The Italian-Iraqi Cultural Centre of Archaeological Science and Restoration – Baghdad

A considerable part of the activities carried out by Centro Ricerche Archeologiche e Scavi di Torino has always been dedicated to planning work, studies, restoration, testing and application of new methodologies in the field of cultural heritage, in cooperation with the authorities of the various countries in which the Centre has operated. For this reason, the Italian-Iraqi Institute of Archaeological Sciences and the Italian-Iraqi Centre for the Restoration of Monuments have been operating in Baghdad since 1969, founded with the purpose of creating an ongoing joint cooperation between Italy and Iraq, even in especially delicate times as in the past few years.

The two Institutes’ activities in these decades concentrated on survey, restoration and study campaigns of important monuments and archaeological sites such as Ctesiphon, Babylon, ‘Aqar Quf, Mosul and its Minaret, ‘Anah and the monuments of Islamic Baghdad, as well as on the training of Iraqi staff, on the recovery of artifacts looted from Iraq during the two Gulf Wars (B.R.I.L.A.), on the restoration and reorganization of the Iraq Museum of Baghdad, which was seriously damaged during the latest bombings, with the support Italian of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MAE-DGMM, Task Force Iraq), the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and its Central Restoration Institute.

Renovation works are currently carried out in the new seat that the Iraqi authorities assigned to the Institute (close to the Qusla, in the historical area of Baghdad). Thanks to its partners and to the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Centro Ricerche Archeologiche e Scavi di Torino has been making many efforts in order to re-open the Institute, thus offering an adequate technical and logistic support to future training, research and preservation projects.

The Italian-Iraqi Cultural Centre in Baghdad (ex Italian-Iraqi Institute for Archaeological Sciences and Italian-Iraqi Centre for the Restoration of Monuments), which has been operating in Iraq since 1969 was officially reopened on the 4th of April 2016. The new offices are located in front of the Qushlah, the Ottoman military quarters in the proximity of the old suq. The building, which dates back to the first decades of the twentieth century, has been internally rearranged to house the offices of the archaeological police, the SBAH and the new Italian-Iraqi cultural centre. The latter institution is responsible for the promotion, organization and management of research projects, cultural events and archaeological training courses under the coordination of the CRAST. Since its reopening, the Centre has held several training courses focusing on the methodology of the archaeological research and on techniques of preservation and protection of the archaeological and artistic heritage. Workshops, language courses, conferences, book presentations, concerts and photographic exhibitions can be listed among the other activities promoted by the Centre.

Thanks to the funding by the Italian Ministry for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, between 2014 and 2015 the renovation, restoration and adaptation works of the designated offices have been carried out.

The first training courses for the Iraqi personnel started In November 2016 and their purpose was to present the Italian activities in Iraq (specifically, the ongoing excavations at Tulul al-Baqarat and the studies on the sites of Babylon and Seleucia) as well as to activate the first courses and cultural meetings. The program, which foresaw the speeches of Prof. Carlo Lippolis and Dr. Roberta Menegazzi (CRAST), involved in-depth interventions about many different topics such as: Landscape Archaeology methodologies, remote sensing and field survey techniques for the interpretation of archaeological landscapes with the presentation of a relevant case study (the application of remote sensing in the area of Babylon), the iconographic and stylistic analysis of the terracotta figurines from Seleucia, the introduction of the first Italian excavation campaigns at Tulul al Baqarat, the description of the main features of the traditional mud architecture and the ways to preserve it and, finally, the use of laser scanner in archaeology and its application at Baqarat.

A second series of lectures directed at the Iraqi personnel (35 people including archaeologists and employees from the State Board of Antiquities and Heritage and the Iraq Museum of Baghdad) took place during spring 2017 (between the 10th and the 25th of April). They dealt with the following topics: management of cultural heritage (Dr. A. Peruzzetto, Word Monuments Fund), international regulations and procedures for the protection of cultural heritage and the fight against the illicit antiquities trade (Dr. L. Spadari, Dr. F. Di Prospero, Comando Carabinieri for the Protection of Cultural Heritage), architectural survey techniques, use of topographic tools and new photogrammetric technologies and softwares (Dr. Cristina Bonfanti, Politecnico of Turin, Mesa srl), pottery cataloguing and drawing methods (Prof. Carlo Lippolis, CRAST).

In collaboration with the Italian Embassy in Baghdad, the Centre hosted a 60-hour basic Italian course from October 2017 to January 2018. The classes taught by Dr. Bahaa N. Mahmood (University of Baghdad) took place twice a week and they were intended for the SBAH and the Iraq Museum employees.

In April 2018 (1-12), training courses intended for 25 executives, archaeologists and students from the SBAH, the Iraq Museum and the University of Baghdad were held at the Centre within the framework of the EDUU Project, a project organized by CRAST and the University of Bologna in collaboration with the University of Turin. The subjects treated were: history of archaeological restoration and museology (Arch. Roberto Parapetti, Monumenta Orientalia), reorganization of the Iraq Museum (Eng. Ala 'Anbaki), Public Archaeology and the relationship between artistic heritage and political propaganda (Prof. Carlo Lippolis), international regulations for the protection and management of the archaeological heritage (Dr. Alessandra Peruzzetto, World Monuments Fund).

During the same training courses, the Centre housed the photographic exhibition "Preserving the cultural heritage of Iraq: the contribution of the Italian archaeological missions” organized by the Italian Embassy in Baghdad and focused on the Italian archaeological projects currently active in Iraq (University of Rome, Perugia, Venice, Udine, Milan and Turin, IsCR, CRAST).

The language training activities continued during the winter 2018-2019 through a second Italian language course attended by 19 participants including SBAH employees, students and professors from the University of Baghdad. The ceremony of the students’ graduation took place at the Institute on 21 April 2019.

In April 2019, also the seminar Hands on history! Educational activities for children visiting the Iraq Museum collections has been carried out at the same time with the beginning of the set-up works of the Iraq Museum didactic room,. The aim of these courses was to promote the museum education topic between the museum guides and workers through the planning of practical activities intended for the young visitors. Specifically two workshops connected to the Baghdad Museum collections have been proposed: the creation of molded clay figurines using copies of the matrices found during the Italian excavations at Seleucia on the Tigris, and the practice of the cuneiform writing on clay tablets. The seminar was attended by 10 employees of the Iraq Museum and of the SBAH.

At the same time, a training course on the restoration of ivory objects has been held by two restorers from the Istituto Superiore per la Conservazione e il Restauro (IsCR, Roma) and the Centro Conservazione e Restauro La Venaria Reale (CCR, Torino) at the Iraq Museum restoration laboratories. The 10 trainees carried out conservation and restoration operations on 15 ivory objects.

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