An earthquake with a magnitude of 7.3 on the Richter scale devastated the Iraqi provinces of Sulamaniyah and Halabjah in November 2017. Hundreds died, thousands were injured and many Iraqis were rendered homeless. The earthquakes further damaged important cultural heritage sites, including the Slemani Museum, the second-most important museum in Iraq. Economic crisis in the region and severe resource constraints on public authorities threatened further damage from the coming winter rains.
RASHID International, in cooperation with Ludwig-Maximilian-University of Munich, funded by the Gerda Henkel Foundation, launched an emergency reconstruction project in early 2018 to repair Slemani Museum and two cultural heritage sites, Azad Noori Bag and Mutabchi, in order to prevent permanent damage to the buldings’ structure and collections. UNESCO Iraq has provided experts to supervise reconstruction and ensure that standards are met and quality materials are used.
All three buildings suffered structural damage during the 2017 earthquake. Especially the roofs were in danger of collapse. Leaks threatened to cause water damage during winter and spring, which are seasons of heavy rain. The Gerda Henkel Foundation restauration project enabled the reconstruction of the roofs of the historical houses and the repair of damages of the museum building. The damaged entrance area of the museum was formerly used as office space and is now being converted to a larger space for exhibitions, with a special section for the display of results from current excavations in Slemani Province.
Mutabchi House was built in 1891 by Hajji Said Mutabchi, the owner of a publishing house in the Sebunkeran quarter and acquired by the heritage authorities in 2005. The 802 sqm house was built in the classical style popular in the region in the 19th century, incorporating stylized vines, mirror glass and baroque frames with large mirrors.
Azad Noori Bag was established by the eponymous owner in 1892, who came to wealth by way of the chattel trade in the United States of America. Like Mutabchi, the 532 sqm cultural heritage site was built in the classical Ottoman style of the 19th century. It was acquired by the heritage authorities in 2009.
The Slemani Museum was established in 1961. Its modern premises are located on Salim Street, close to the historic city center and display the second-most important collection of Iraqi antiquities from famous sites such as Jarmo, Isin, Nimrud and Hatra on 6000 sqm. The museum was closed several times during armed conflicts in Iraq, but was opened to the public again in 2000.