Documenting and Sharing the “Living Art” of Iraq

Yesterday’s New York Times Art & Design section features a piece entitled “Iraq’s Modern Art Collection, Waiting to Re-emerge.” This article provides an excellent overview of the tragic fate of Iraq’s modern art that has inspired the creation of the Modern Art Iraq Archive (MAIA).
MAIA is a collaborative effort between Nada Shabout, an assistant professor of art history at the University of North Texas, and researchers at the Alexandria Archive Institute (AAI) and UC Berkeley. Since 2003, Prof. Shabout, who is the project lead, has been documenting artwork destroyed and looted from the Iraqi Museum of Modern Art in Baghdad. In 2009, she teamed up with the AAI to create an online, open access system to share and further document the works. For many of the works, further documentation by the public is critical, as many were never properly accessioned into the collection… meaning that the only record that these works ever existed in the museum is in the memories of the people themselves. Thus, key features of the MAIA system will be user contributions and tools to easily browse and broadcast the content elsewhere on the Web. Funded by an NEH/IMLS Digital Humanities Start-Up grant (under the name “OMACI”), the MAIA system incorporates elements from two open source systems, Omeka and Open Context. MAIA will be be available in English and Arabic and will be online in September 2010. The New York Times article also offers a poignant video about the current state of Iraq’s “living art.” More information on the MAIA project can be found in the abstract for the MAIA project presentation at the Digital Humanities 2010 conference.

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