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Basrah Museum

The British Institute for the Study of Iraq merged with the Friends of Basrah Museum (FOBM) in October 2020. The FOBM was founded in 2010 to assist with the establishment of a new museum in Basra, Iraq, dedicated to the archaeological and historical inheritance of Basra in particular and Iraq in general and to foster the study of the cultural heritage of the Basra region and more generally southern Iraq. 

The British Institute for the Study of Iraq (BISI) and the Friends of Basrah Museum (FOBM) have announced that they are to merge. This follows the successful culmination of a decade-long project, championed by FOBM, to open a new museum in Basra to celebrate and conserve the heritage of southern Iraq.

Under the terms of the merger, overall management of activities previously undertaken by FOBM will transfer to BISI, which will also assume responsibility for FOBM’s remaining funds. BISI will form a new sub-committee to build on FOBM’s achievements to date and which will support the staff of the museum, offer assistance and advice and act as ambassadors for the museum outside Iraq. FOBM Chairman Dr John Curtis and Trustee Sir Terence Clark are respectively President and Patron of BISI already and FOBM Trustees Hugo Clarke and Clare Bebbington will serve on the new sub-committee, along with BISI Council members, including BISI Vice Chair, Joan Porter MacIver.

‘The new museum in Basrah is an extraordinary achievement and testimony to the leadership and endorsement of the Iraqi State Board of Antiquities and Heritage, the energy and expertise of the Museum team in Basra and the dedication and determination of the Trustees and project leaders of the Friends of Basrah Museum,’ said BISI Chair of Council Dr Paul Collins. ‘We believe this merger is the best way of ensuring continuing support for what is universally acknowledged as a flagship project.’

FOBM Chairman Dr John Curtis says: ‘It is widely recognised that to have created a new museum of international quality in Iraq in the ten tumultuous years since 2010 has been a remarkable achievement. ‘We’re very proud of what Friends of Basrah Museum has accomplished and it is the right time to merge with an organisation which shares our objectives and commitment to protecting the heritage of Iraq.’

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The Basrah Museum’s first gallery, devoted to the Basra region, was opened and preliminary remedial works completed in 2016 thanks to a generous donation from the BP Foundation and other corporate and private contributions. 

Following the September 2016 Basrah Gallery launch ceremony, a two-day international conference on the history, culture, and heritage of Basra took place, organised by the BISI and Museum Director Qahtan Alabeed. 

In December 2016, the FOBM was awarded a grant from the Cultural Protection Fund (CPF) to complete the installation of the three remaining galleries and to assist with museum staff training and activities. 

In March 2019 the remaining three galleries – Assyrian, Babylon and Sumer, were opened, marked by an official ceremony presided over by Qahtan Alabeed. The grant was extended in January 2019 to establish a Basrah Museum Library and provide training. The CPF funded project work was completed in February 2020.