من بلاد الرافدين الى العراق


Open 12 Dec 2020 – 22 Aug 2021

Gallery 8

Admission was free FREE

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.


A limestone statue of a male figure

Sumerian statue of a male worshipper, 2600–2350 BC, AN1919.65


In this film, we hear from some of those involved in the creation of the exhibition: Community Ambassadors Nuha Abdo and Mustafa Barcho; Community Engagement Officer Nicola Bird; Exhibition co-curators Paul Collins and Myfanwy Lloyd; and Artist Piers Secunda.




The Piers Secunda art installation was made possible thanks to the generosity of Arts Council England and the Owning the Past Supporters Circle.

Arts Council England





Christine Down 

Peter Kuhlmann and Diane Gilmour 

Hans and Anna Leemhuis-Röell 

Milton Abbey Association 

Eva Röell and Martijn Meeske 

Guus Röell  

And all those who prefer to remain anonymous 


The exhibition is supported by

The van Houten Fund 

Al Tajir Trust 

The British Institute for the Study of Iraq (Gertrude Bell Memorial) 

The exhibition, curated by the Ashmolean’s Dr Paul Collins in collaboration with Dr Myfanwy Lloyd, could not have been developed without the help, advice and guidance received from:

Dr Priya Atwal

Dr Robert Bewley

Professor Santanu Das

Professor Louise Fawcett

Dr Robert Johnson

Professor Margaret MacMillan

Professor Eugene Rogan

Debbie Usher


Loans have generously been made available by:

Magdalen College Archive

Middle East Centre Archive, St Antony’s College

The Soldiers of Oxfordshire Museum

Piers Secunda