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Mosul Museum prepares to reopen after decades of war

Mosul Museum on May 11, 2023 (Waleed AL-KHALED / AFP)

Following two decades of silence, Mosul's museum is on the cusp of rejuvenation as restoration efforts draw near a conclusion, Iraqi officials reported on Thursday. Its doors were shut in 2003 in the tumultuous aftermath of the US-led invasion, and later suffered severe damage at the hands of Daesh militants in 2014. Plans are now underway for the museum to welcome visitors once again in 2026.

Reopening after years of destruction

Laith Majid, the director of Iraq’s antiquities authority, underscored the significance of the rehabilitation project during a press briefing. “In the city of two springs, we gather today to mark the initiation of the revival project for the Mosul Museum,” he stated.

Daesh militants, wielding power tools and sledgehammers, inflicted significant damage on the museum, laying waste to ancient statues and pre-Islamic treasures. A video, released in 2015, documented this wanton destruction, stunning the global community.

Today, evidence of the museum’s turbulent history remains visible, including a substantial hole in the floor of the esteemed Assyrian gallery—a result of a bomb blast. Khair Al-Din Ahmed Nasser, the antiquities chief in Nineveh province, with Mosul as its capital, remarked, “Part of this void will remain as a testament to the atrocities committed here.”



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International efforts to replenish the museum

In acknowledgment of the strides made in the restoration, the museum has introduced a fresh exhibition, showcasing its rich history, prized collection, and ongoing restoration plans. Prestigious institutions such as the Louvre Museum in France, the Smithsonian Institute, and the World Monument Fund have contributed significantly to the project.

The ongoing restoration signifies the last stage in a comprehensive plan to reconstruct and rehabilitate the museum infrastructure, with the full reopening targeted for the summer of 2026. The projected timeline for the completion of this phase spans two to three years.



Among the invaluable artifacts damaged by Daesh and currently under restoration are treasures from the ancient Assyrian site of Nimrud. These include a winged lion, two stately “lamassu” sculptures—human-headed winged bulls—and the ninth-century BC throne base of King Ashurnasirpal II.


Inside the Mosul Museum, May 11, 2023. (Waleed AL-KHALED / AFP)


Barbara Couturaud, a representative from the Louvre Museum, updated the public on the restoration work, revealing that three out of five works are nearing completion. Due to the massive size of these sculptures, several tons each, the restoration process is intricate and challenging. Moreover, the International Alliance for the Protection of Cultural Heritage in Conflict Areas (ALIPH) has supplied vital financial backing for the restoration, facilitating the identification and rejuvenation of these important artifacts. Couturaud expressed hope that the restored pieces would be ready for the public’s viewing pleasure during the museum’s grand reopening in 2026.