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Last Updated:  Monday, 31 March, 2003, 11:25 GMT 12:25 UK
Interest grows in Iraqi art
Dr Irving Finkel, of the British Museum's Ancient Near East department
British Museum curator Dr Irving Finkel with Assyrian gate figures
The British Museum says visits to its Iraqi cultural exhibits have soared as a side effect of the war.

Museum staff say inquiries about the nation's historical artefacts have trebled since the conflict began.

The British Museum has the greatest collection of Mesopotamian art outside Iraq.

A spokeswoman confirmed that visits to its Mesopotamian and Assyrian galleries had risen significantly.

She said interested parties represented many different races and nationalities.

"It's just general curiosity from what's going on (with the war)," she said.

"Members of the public are coming from all over the world."

Elsewhere, other Iraqi artistic and cultural centres in the UK have reported increased interest.

About 2,000 people have visited an exhibition of everyday Iraqi objects called Our Life in Pieces at the Diorama Gallery in Camden, north London, The Times reports.

The show, containing items such as bullet casings and bathtubs, is the most popular the gallery has held in some years, the paper says.

The Times says a number of Iraqi arts establishments have reported an increased interest, including Zipang, a voluntary group that performs ancient stories.

Sales of books by Iraqi authors are said to have risen dramatically, while interest in Iraqi and Arab poetry has increased.

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