Saturday, February 2, 2013

War & Peace & World Heritage, The Future of Babylon

The Ancient Middle East

Recently, I attended a presentation entitled Babylon and Beyond: Preserving Iraqi Cultural Heritage at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. This presentation gave me a greater appreciation for the work of heritage stewardship and brought to light a new found sense of personal freedom. 

The presentation was given by Diane Siebrandt, who shared her experiences working for the U.S. State Department in Iraq. She focused primarily on many of the historic sites in Iraq, the cradle of civilization. Often called the fertile crescent, this region of the world was the birth place of ancient Mesopotamian civilization.

Reconstructed Ziggarut at Ur
At first glance of the presentation's topic, I was quick to assume that part of the lecture would discuss the looting of the Iraq museum. This incident took place in April of 2003 and received a great deal of media attention. However, the looting was not the primary focus of the presentation. Neither were the politics behind the war or the Taliban’s role in the destruction of other world heritage sites. Instead, the presenter introduced us to key historic sites in Iraq like Babylon, Ur, and Ashur. She provided unique insights into how these places are being both protected and conserved. 

It was inspiring and refreshing to listen to how Diane Siebrandt chose a proactive approach that emphasized the future and not the past. Her presentation brought a positive air of change to an area of the world that has lived in the dark for far too long.  

Mesopotamian God Gilgamesh
Another key point of the presentation was on the work that has been done to provide training and access to educational resources for preservation professionals in Iraq. Too often I have taken for granted basic resources like books and the Internet. Living in America, access to education and the development of professional networks seem like a given, but this is hardly the case in many places around the world. The freedom we have to communicate openly and exchange ideas is both a privilege and a responsibility. This presentation gave me a chance to reflect on how fortunate I am to even have the opportunity to write this blog and share my views with friends and colleagues.

As highly criticized as the war in Iraq has been, this presentation brought to light a different side of the conflict that is often overlooked: freedom. Learning about the emerging Iraqi freedom to exchange knowledge in an effort to preserve their own ancient heritage made me appreciate my own freedom and the sacrifices of service men and women who make this freedom possible.   

Vintage Postcard from Iraq

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