Owning the Past: From Mesopotamia to Iraq was a free exhibition held at the Ashmolean Museum between December 2020 and August 2021. I was fortunate to visit during July and Paul Collins, Jaleh Hearn Curator of Ancient Near East at the museum kindly showed me around the exhibition and also the recently refurbished Ancient Near East Gallery that he curated. I interviewed him about this work - and much more! - for The Wonder House podcast. There is a separate photo gallery for the gallery refurbishment.
Remember, you can use any of these images freely under the CC BY licence with the following attribution: ‘Photo © Sushma Jansari’
Information about the exhibition from the Ashmolean’s website (their highlight):
This dual language (Arabic and English) exhibition highlighted the long-lasting impact of the past on the present. It explored how the borders of the state of Iraq were established following the First World War when British control of the region included a fascination with its ancient past – one that led to a colonisation of Mesopotamian antiquity as much as the living communities. It questioned what is meant by heritage and introduced voices and stories of people not previously visible in displays devoted to the very histories and heritage of their homelands.
The exhibition opened with a commissioned installation by the artist Piers Secunda. His powerful artwork was created from a reproduction of the Assyrian relief of a bird-headed spirit from Nimrud, Iraq, that now dominates the Museum’s Welcome Space. It acted as a metaphor for the wider destruction of individual and community identities resulting from war, colonialism, oppressive ideologies, and neglect.