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Last Updated: Tuesday, 3 June, 2003, 10:15 GMT 11:15 UK
Iraq 'virtual heritage' archive planned
National Museum of Iraq
Baghdad's National Museum was ransacked
A US university is hoping to create a virtual archive of Iraq's historical treasures.

The University of California at Berkeley is trying to raise $5m (3m) for a project which would chronicle the war-torn country's museums and archaeological digs.

The results would be put on a website which would offer photographs, text, and real-time details such as the humidity or earthquake activity at research sites.

Many historical sites were looted after US-led forces gained control of Baghdad in April, and the museum plans to place sensors at key locations to alert the network to any attempted thefts.

"Now the US has the upper hand in Iraq, I feel in some ways it is our obligation to help part of the restoration and reconstruction," said Ruzena Bajcsy, director of the university's Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society.

"I am using Iraq as an opportunity for promoting the idea of a virtual heritage, a cultural heritage encyclopaedia."

Already, the university has secured three months of funding from technology giant Hewlett-Packard to set up a website for the project.

'Major loss'

Experts say looting is continuing at archaeological sites, weeks after Baghdad's National Museum was ransacked by thieves.

In a separate move, the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute has started categorising 7,000 items from the museum, with early details being placed on a website.

The institute's Iraq specialist McGuire Gibson, who has just returned from Baghdad, said officials there had identified 1,000 objects from a collection of hundreds of thousands of items.

He said the number of looted items which could be identified was likely to rise to between 3,000 and 4,000.

"Think about losing 3,000 to 4,000 objects in any major museum," he said.

"It is a major loss regardless."

Mr Gibson added the museum had recovered 1,200 items, but some were reproductions or other work with lesser value.




SEE ALSO:
Tackling the stolen art trade
07 May 03  |  Entertainment
Hunt on for Iraq museum thieves
06 May 03  |  Middle East
Restoring Iraq's cultural heritage
29 Apr 03  |  Entertainment


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