Dr. Donny George Youkhanna, who was director-general of the National Museum of Iraq in Bagdhad before fleeing his country in 2006, will give an account at the University of St. Thomas of the cultural losses suffered by the museum and 12,500 archaeological sites in the wake of his country’s invasion.
Youkhanna’s lecture, “The Looting of the Iraq Museum,” begins at 6 p.m. Friday, April 9, in Room 126 (auditorium) of John R. Roach Center for the Liberal Arts on the St. Thomas campus in St. Paul. The talk is free and open to the public.
He will give a second free lecture, “The Discovery of the Nimrud Treasures,” at 11 a.m. Saturday, April 10, at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 2400 Third Ave. S., Minneapolis. The lecture, co-presented by the Archaeological Institute of America and its local chapter on the anniversary of the looting of the Iraq Museum, will be followed by a brief candlelight vigil in remembrance of that event.
“Dr. George,” as he is known in the United States, is an internationally renowned archaeologist, anthropologist, author, curator and scholar who also was chairman and president of Iraq’s State Board of Antiquities and Heritage. Educated at the University of Baghdad, he was instrumental in recovering nearly half of the 15,000 Mesopotamian artworks and artifacts looted from the Bagdhad museum and other archaeological sites during the 2003 invasion. Threats from extremists against him and his family forced him to fee his country; today he is a visiting professor in the Anthropology Department at Stony Brook University in New York.
The National Museum of Iraq reopened in February 2009, and thousands of works remain lost. Youkhanna told The New York Times that he believed the museum had been reopened “for political reasons” and required “years’ more preparations to reach international standards of curatorship, conservation and security before it could safely accommodate museumgoers.”