Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Coming to a screen near you: The Iraqi National Museum

From the New York Times:

Amira Edan, the director of Iraq’s National Museum, says that soon she will no longer have to worry so much that the famous institution remains closed to the public for fear of violence.

People will just be able to Google it. “It’s really wonderful,” she said Tuesday.

Eric Schmidt, the chief executive of Google, had just made a presentation inside the museum, announcing that his company would create a virtual copy of the museum’s collections at its own expense, and make images of four millenniums of archaeological treasures available online, free, by early next year.


The museum, badly looted during the American invasion, has been declared reopened three times: in 2003, by the American occupation authorities, again in 2007 by Iraqi officials and most recently in February by Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki.

None of those openings, however, involved letting the public back in. A few invited scholars, journalists and the occasional school group have been allowed to visit. Only 8 of the museum’s 26 galleries have been restored; most of the collection’s treasures are in secret storage.

Jared Cohen, the State Department official who organized the visit, disputed a suggestion that the event seemed like a government-sponsored infomercial for Google. “This is a really good example of what we’re calling 21st-century statecraft,” he said. A dozen other companies are involved in the project to digitize the National Museum’s collections, so “it’s not an exclusive club,” he added.

But if you can't wait, try this: The Virtual Museum of Iraq.

Image: One of Iraq's treasures: The royal helmet found at Ur, dating from Sumerian times.

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

New Medieval Gallery at the British Museum

The British Museum has reorganized its medieval ( 1050- 1500) holdings. They are quite proud of the new display and the Times Online description makes it sound quite wonderful. There is a video here that gives a taste of it.

Image: the 15th century Fishpool hoard, a lost treasure of over 1000 gold coins from the Wars of the Roses.

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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Ottawa: a northern capital comes of age

Long ago there was a story going around -- in the typical style of Canadian self-disparagement -- that Ottawa was known in the international diplomatic corps as one of the bleakest places to be posted. Given the refined tastes that most diplomats would like to indulge, the story may well have been true. Ottawa was a pretty ordinary place, and colder than most.

Whatever the truth of the story, it can hardly be true today. The place has grown, diversified its economy, and generated a lot of the neat things a good city should have, and some of the institutions that capitals generally support. And early June is a pretty wonderful time to see its green river valleys.

I often go to Ottawa to visit friends, and don't have a chance to just enjoy the city. But this past weekend I went to visit the city, and among other things saw a big flashy public institution, the National Gallery of Canada. All the big Ottawa museums have been rehoused in the last quarter century -- I've joked that they explain the deficits of the Trudeau-Mulrony years. Despite the fact that the "new" NGC was finished in 1988, this is the first time I've been inside it.

We got our money's worth on this one. There are some good collections here, but the building itself by Moses Safdie would be worth visiting -- a shorter visit, maybe -- if it were empty.

I've been to the Museum of Civilization -- also a fine building; next trip, perhaps the War Museum. I'm only about 2 years late on that one.

Image: "Maman" (Mama) by Louise Bourgeoise, outside the NGC.

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