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WikiLeaks: 2008-03-08: 08BAGHDAD691: PRT Ninewa: Mosul Museum, Closed and with a Limited Collection, Still Impressive

by WikiLeaks. 08BAGHDAD691: March 08, 2008.

Posted: Sunday, September 08, 2013 at 11:51 AM UT


Viewing cable 08BAGHDAD691, PRT NINEWA: MOSUL MUSEUM, CLOSED AND WITH A

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Reference ID Created Classification Origin
08BAGHDAD691 2008-03-08 19:51 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Baghdad
VZCZCXRO9532
PP RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHIHL RUEHKUK
DE RUEHGB #0691/01 0681951
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 081951Z MAR 08
FM AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6124
INFO RUCNRAQ/IRAQ COLLECTIVE
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BAGHDAD 000691 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/08/2018 
TAGS: PGOV SCUL EAIR PINR PREL MARR IZ
SUBJECT: PRT NINEWA: MOSUL MUSEUM, CLOSED AND WITH A 
LIMITED COLLECTION, STILL IMPRESSIVE 
 
Classified By: NINEWA PRT LEADER JASON HYLAND: 1.4 (B) AND (D) 
 
This is a PRT Ninewa reporting cable. 
 
1. (C) PRT Leader, Public Affairs Officer, and other PRT 
staff visited the Mosul Museum February 21 to meet Museum 
Director Muzahem Hussein (please protect) and assess 
conditions at this important cultural institution, which has 
been closed since 2003 because of security. The museum is 
housed in a modest complex of buildings not far from the 
Provincial Governor's Office in a relatively secure part of 
Iraq's second-largest city. 
 
------------------------ 
MUSEUM CLOSED SINCE 2003 
------------------------ 
 
2. (C) The Museum closed in April 2003, but prior to closing 
the staff moved approximately 5,500 of the most valuable and 
portable items to storage at the Baghdad Museum.  These items 
were shipped shortly before major looting occurred at the 
Baghdad Museum, Museum Director Hussein (please protect) 
said.  Hussein said that he does not know what the status of 
these items are, saying that the Baghdad Museum has not done 
an inventory.  He claimed that he lacked the Internet 
connectivity at the museum to maintain regular contact with 
the Ministry of Culture, and used a special delivery service 
for important correspondence.  He cited three key factors 
that need to be in place before the museum can reopen. First 
and foremost, Mosul needs improved security. Second, he said 
that the air-conditioning system is broken and will need to 
be replaced before temperature-sensitive items can be brought 
back safely for display.  Finally, he said that the items 
sent to Baghdad for safe-keeping will need to be inventoried 
and returned to their home.  Hussein said he would welcome 
assistance from the U.S. Government but all such aid would 
need to be channeled through the Ministry of Culture for 
security reasons in order to keep the U.S. Government profile 
low. 
 
--------------------------------------------- ---- 
STILL IMPRESSIVE EVEN WITH ITS LIMITED COLLECTION 
--------------------------------------------- ---- 
 
3. (C) We toured the museum, led by an expert guide who spoke 
almost flawless English.  (Note: We understand that she has 
participated in a six-week International Partnerships among 
Museums   (IPAM) program in Chicago that was sponsored by the 
American Association of Museums. End Note.)  The three 
galleries that still have items are the Hatra gallery, an 
Assyrian gallery and an Islamic gallery.  Even with all the 
missing items ) and nearly all display cases were empty and 
dusty ) the museum remains impressive because of the massive 
stone artifacts, including several pieces of 
cuneiform-inscribed brick; several stone reliefs from Hatra 
kings; and the Mihrab of the Mosque of Banal al Hasan in 
Mosul * all items that were probably just too heavy or 
delicate to move quickly.  Other museum staff, including 
Bernadette Hanna-Metti (please protect), who identified 
herself as a former museum director, exhibited a detailed 
knowledge of items in the museum.  (Note: It is perhaps 
indicative of the tolerant traditions of Ninewa that the 
curator of the Islamic collection is a self-described 
Catholic. End Note.) 
 
4. (C) Hussein expressed concern about safety both at the 
museum and at the archeological sites.  He said he has not 
visited any of the archaeological sites since 2003, and did 
not feel comfortable visiting there with a Coalition Force 
escort because it might attract unwanted attention from 
insurgents.  Hussein said that Coalition Forces had initially 
secured the excavation sites; however, now the security is 
arranged by the Federal Protection Service (FPS); he said he 
receives a status report from FPS each month.  Hussein 
reported no issues with unauthorized visits to the sites.  He 
said that most of the sites are on privately occupied land 
and landowners are not prohibited from using the land for 
agricultural purposes. 
 
------------- 
PRT FOLLOW-UP 
------------- 
 
5. (C) The PRT will continue to maintain low-key engagement 
with the museum, and identify areas in which we can cooperate 
consistent with the Museum Director's security concerns. We 
are asking Embassy Baghdad's help in determining the status 
of the thousands of items shipped to the Baghdad Museum.  We 
will also explore with the museum and the Iraqi Islamic Party 
(IIP) the potential to make modest clean-up and renovations 
to the Islamic collection and then support a carefully 
prepared program of bringing school children to visit.  We 
 
BAGHDAD 00000691  002 OF 002 
 
 
will also look for training opportunities for the museum 
staff, which seemed very professional and motivated, despite 
all the hardships they have faced. 
 
------- 
COMMENT 
------- 
 
6. (C) Mosul Museum was one of Iraq's leading museums, now 
reduced by security and other problems to a sad state.  The 
Museum Director seemed in no hurry to reopen the museum.  The 
PRT will work to support the museum staff in any way it can 
to prepare them for a successful reopening when conditions 
are right. The reopening of Mosul Museum would not only serve 
as a clear signal to Mosul residents that life was returning 
to a more normal level, but also encourage other steps to 
restore this city's once vibrant cultural life. End Comment. 
 
7 (C) Biographic note: Muzahem Hussein is a graduate of the 
University of Baghdad and represents the Ministry of Culture. 
 He was previously the excavation director for the Royal 
Tombs at Nimrud, one of the key Assyrian cities near Mosul, 
and is extremely proud of his leading role in discovering two 
royal tombs laden with gold.  He published a book in 2000 
that described in detail the gold and other treasures his 
excavation team discovered at Nimrud.  He has written a 
second book about his excavations, and is interested in 
identifying outside funding for its translation.  Despite his 
strong background as a digger, Hussein came across more as a 
bureaucrat than a dedicated scientist.  Hussein said he is 
responsible for all of the excavation sites in Ninewa, 
including Nimrud and Hatra, both located south of Mosul. 
Hussein's politics were difficult to assess. However, he has 
been very reluctant to meet with U.S. Government 
representatives in the past. 
CROCKER

 



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