Smithsonian and the Iraqi Institute for the Conservation of Antiquities and Heritage

Related Expertise: Professional Training
Date Initiated: 2017

Since 2015, Smithsonian experts have been working with Iraqi cultural heritage professionals to support the recovery and preservation of Iraq’s cultural heritage sites at the Iraqi Institute for the Conservation of Antiquities and Heritage in Erbil. The Iraqi Institute is an educational center for Iraqi heritage professionals from across the country to learn new skills and find the support they need to protect Iraq’s cultural patrimony—part of our global cultural heritage.

At the Institute, participants spend up to six months learning the foundations of cultural heritage protection. Smithsonian experts share tools to preserve Iraq’s heritage, including international conservation standards, project planning, and mapmaking and photography skills. Many participants have used their new skills to advance their careers, and Institute alumni now support research expeditions in the region led by archaeologists from institutions like the University of Chicago, Johns Hopkins University, and Harvard University.

Smithsonian experts conduct programs in Erbil, working with participants to put their skills into practice at museums and on archaeological sites. These educational programs strengthen the heritage community in Iraq. As Jessica Johnson, Head of Conservation at the Smithsonian’s Museum Conservation Institute and a program facilitator at the Institute, describes it: “We’re working to give Iraqis the building blocks they need to continue to build their own knowledge and rebuild their country.”

The Smithsonian’s Museum Conservation Institute began running programs at the Iraqi Institute in 2015, with support from the University of Pennsylvania, the J.M. Kaplan Fund, and the Prince Claus Fund. Since 2016 the Smithsonian has been partnering with the U.S Department of State, the University of Delaware, the Iraqi State Board of Antiquities and Heritage, the Kurdistan Regional Government, and the Academic Research Institute in Iraq (TARII).

Learn more about this Project

In the Cradle of Civilization, a New Generation Preserves Heritage