2008 Candlelight Vigil

Thursday April 10, 2008 – Saturday April 12, 2008


Five years after priceless artifacts in the Iraqi museum were stolen and destroyed, people from all over the world vowed to never forget and to continue to take steps to prevent the looting of cultural heritage. It was the second Global Candlelight Vigil organized by SAFE.

Registered with us were twenty-eight vigils held in six nations, drawing countless individuals with a wide variety of programs. In the United States, museums, universities, high schools, and religious and community centers from Massachusetts to Montana, South Carolina to Alaska, participated. Some screened films about the looting, or held lectures given by experts. Many had discussions, and many lit candles in memory of the events of April 10-12, 2003, a powerful symbolic gesture.

In Chicago, Illinois, the vigil was held in conjunction with the opening of a new exhibit at the Oriental Institute about the looting, appropriately entitled Catastrophe! The Looting and Destruction of Iraq’s Past. In Seattle, Washington, museology graduate students used the opportunity to work on a project to track the flow of looted Iraqi antiquities on the global market. In Canada, both university and elementary school students took part in vigils. Vigils held in Europe, from the United Kingdom to the Netherlands to Sweden, ranged from informal discussions to museum seminars. In Baghdad, Iraq, in the Assyrian Hall of the Museum that is still not open to the public five years on, committed museum staff lit candles in remembrance.

To help vigil organizers, SAFE provided support in many ways. SAFE’s web site included an invitation video featuring former Iraq Museum director Dr. Donny George, to be used to invite guest to participate in a vigil. The web site also featured downloadable press releases, announcement flyers, and suggestions, as well as e-cards and videos appropriate for showing at the vigils. SAFE provided Vigil Toolkits, which included buttons, postcards, and explanatory brochures. Students at the W. D. Ford Career-Technical Center created graphics for use on T-shirts, postcards, mugs, tote bags, and more, to help spread the word even further. All proceeds support SAFE projects and programs such as lesson plans and a teacher’s manual for The World’s Ancient Cultures in Danger Map. For those who could not attend a vigil, SAFE’s web site provided a way to light a virtual candle and have one’s name added to a list of international supporters.

Five years after the looting of the Iraq Museum, SAFE is still the global leader in commemorating this tragic event and making sure that its lessons are not forgotten. We hope that on April 10- 12, every year, SAFE Global Candlelight Vigil for the Iraq Museum will continue to remind us that cultural heritage around the world remains vulnerable to looting and destruction, and even a simple act of showing concern can make a difference.

Thank you for a job well done, SAFE Global Candlelight Vigil Team Members:
Ella Aiken, Leah Bevington, Nathan Elkins, Heather Graybehl, Natalia Jessen, Megan Kennedy, Sheri Lullo, András B. Nagy, Rachel Moland, Sarah Pickman, Genevieve Semple, Rebecca Rushfield, David Yoon

—Sarah Pickman

Candlelight Vigil in the media

“The Iraq Museum stands as just one glaring example of the injustices we do to the archaeological past whether by purposeful acts or general ignorance of what we do to the remains of the past.”

Comment from Cincinnati, Ohio vigil