Opening up the Iraqi National Museum to the world, an Italian-funded project is creating virtual versions of the museum’s most famous pieces. Since some rooms were damaged during the 1991 Gulf War, many artefacts have been kept in underground vaults. However, the museum was again hit by missiles and looted during the 2003 invasion. Archaeology professor Giovanni Curatola says the challenge is to stop the looting and to prevent the items from being sold to the West.
The idea has already allowed Italian treasures to go online. Silvia Chiodi, a research professor, says she is looking forward to working on the Baghdad Museum, which closed last year. “The next phase is sitting down with the Iraqis,” she explains, “and deciding with them what objects to exhibit, which ones are the most important, which rooms to open and the direction the museum visit should take.” Among the Italian sites that have got the treatment is a chapel in Padova. The first four virtual rooms of the Iraqi museum, based on photos and video footage, should be available on the internet by early 2006.