Saving Antiquities for Everyone (SAFE) and Donny George, former director of the Iraq Museum and former president of the Iraq State Board of Antiquities, invite you to participate in the 2008 Global Candlelight Vigil to mark the fifth anniversary of the 2003 looting of the Iraq Museum in Baghdad.
In the five years since this terrible event, nearly half the missing works have been recovered. Yet thousands of Iraq Museum artifacts remain at large. Meanwhile, museums around the world are increasingly confronted by security challenges, and rampant looting at archaeological sites continues unabated around the world.
“Now is the time for people and museum professionals to gather together: to remember the events of 2003 and take steps to ensure that no museum in the world suffers a similar fate,” says George, who is now a visiting professor at Stony Brook University.
In a global call to action, George urges museum directors and staff, university faculty and students, and citizens around the world to use the fifth anniversary of the looting of the Iraq Museum as an opportunity to reenergize our efforts to protect the world’s cultural heritage.
Museums are encouraged to treat April 10-12, 2008, every year as a time to conduct security audits and update their internal risk management and due diligence practices. Likewise, universities are invited to use these three days every year for education and public awareness about the academic, ethical, and legal consequences of the destruction of cultural heritage with classroom projects, panel discussions, symposiums, or exhibitions.
The SAFE website offers suggestions for universities, museums, community groups, and others to plan an event of any size. SAFE Candlelight Vigil Kits offer a wealth of resources, including the DVD documentary Robbing the Cradle of Civilization: The Looting of Iraq’s Ancient Treasures (Canadian Broadcasting Company) or the documentary Thieves of Baghdad (Al Jazeera). Other relevant videos, such as a Charlie Rose interview with George from 2007, can be used, and SAFE also provides publicity tools.
Hosting a vigil in your community is easy:
• Choose a location and time on April 10, 11, or 12
• Schedule your event and post it to the Host a Vigil section of the SAFE website so that members of your community can learn of it and attend
• Use e-cards, customizable announcement flyers, buttons, posters, postcards, and the press-release template to help publicize your vigil
• Distribute the Candlelight Vigil brochure for distribution at your event. The brochure is being developed in conjunction with the exhibition Catastrophe! The Looting and Destruction of Iraq’s Past at the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago
• Gather with friends, family, colleagues, professors, and students. Pause for a moment of silence and light a candle. Discuss the destruction of cultural heritage and looting of ancient sites around the world, fueled by the global trade in illicit antiquities
• Document your vigil with digital photographs or video and send them to SAFE. We will use them in a compilation Video Memorial that includes gatherings from around the world
• You may also choose to light a virtual candle and add your name to the list of other supporters
SAFE is a nonprofit organization that creates educational programs and media campaigns to raise public awareness about the importance of preserving cultural heritage worldwide. Having no political affiliations, SAFE is a coalition of professionals in communications, media, and advertising working alongside experts in the academic, legal, and law enforcement communities.