Baltimore—(October 23, 2008) The Walters Art Museum, Winterthur Museum & Country Estate and the University of Delaware’s Department of Art Conservation have been selected by the United States Department of State to be cultural partners to participate in the Iraq Cultural Heritage Project announced at the Embassy of the Republic of Iraq by First Lady Laura Bush. The Department of State, through the American Embassy in Baghdad, has awarded a $13 million grant to International Relief and Development, a non-governmental organization that directs assistance “in regions of the world that present social, political and technical challenges.” IRD will collaborate with several institutions, including the Walters, Winterthur and University of Delaware, which have technical and academic expertise to address the principle goals of the project.
The cultural partners will assist in the establishment of a conservation and historic preservation institute in Erbil, Iraq. The institute will focus on technical and professional training. The objects conservation program will be implemented with expertise provided by the Walters, Winterthur and the University of Delaware. The U.S. National Park Service will provide expertise in establishing the historic preservation and archaeology program of the new Institute.

The three groups selected to participate in the program are recognized leaders in museum conservation work. The Walters’ conservation laboratory is the third oldest in the U.S. and is known for its high standards in treatment and research. Its conservation staff lectures for graduate-level conservation training programs and provides training internships and fellowships for U.S. and international students. The Walters has trained over 125 conservators, who are currently working in museums or are in private practice throughout the world. In 2006, the Walters was selected to train two conservators from the Iraq Museum in Baghdad in the preservation of ivory artifacts from Nimrud. This project has lead to continued interest in working with conservators in Iraq. Winterthur and the University of Delaware direct a graduate-level conservation program that has trained museum professionals who currently work for leading institutions across the globe. Most recently, the Winterthur/UD conservation program received national acclaim for a central role they played in responding to the needs of cultural institutions whose collections were damaged following Hurricane Katrina.

“Winterthur’s conservators gained immeasurable experience from the museum collection recovery and training efforts we were involved in along the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina,”said Gregrory J. Landrey, Winterthur’s director of library, collections management and academic programs. “We will use some of that experience to assist in the development of a curriculum of the conservation institute in Erbil.”
“Working with our partners in the United States and Iraq, we will develop a training program for Iraqi professionals addressing the philosophy and ethics of conservation, relevant scientific principles and methods, the stabilization and treatment of collections, and preventive conservation practices, including the proper display and storage of collections,” said Debra Hess Norris, University of Delaware vice provost for graduate and professional education and Henry Francis du Pont Chair in Fine Arts.

“I am honored to be a part of this collaborative project.  It is gratifying to use my expertise in the preservation of cultural heritage to assist Iraq in re-establishing its capacity to care for its world-class collections, and at the same time, to create long-term ties with colleagues there,” said Terry Drayman-Weisser, Walters director of conservation and technical research.

For more information on the Iraq Cultural Heritage Project, go to the State Department’s web page.