People at table with teacher and items of heritage

Cultural Protection Fund (CPF) project led by University of Reading

‘We are very happy with this project and we advise other museums to consider application of SmartWater to their collections.’ - Hashim Hama Abdullah, Director of Slemani Museum

Life cycle





University of Reading, Iraq’s State Board of Antiquities and Heritage and the SmartWater Foundation 


To enhance the protection of antiquities and archaeological collections held in two major museums of Iraq and to build the capacity of museum professionals through training.


This project was developed in response to the devastation and looting of the world-renowned collections of the Iraq Museum in Baghdad in 2003, which caused international outrage. The looting and sale of antiquities have encouraged the targeting of museum collections, with the profits going on to provide support for terrorist groups. Portable objects remain most vulnerable during times of instability and have been particularly difficult to repatriate once they enter the illegal antiquities market.


The process of protection involved applying SmartWater forensic traceable liquid solution to a combined total of 273,000 non-organic artefacts in the collections of the Slemani Museum (Sulaymaniyah - Kurdistan) and the Iraq Museum (Baghdad). The project provided expert training to a total of 43 museum professionals in the application of SmartWater and in the appropriate cataloguing and recording of the protocols of application. These trained individuals have applied the SmartWater traceable liquid solution to a combined total of 273,000 non-organic artefacts in the collections of these two museums. The artefacts applied with SmartWater at the Slemani and Iraq Museums are now protected under a 30-year licence. This license provides future services for repatriation in the event of theft; including forensic analysis, expert analysis and law enforcement coordination. 


The project succeeded in training more Iraqi museum professionals than originally planned (43 as opposed to 18). This also continues the project’s legacy through ‘training the trainers’, who are passing on their newly-acquired expertise to current and future colleagues. The 43 staff at Slemani Museum and the Iraq Museum are now equipped and able to provide training and guidance for the treatment of SmartWater to further collections in the future, supported by training materials translated into both Kurdish and Arabic.

In total, these trained individuals have applied application of the traceable liquid solution to 273,000 non-organic artefacts in the collections of the two museums. The original target for marked objects was exceeded, reaching a total of 273,000 objects as against the planned total of 265,000.

Mutual benefit

The Cultural Protection Fund (CPF) promotes a people-centred approach to Cultural Protection. It encourages partnerships at an institutional level by using our global network and cultural relations approach. Half of CPF projects are led by UK organisations, encouraging international knowledge exchange on common issues, best-practice sharing and influence on heritage protection processes and policies worldwide. The CPF is connected to a wider network of heritage protection funders and agencies, feeding into and benefitting from a wide range of research and intelligence on heritage protection. Heritage protection is a global, shared challenge and the learning and evaluation from CPF projects is fed back into a network to create better conditions for heritage protection and increased understanding of its positive impact on individuals and societies.