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Iraq’s Mosul Museum Partially Reopens Following Devastation by ISIS

The Mosul Museum in the millennia-old city of Mosul in northern Iraq, which sustained heavy damages during ISIS’s occupation of the city, has opened a contemporary exhibition this month. The exhibition, “Return to Mosul,” is a twenty-nine-person group show and marks the first time visitors have been able to visit the museum since 2014, when the Islamic State captured the city and used it as its seat of power for three years. After Iraqi troops recovered the museum from ISIS in March 2017, they found that the building was in complete ruins, with a gaping hole in the basement and its artifacts looted or smashed to pieces.

Most of the museum remains heavily damaged and closed for ongoing renovation and security reasons. The institution’s famous seven-foot-tall, two-ton Lamassu statues—winged Assyrian bulls with human faces—were reduced to rubble. According to Iraqi archaeologist Layla Salih, the Lamassues as well as a winged lion statue, which was also destroyed, were the museum’s most valuable pieces.

The only artifacts that survived ISIS’s violent assault on the museum were two massive coffins for thirteenth-century Shiite imams that are inscribed with sayings from the Qur’an. Any items that could not be looted were destroyed on-site. Officials knew the damage to the institution would be extensive, since the jihadists had created a video of themselves attacking items at the museum with sledgehammers and pneumatic drills in February 2015.