The new Basrah Museum
The new Basrah Museum: dedicated to the archaeological and historical inheritance of Basrah and Iraq
Located in the Fertile Crescent and at the head of the Persian/Arabian Gulf, the city of Basra is steeped in history. Close to the heart of ancient Mesopotamia, the territory of modern Iraq was occupied variously by Achaemenids and Seleucids, Parthians, Romans and Sassanids, before the arrival of Islam in the early middle ages. In more recent history, the city's strategic position near the Gulf coast has made Basra a site of contestation and conflict. This exposure to so many different cultures and civilisations has contributed to the rich identity of Basra, a wealth of history that demands a cultural museum able to present all of the historical periods together in one place. The original Basra Museum was looted and destroyed in 1991, during the first Gulf War. The destruction and loss of so much of Iraq's history and material culture prompted official collaboration to build a new museum that would represent the city of Basrah and showcase its significance in the history of Iraq. The culmination of an eight-year collaborative project between the Iraq Ministry of Culture, the State Board of Antiquities and the Friends of Basrah Museum, the new museum was opened initially in September 2016. Already established as a cultural landmark in the city, with up to 200 visitors a day and rising, the museum was officially opened on 20 March 2019. The author was fortunate to be present for this event and able to explore the new galleries (Figure 1).
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