Project Mosul: Protecting Iraq’s Cultural Heritage

This is a guest blogpost by Dr. Marinos Ioannides, Chance Coughenour and Matthew Vincent (see author details at the bottom of the page).


Neville Chamberlain famously said “In war, whichever side may call itself the victor, there are no winners, but all are losers.” Lives are lost, homes and livelihoods are damaged and culture is erased. In the following post fellows from Project Mosul explain how they are trying to protect and rebuild Iraq’s cultural heritage and explain how you can support their work. Author details are given at the end of the post.

In Iraq, a country devastated by invasions and divided by civil war, destruction of cultural artefacts has become common-place. The last few months have seen Islamic State militants burning books from libraries, destroying ancient artefacts housed in the Mosul Museum and more recently bulldozing the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud.

While it has since transpired that many of the Mosul Museum artefacts destroyed were replicas, some of the larger objects were indeed real. This wanton destruction of cultural heritage has resulted in an outcry from the digital heritage community and beyond. The historically important city of Mosul holds artefacts of huge cultural and historical importance and the Mosul Museum is the second largest museum in Iraq after the National Museum of Iraq in Baghdad. The museum was first looted during the Iraq war in 2003 and millions of pounds of sculptures and images taken. The Mosul Museum has had a rough ride and needs the support of the GLAM community.


Photo of Ishtar temple lion from Project Mosul website. Photo in public domain. Special thanks go to the volunteers who have submitted the images: Suzanne E. Bott, Col. Mary Prophit, and Diane Siebrandt

Positive action has now been taken by the Initial Training Network for Digital Cultural Heritage (ITN-DCH), a Marie Curie Actions training project that is part of the EC Seventh Framework Programme, through the instigation of a volunteer project. Project Mosul is seeking volunteers to help virtually restore the Mosul Museum. This includes finding photos, processing data, contributing to the website and generally helping out with organising the effort to identify the museum artefacts.

espaceOther EU projects such as the Europeana Space and the 4D-CH-WORLD are joining their forces to help and support this volunteer effort of the young Marie-Curie researchers.

The main volunteer activities that support is needed for are:

  • Uploading pictures of the artefacts found in the Mosul Museum
  • Developing the Web platform
  • Mask images using photoshop
  • Spreading the word about the project
  • Getting the word out
  • Processing an artefact using automated photogrammetry to create three-dimensional models

To find out more about how you can support the volunteer activities see the Project Mosul website or join the Google Group.


Some of the artefacts already submitted

The project will run so long as it is needed until the destroyed artefacts can be completely reconstructed and re-produced by using latest novel technologies like the 3D printing. All the reconstructed objects will be available under Open Access licenses and will be ‘exhibited virtually’ on the Cloud under the project’s web portal.

Project Mosul is aligned with the scope of the Europeana Space Project. Open Knowledge is a consultant on the Europeana Space project supporting activities related to open licensing.

eu_logo-150x120Europeana Space has received funding from the European Union’s ICT Policy Support Programme as part of the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme, under GA n° 621037.



Dr. Marinos Ioannides, coordinator of the EU FP7-PEOPLE Marie Curie Project ITN-DCH

marinosDr. Marinos Ioannides is chair of the newly established Digital Heritage lab of the Cyprus University of Technology in Limassol, which is the fastest growing research centre on the island. After obtaining his MSc in Computer Science at the University of Stuttgart, Germany he received a fellowship from the same University in the faculty of Mechanical Engineering. He specialized in 3D Reconstruction from Digitized Data for his PhD. His 3D-Reconstruction engine was developed in cooperation with IBM Germany and is available and running in more than 32 research centers around the world. Dr. Ioannides was a member of the CY committee negotiating the accession of Cyprus to the EU. He is also a member of the EU Digital Library Europeana Network as well as representing Cyprus in the European Commission Group of Experts of the Digitization and Preservation of Cultural Heritage (CH) Content. In 2007 he was appointed for four years as the first Cypriot Seconded National Expert (SNE) at the European Commission in the DG-Research, where he was a Scientific and Policy Advisor for the setup of the EU Horizon 2020 Framework programme. He was the organizer and chair of CIPA/VAST2006, VSMM2008, EuroMed2010 and the 2012 CY-EU Council Presidency conference on CH and the EuroMed2014. He is also the holder of the Tartezos 2010 award from the Spanish and European Virtual Archaeology Association.

Fellow Chance Coughenour

chanceChance’s background ranges from archaeology and history to computer science. He received his BA in History at West Virginia University in the United States where he focused on the historiography of the British Empire in the founding of Hong Kong. Later, he obtained his MA in Archaeology and Heritage through distance learning with the University of Leicester in England. The primary objective of his MA research was focused on Classic Maya landscape archaeology and ritualistic assemblages. Recently, he completed a specialized Master’s course in Virtual Archaeology and Heritage directed by the Spanish Society of Virtual Archaeology. Over the past few years he has participated in the topographic survey and excavations of a Classic Maya commoner site with the Rio Bravo Archaeological Survey in northwestern Belize. Since 2012, he has been the Mapping Director of the project. His involvement on the FP7-PEOPLE Marie Curie ITN-DCH project is with the Institute for Photogrammetry at the University of Stuttgart in Germany. His specialisation currently is applying photogrammetric modeling techniques to cultural heritage for purposes of dissemination and conservation.

Fellow Matthew Vincent

matthewMatthew Vincent, originally from the United States, is an Early Stage Researcher with the Initial Training Network for Digital Cultural Heritage, a Marie Curie Actions programme funded by the European Commission. Matthew first got a taste of archaeology during his undergraduate studies at Walla Walla University in eastern Washington State. What he thought would be a once-off experience has now become the primary career goal and life focus. While he is a dirt archaeologist and loves the experience of discovery and exploration that archaeology offers, he is also a technophile and has been since a very young age, primarily due to a nuclear engineer for a grandfather and the free access that afforded him to a school of engineering while still in grade school. Matthew is now working on ways in which archaeology and technology can be mixed together to enhance both and help preserve heritage for generations to come.