Computer Scientist Joins Baghdad Museum Project

Posted: May 21, 2003 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Robin Herron

A phone call from a former George Mason colleague asking for his help got Arun Sood, chair of the Computer Science Department, wondering why he hadn’t thought of it himself: creating a virtual Baghdad Museum to showcase the priceless artifacts—some lost and damaged as a result of the war in Iraq—that have received worldwide interest.

As it was, he jumped on the bandwagon immediately and is now part of a group of volunteers that has begun to “rebuild” the museum online at a site that debuted last month.

Sood’s major role will be in supplying the technical know-how to create and display 3-D images of the artifacts. “This is not a small undertaking,” he says. “It could cost a few million dollars to build this virtual museum.”

While the chief organizer, John Simmons, searches for funding—he recently met with Jordan’s Queen Noor, who heads the King Hussein Foundation—other professionals are working on different aspects of the project. These include an archeologist who has signed on to catalog and describe the history of the various items; a specialist in Iraqi antiquities; an online learning system designer; and technology, communications, and Internet experts.

Currently, the web site presents a virtual “walkthrough” of the museum, photos of some of the artifacts, an archeologist’s weblog on museum information, and an automatically updated list of news articles about the effects of the war on the antiquities, the looting and destruction of many items, and efforts to recover missing pieces. The group is also supporting legislation introduced in Congress to provide for the recovery, restitution, and protection of the museum pieces.

According to “an open letter to the global community” posted on the web site, the museum project seeks to establish a comprehensive online catalog of the cultural artifacts, create the virtual museum, build a 3-D collaborative workspace within the virtual museum, and establish a resource center for community cultural development within the museum. In addition to trying to locate funding sources, the project organizers are looking for authors, researchers, programmers or IT professionals, artists, architects, graphic designers, and others who can contribute their talents to the museum or provide information or photographs about the collection.

“I think it’s a tremendous thing to do,” says Sood, “whether we get funding or not.”

For more information on the museum project, see the web site or contact Simmons.

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