April 18, 2003

Oriental Institute treasures

Following the liberation of Baghdad, rampant looting ravaged the city. A major casualty of the looting was the city?s Iraq National Museum, which housed thousands of priceless ancient artifacts. By now, many of these may have made their way to the black market, effectively taking them out of the secure hands of museum curators.

Given the long history of artifact theft in the Middle East, the United States should have anticipated that looting of this magnitude would occur, and were obligated to take greater precautions to protect these treasures of international import. The U.S. has promised to aid in the retrieval of the artifacts. The U.S. is responsible not only for implementing stability and democracy in Iraq, but also for restoring as much of the museum?s collection as possible during the rebuilding process.

Students at the Oriental Institute are already making a database to help identify some of the stolen items from the Iraq National Museum, which unfortunately had only a limited database of its own. The collection at the Institute, already heralded as one of the world?s foremost collections of Near Eastern artifacts, has now gained in relative importance after the ransacking of the Iraqi museum. The Oriental Institute has always been a valuable gem on campus and an incredible resource for the University community. Now it shines brighter than ever before and should be appreciated for its increased global importance.