Iraq’s greatest treasure to start world tour in 2007 in Wash DC

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The Nimrud gold is to be shown at the Arthur M.
Sackler Gallery in February next year. The date was set in Copenhagen on 17 March by the Iraqi ministry of culture and United Exhibits Group (UEG), the Danish commercial venture organising the show. ... the first venue for the Nimrud treasures is the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, part of the Smithsonian Institution. Various formalities have to be completed before the exhibition is officially announced, in a few weeks’ time.

There are likely to be around ten venues, after Washington, and these will probably include museums in Berlin, London and Paris. The tour of 'The Gold of Nimrud' should raise around $10m for Iraq’s National Museum. The centrepiece of the show will be an accurate full-size reconstruction of the throne room of the Assyrian king Ashurnasirpal II at Nimrud. ... In 1991 Iraqi archaeologist Muzahim Mahmu found the tombs, with the thousands of pieces of gold. ... The reconstruction of the east end of the throne room is being made by Madrid-based firm Factum Arte. They have done this by scanning excavated Nimrud reliefs in the British Museum, Berlin’s Pergamon Museum, Princeton’s Art Museum, the Sackler Gallery at Harvard and the Dresden Museums. Despite initial hopes, it proved impossible to record the remains left on site in Nimrud and other fragments in Mosul and Baghdad, because of security problems. The reconstruction is being made in resin, and is almost finished. The latest news of the international tour comes after a series of false starts [no kidding!], but this is the first time that a specific venue and date have been given. We can reveal that the show was to have opened at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery this June, but there were too many problems to be resolved, ... There are internal differences within Iraq on the touring show. The ministry of culture is keen, partly because it will bring in much-needed revenue. It has the formal authority and signed last month’s agreement.

However, Donny George, former director of the Iraq Museum and now president of the State Board of Antiquities and Heritage, is against the proposal. Although not speaking publicly, he is believed to be concerned about the security risks and is also uneasy about the involvement of a commercial organiser, the UEG. Dr George is highly regarded by his museum colleagues in Europe and the US, and they would be reluctant to proceed without his blessing. Security is a difficult issue. Archaeological specialists are divided over whether it is better to risk the short-term dangers of moving the gold the few miles to the airport or the longer-term risk of leaving it in the Baghdad vault.

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