Carleton Presentation Focuses on World Monuments Fund’s Fight to Restore Ancient Babylon


Gina Haney, co-director of the Future of Babylon Project of the World Monuments Fund, will speak abou the organization’s fight to restore one of the world’s great archaeological treasures—ancient Babylon—on Thursday, Oct. 18 at 5 p.m. in the Weitz Center for Creativity Cinema. Haney’s presentation, “Managing Landscapes: The Case of Babylon, Iraq,” looks at the challenge of historic preservation in a region torn apart by war. This event is free and open to the public.

Haney, who holds a master’s degree in architectural history from the University of Virginia, specializes in community-based preservation planning. She has coordinated the creation of long-term conservation and tourism initiatives at historic sites in South America, the Middle East, and West and North Africa. In 2008 Haney cofounded the Community Consortium, a group that assists the World Monuments Fund in its activities at Babylon.

Babylon, whose ruins are located on the Euphrates River around sixty miles south of the present-day Iraqi capital of Baghdad, is one of the most famous cities of the ancient world. Founded around 4,000 years ago, Babylon rose to become the center of the Babylonian Empire, which achieved great prominence in the second millennium B.C.E. Babylon was the home of Hammurabi, the king who created one of the first written legal codes in history, as well as Nebuchadnezzar II, who created the Hanging Gardens of Babylon (one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World) and greatly increased Babylonian influence in lands to the west and south (credited with the destruction of Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem and the Biblical “Babylonian captivity”). Over time Babylon fell into ruin, eventually rediscovered by German archaeologist Robert Koldeway in the late 19th century.


In 1983, then-president Saddam Hussein began rebuilding the city on top of the old ruins, restoring some areas and building entirely new structures in others. Hussein’s plan to build a modern palace at Babylon, glorifying Iraqi nationalism and his own rule, was cut short by the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. During the invasion and occupation of Iraq, U.S. forces were accused of damaging the ancient site, leveling parts of the ruins to build military facilities.


The World Monuments Fund (WMF), a U.S.-based nongovernmental organization dedicated to “saving the world’s most treasured places,” is working with the Iraqi government to stabilize the situation at Babylon. The Future of Babylon project hopes to produce a site management plan to define the boundaries and needs of the site as well as ways in which it can be developed sustainably for tourism. A large part of the Future of Babylon Project’s work involves helping to improve the capacity of Iraq’s State Board of Antiquities and Heritage to manage Babylon and other important sites; the project has helped to train SBAH employees in digital preservation processes.


WMF has worked on preservation projects worldwide at sites deemed important to humanity’s cultural heritage; projects have been conducted at such diverse sites as the Old City of Herat in Afghanistan, the Angkor Wat temple complex in Cambodia, the Moai statues on Easter Island (Chile), the Taj Mahal in India, the Pinkas Synagogue in Prague and the San Juan Capistrano Mission near Los Angeles.


For more information about this event, including disability accommodations, contact the Carleton College Department of Art and Art History at (507) 222-4341. The Weitz Center for Creativity is located at 320 North Third Street in Northfield; enter at Third and College Streets.