Visualizing Iraq's Cultural Landscape

Sample Data For USACE Iraq GIS Project
To Develop A Tool For Cultural Resource Management

John Simmons,
Chairman (
The Baghdad Museum Project (

Presented to:

Nancy J. Blyler

Milton J. Rider
Donald R. Kisicki
Michael R. Mele
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

September 17, 2003


The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is currently creating a comprehensive GIS for Iraq, primarily for use in peacekeeping operations, but also for use in helping to manage reconstruction projects throughout Iraq.

The Baghdad Museum Project is a public-private partnership dedicated to preserving, protecting and further cultivating the cultural heritage of the people of Iraq through multi-sector and multi-disciplinary dialogue and exchange.

GIS is ideally suited to integrate and manage data representing diverse perspectives in a group problem solving process. Hence, it would be a valuable tool for not only those contractors involved in rebuilding Iraq, but also those institutions devoted to protecting Iraq's cultural property, as Iraq has over 10,000 archaeological sites and, to date, an estimated 90% of its cultural artifacts have yet to be excavated.

If the USACE GIS can include archaeological and cultural data along with the other data presently planned for inclusion, then Iraq's cultural dimension would be more readily accessible in the planning stages for a new Iraq, and a cultural strategy can be developed to help foreign companies and investors form long-term partnerships with the Iraqi people. Meanwhile, throughout the world, the USACE would be helping to provide a new learning resource to teachers and students, and a tool to the archaeological community and cultural institutions for cultural resource management.

To this end, the Baghdad Museum Project is proposing to work with the USACE Iraq GIS team to provide archaeological and other cultural data, and develop web-delivered GIS applications that would combine the cultural data with other data the USACE will make available to the public.

Participants will include faculty and students from the Computer Science Department at George Mason University, members of the Multi-Sector Crisis Management Consortium of ACCESS.DC (operated by the National Center for Supercomputing Applications), Dr. Lowell Christy of the Cultural Strategies Institute (, Dr. Donald Sanders of the Institute for the Visualization of History, and members from the local Iraqi-American community.

Types of Cultural Data

The Baghdad Museum Project seeks to:
  1. establish a comprehensive online catalog of all cultural artifacts in the museum's collection to help locate them, discourage illegal dealing in these antiquities, and encourage their safe return to the museum's curators;

  2. create a virtual Baghdad Museum--a content-rich publicly accessible Website--in order to stimulate cross-cultural appreciation and dialogue, incorporating interactive streaming video, GIS, 3D navigation, and online classrooms;

  3. build a 3D collaborative workspace within the virtual Baghdad Museum to allow international multi-sector and multi-disciplinary teams to work together on renovation designs, exhibit layouts, new building proposals, and fundraising for museums around Iraq, as well as cultural strategies for organizations involved in the rebuilding of Iraq; and

  4. establish a resource center within the virtual Baghdad Museum for community cultural development, offering experiences, ideas, and success stories that show how culture can contribute to human development, and how people can contribute creatively to their own culture and can thereby strengthen their historical memory.
The Baghdad Museum Project proposes integrating the following types of data through one or more ArcIMS interfaces:
For an overview of the Project's virtual heritage designs, see this draft paper for the Virtual Systems and Multimedia Conference in Montreal, October, 2003.

The following are samples of the data and links described above.


Assyrian capitals Babylonian cities Later sites Major excavated sites Caves Museums Location Data sources: M.D. Roaf, Cultural Atlas of Mesopotamia and the Ancient Near East; compiled by Nicholas Postgate and Dr Eleanor Robson

Site Plans and Photos

3D Models (and other depictions)

Photos of Objects

For our current photo exhibit see The Treasures of the Iraq Museum in Baghdad.

Collaborative Authoring

The Bagdad Museum Project anticipates using one or more instances of a collaborative authoring platform based on an opensource engine, MediaWiki. This would permit members of the public such as students, teachers, artists, etc., to easily contribute materials to an openly shared resource. A separate instance of the platform would be reserved for registered members of a community of interest, available to the public read-only.

For an example of such a platform, in which all links lead to pages that can be freely edited, expanded and revised (while archiving all versions), please click here. The Project will develop ways to link to specific clusters of entries based on areas selected on a map using the ArcIMS tools.