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Creating a digital archive of historic documents and photographs of World Heritage sites in Iraq

In order to preserve historical documents related to World Heritage sites, the Iraqi State Board of Heritage and Antiquities has proposed to digitise historical documents from different archives and archive in a central, online database. The project is at an early proposal stage.

About World Heritage in Iraq

The country of Iraq is home to six World Heritage sites: the cultural sites of Hatra, Ashur (Qal'at Sherqat), Samarra Archaeological City, Erbil Citadel, and Babylon, and the mixed property The Ahwar of Southern Iraq: Refuge of Biodiversity and the Relict Landscape of the Mesopotamian Cities.

The conservation of the sites has been affected by the unstable conflict situation of the country during the past decades. The State of Conservation reports for the properties refer to threats related to management systems and legal frameworks, war and deliberate destruction of heritage.

Creating a digital archive of documents and photographs of World Heritage sites

The Iraqi State Board of Heritage and Antiquities has proposed a new project to create a central database and digitally preserve and archive historical documents and photographs related to World Heritage sites in Iraq. The project will collect the pictures and documents held in several archives, digitise them, and catalogue them to improve access to crucial conservation material and ensure the documents’ safeguarding. 

The project is expected to take place between mid-2021 and the end of 2024. It counts with the support of the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Antiquities and the State Board. The overall cost for the project is estimated at USD 15,000. This amount includes the purchase of digitisation equipment such as high-resolution scanners and cameras.

The proposed project consists of four stages:

  1. Collect documents and photographs from relevant archives, mainly the State Board of Antiquities and Heritage and the Baghdad Central Library;
  2. Create a digital database system using Microsoft Access;
  3. Create digital copies of all items and record them in the database; and
  4. Create a physical and digital catalogue to make the database accessible to researchers and students.

The main challenges faced by the project team are related to the security situation in the country and lack of funding. As of March 2021, the team was looking for external funding opportunities. The organisers are also considering charging a fee to access the digitised material in order to maintain the service financially sustainable.

The initiative aims to contribute towards the preservation of World Heritage sites in Iraq by preserving crucial historical reports and making them easily accessible for researchers, students and professionals. At the same time, the project aims to ensure the preservation of historical documents against disasters, both human-made and natural.

Source: Mohammad Al-Mimar, preventive conservator at the State Board of Heritage and Antiquities / Iraq Museum, 2021.

Contribution towards the implementation of the 2011 Recommendation on the Historic Urban Landscape

The project could contribute to the implementation of the Historic Urban Landscape approach by aiming to preserve crucial documentation and photographs that can help to study and understand the heritage values of the sites. 

Historic Urban Landscape Tools

Knowledge and Planning tools

Contribution towards Sustainable Development

If fully implemented in accordance with the described plans, the initiative could contribute towards Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Goal 11. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

  • Target 11.4: the initiative aims to protect and safeguard the world’s cultural heritage.

Note: the described potential impacts of the projects are only indicative and based on submitted and available information. UNESCO does not endorse the specific initiatives nor ratifies their positive impact.


Mohammad Al-Mimar, preventive conservator at the State Board of Heritage and Antiquities / Iraq Museum

© UNESCO, 2021. Project team: Jyoti Hosagrahar, Alba Zamarbide, Carlota Marijuán Rodríguez, Federico Rudari.
Cover image: Erbil Citadel © Jessica Johnson. Permanent URL: whc.unesco.org/en/documents/129729

Note: The cases shared in this platform address heritage protection practices in World Heritage sites and beyond. Items being showcased in this website do not entail any type of recognition or inclusion in the World Heritage list or any of its thematic programmes. The practices shared are not assessed in any way by the World Heritage Centre or presented here as model practices nor do they represent complete solutions to heritage management problems. The views expressed by experts and site managers are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the World Heritage Centre. The practices and views shared here are included as a way to provide insights and expand the dialogue on heritage conservation with a view to further urban heritage management practice in general.