Officially launched last month, the UK’s Emergency Heritage Management Project will look to help preserve and recover cultural objects and edifices in Iraq that are under threat. In the words of the press release:
“It will create a team of local experts to assess, document and stabilise afflicted sites in Iraq, and help begin the process of reconstruction and preservation of some of the world’s most precious cultural artefacts.”
The programme will be run out of the British Museum. The Museum will recruit two expert archaeologists who will spend the next five years instructing teams of local Iraqi archaeologists on how best to preserve artefacts that have been affected by the war. The scheme does not, however, involve direct interventions in areas currently controlled by ISIS, but rather is a plan for when the territory is “returned to effective and legitimate government control” (when that occurs will be anyone’s guess).
One wonders why a similar governmental scheme hasn’t been envisaged for Syria…
The announcement coincided with a firm undertaking on the part of the British government to ratify the Hague Convention on the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict of 1954. This move, coming after a 61 year wait, may inspire claims of “better late than never”, but it certainly has been pushed along by the current situation in the Middle East. Here’s hoping the UK will now take a leading role in this new area of rescue archaeology.