Last Tuesday, the National Museum in Baghdad had its ceremonial reopening, and judging from the pictures, it’s a beautiful place.
They even have a hall specifically devoted to artifacts that were looted in 2003 and returned by other governments or recovered by police/military action. Very trendy.
One problem, though: it’s not actually open for business in the usual sense of the term.
Visitors can’t drop by, pay an entrance fee and tour the collection. Few are allowed past the guards at the surrounding gates, and inside the gates, there are other checkpoints.
Even inside the building, visitors are told that it’s impossible for them to see the exhibits without written permission from the museum director, who’s simply too busy to write such notes.
If she does find time, the director will say that unless another museum official is available as a guide, it’s impossible to tour the displays. They have been cobbled together from artifacts that were locked in storage when the museum was looted after the invasion.
The Ministry of Culture actually boycotted the re-opening over security concerns. They don’t think it’s safe enough for antiquities to go on display yet, nor for people to view them.
So basically it’s a bit of a PR front to make it feel like the country is getting back to normal. It’ll be months, maybe even years before the museum is ready for the public.
P.S. – AP’s allergy to political reality strikes again. Notice there’s no mention whatsoever of the fake opening in the AP story, whereas the McClatchy story lays it all out.