National Museum in Bagdad today, Google's CEO Eric Schmidt announced that the company will digitize the museum's collections. By early next year, all of these images will be available online for free. The museum lost a large part of its collection to looting in 2003. Except for a number of photo ops and press conferences, the museum has remained closed to the public since the beginning of the war in 2003. Most of the museum's collection remains in storage.During a ceremony in Iraq's
According to Reuters, the company has already taken 14,000 photographs in the museum. It's not clear how Google plans to present these images, though it seems as if Google plans a bit more than just a simple gallery of the photos it took. Eric Schmidt promises "a few surprises" for when the site launches early next year. Google and the U.S. State Department will share the cost of this project.
A Government-Sponsored Infomercial for Google?
While this sounds like a great idea, the New York Times also reports that there are also some interesting politics at play here. Parts of the museum's collections, for example, have already been digitized by Italy's National Research Center. This collection is already available online.
Today's event was sponsored by the US Embassy in Iraq, where, according to the New York Times, US Ambassador Christopher R. Hill described the digitization project as "part of an effort spearheaded by the State Department to bring technology to Iraq." Some of the invited journalists, however, argued that the event was nothing else but a "government-sponsored infomercial" for Google.