Aurora Museum Director Selected to Lead Iraq Cultural Heritage Restoration Project

Historians in the News

The executive director of the Aurora History Museum will take on a new role this month as he prepares to direct the Iraq Cultural Heritage Project, which will collaborate with the Iraq National Museum in Baghdad on a wide range of projects, among other initiatives.

International Relief and Development—a nonprofit, non-governmental organization dedicated to improving the lives and livelihood of people in the most economically deprived parts of the world—selected Dr. Gordon Davis to lead the project to enhance the capabilities of the museum looted in the immediate aftermath of the removal of Saddam Hussein’s government in 2003. Davis will leave for Iraq in late January, and return to his Aurora History Museum position following his stint in the Middle East.

The U.S. State Department, through a grant from the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, is providing funding for the $13 million Iraq Cultural Heritage Project, which will restore the home of priceless pieces of world heritage, train museum staff in conservation and historic preservation, and rehabilitate the museum itself. This will include rehabilitation of the museum infrastructure, design and development of new collection storage facilities, and improvements to museum gallery space.

As director of the Iraq Cultural Heritage Project, Davis also will oversee the establishment of a Conservation and Historic Preservation Institute in Erbil that will focus on technical and professional training. This will be done in partnership with the Walters Art Museum, the Winterthur Museum and Country Estate, the University of Delaware Art Conservation Department and the U.S. National Park Service.

Finally, the project will develop the professional capacity for Iraq’s museum staff, including employees of the Iraq State Board of Antiquities and Heritage, the Iraq National Museum and other museums. The aim is to build a cadre of professionals who are employed as conservators, collection managers, registrars and other experts necessary for an effectively functioning museum. This component will be conducted in conjunction with Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History and the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago.

Through the Iraq Cultural Heritage Project, International Relief and Development will help overcome the effects of decades during which Iraqis were unable to actively engage with the international professional community or cultivate new generations of professionals, and will restore Iraq to its preeminence in the field of archaeology and preservation.

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