Saturday 7 July 2012

Anticipating Catastrophe!

The tireless driving force behind UNESCO UK's campaign for ratification of the Hague Convention is Professor Peter Stone of the University of Newcastle. In 2003 he was unexpectedly seconded to the Ministry of Defence as their special advisor on cultural heritage in Iraq (being an expert in cultural heritage but not on Iraq). Since then, he has not only led the Chilcot cultural heritage deposition and the Hague ratification campaign.

He has also co-edited, with Joanne Bajjaly, The Destruction of Cultural Heritage in Iraq (Boydell Press, 2008), which I happen to think is the best account of the multiple complexities of the Iraq war and its impact on the country's cultural heritage. In allowing each of the 28 expert contributors their own voices and opinions, rather than harmonising them into a single narrative, Stone and Bajjaly highlight the often complex relationships between themes and events presented from different national and professional standpoints.

I was delighted when BISI agreed to contribute towards the printing of the 2009 paperback edition of Destructionwhich is still available—and even more delighted when it won the Archaeological Institute of America's Wiseman Book Award for 2011.

As if that weren't enough, this month he is bringing an updated version of the Chicago Oriental Institute's excellent Catastrophe! exhibition to the Great North Museum in Newcastle. It's free, it runs from 17 July to 28 August 2012, and there will be series of four weekly lectures associated with it. The one on 14 August just happens to be by me... "Cradle of Civilisation, Navel of the World: Why Iraqi Cultural Heritage Matters". Lamia Al-Gailani, Neil Brodie and Peter himself are all slated to speak as well (on different nights). There will be more details soon, on the websites of GNM and BISI, as well as on here, of course.

If you can't get to Newcastle (and even if you can), you can download a free PDF of Geoff Emberling and Katharyn Hanson's original Catastrophe! exhibition catalogue from the Chicago Oriental Institute website. And buy Peter's book too!

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