American and Iraqi officials began a two-year $14 million plan on Monday to help preserve Iraq’s cultural heritage. The State Department grant will create a conservation and historic preservation institute in Erbil, help refurbish the Iraqi National Museum and train museum employees. Goli Ameri, the assistant secretary of state for education and cultural affairs, unveiled the program at the Iraqi National Museum, which she said “will remain closed in the near term.”
Ambassador Ryan Crocker stressed the need to create ties to Iraq beyond security agreements. “This includes cooperation in economic development, in science, in technology, in education and in culture,” he said.
Thousands of cultural artifacts were stolen from Iraq after the war began in 2003. At least 15,000 items were taken from National Museum and about 6,000 have since been recovered. The United States Embassy will provide $13 million to the International Relief and Development Fund and the State Department’s bureau of educational and cultural affairs will provide an additional $1 million while leading efforts to raise more money through private donations.