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National Museum of Iraq

The National Museum of Iraq is a museum located in Baghdad in Iraq. The National Museum of Iraq contains priceless relics from Mesopotamian civilization. The National Museum was established by a British traveler and author Gertrude Bell and opened shortly before her death in 1926. It was originally known as the Baghdad Archaeological Museum.

Because of the archaeological riches of Mesopotamia, its collections are amongst the most important in the world. The museum has a fine record of scholarship and display. The British connection with the museum (and with Iraq) means that exhibits have always been displayed bilingually (English and Arabic). It contains important artifacts from the over 5,000 year long history of Mesopotamia in 28 galleries and vaults.

After a brief closure, the National Museum of Iraq in Baghdad has reopened the doors to its greatest treasures, giving the public the first view of Iraq's archaeological wealth since the Persian Gulf War.

The museum reopened on the late Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's birthday. According to the Information Ministry, the Iraqis had kept the museum closed, because of the threat of more strikes from United States airplanes.

The Gulf War began on January 16, 1991, when a U.S.-led military coalition launched air raids against Iraq and its forces occupying neighboring, oil-rich Kuwait. The Mesopotamian civilization goes deep in the history for 9,000 years. One item on display is a Sumarian marble head, considered a fine example of ancient sculpture. Another piece consists of fragments of elephant ivory used in royal furniture -- some with 5,000-year-old traces of paint.

Present-day Iraq is built between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, site of the ancient Mesopotamia considered the cradle of civilization. The museum's 10,000 pieces on display represent fewer than 3 percent of Iraq's holdings. They're a record of the intricate civilizations built by the Babylonians and Sumarians thousands of years ago.

The more spectacular pieces, treasures from the royal tombs in Ur and recent excavations from Nimrod, won't be on exhibit until summer of 2008. The National Museum of Iraq is a draw for archaeologists.

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