BAGHDAD, (AP) – Google is documenting Iraq’s national museum and will post photographs of its ancient treasures on the Internet early next year, Google chief Eric Schmidt announced Tuesday.
The museum was ransacked in the chaotic aftermath of Saddam Hussein’s ouster in April 2003, and only reopened to visitors early this year. Schmidt, who toured the museum with U.S. Ambassador Christopher Hill on Tuesday, said it was important for the world to see Iraq’s rich heritage and contribution to world culture.
“The history of the beginning of — literally — civilization is made right here and is preserved here in this museum,” Schmidt said at a ceremony attended by Iraqi officials.
“I can think of no better use of our time and our resources than to make the images and ideas from your civilization, from the very beginnings of time, available to billions of people worldwide,” he said.
Schmidt said Google has taken some 14,000 photographs of the museum and its artifacts, and the images will be available online in early 2010.
The museum was among many institutions, including universities, hospitals, libraries and art galleries, that were looted or set ablaze across Iraq in the days and weeks that followed Saddam’s ouster.
The richness of the museum’s collection and its importance as a caretaker of the relics of early civilization triggered an outcry around the world.
The museum holds artifacts from the Stone Age through the Babylonian, Assyrian and Islamic periods. It reopened to visitors in February.