabilitation work, the Mosul Cultural Museum Rehabilitation Project is designed to include crosscutting community outreach activities. Engaging local experts and residents in the design process will result in the reestablishment of the museum as a living center for culture and education.
In October 2021, the Mosul Cultural Museum welcomed local community members for a concert celebrating the beginning of the new phase of the museum’s reconstruction.
The concert by the local musical ensemble Mshakht was organized with the Iraq State Board of Heritage and Antiquities.
The Mosul Cultural Museum Project, led by a unique international coalition of partners, will set the stage for the museum’s revival following its destruction by ISIS, reestablishing it as a living center for culture and education.
Slideshow photographs are courtesy of the Iraq State Board of Antiquities and Heritage, the Smithsonian Institution, Massimiliano Baldieri, Jala Makhzoumi, and Ali Al-Baroodi and Moyasser Naseer.
WMF’s work at the Mosul Cultural Museum is supported by the International alliance for the protection of heritage in conflict areas (ALIPH).