Iraq en Route: A Photographic Journey, 1952-1953

Sunday, June 27th 4:00pm - 5:15pm
Cranbrook Center Virtual Lecture
Bloomfield Hills, MI 48304

Admission is Free and Open to the Public 
Registration Required – Zoom Link is Password-Protected 

Presented by Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research in Collaboration with Cranbrook Institute of Science

Guest Speaker: 
Elizabeth Rauh, Assistant Professor, Modern Art and Visual Cultures, American University in Cairo

Hosted by:
Gregory Wittkopp, Director, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research
Deborah Rice, Head Archivist, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research

Sponsored by the Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Family Foundation

Join Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research on a photographic journey to midcentury Iraq and explore a nation at a crossroads, when the country and its landscapes of ancient Mesopotamia were en route to tremendous change. Drawing from Cranbrook Archives’ vast collection of Cranbrook Institute of Science photographs, experience a unique opportunity to rediscover a decades-old scientific research trip from an entirely fresh art historical and cultural perspective.

In the winter of 1952-1953, the second director of the Institute of Science, Dr. Robert Hatt, embarked on a scientific expedition across the young nation-state of Iraq. The 400 photographs he took along the way—the majority of which were never published—provide a glimpse into the geographic and ecological diversity teaming within a rapidly modernizing nation. Documenting beautiful vistas, rambunctious animals (both domestic and wild), ancient monuments and heritage sites, roadside vignettes, and especially the recently opened Natural History Museum in Baghdad, these photographs reveal the outsider biologist’s keen eye for detail as well as his astute observations of the biodiversity across Iraq’s natural and urban landscapes. 

Using Hatt’s images, Elizabeth Rauh will guide us through Hatt’s observation of a country at a pivotal moment of flux—postwar modernizing endeavors that were changing the lives and ways of life of Iraq’s many communities, while also actively reshaping the indigenous ecosystems teaming with the plant and animal life that Hatt sought to document and explore. Rauh will explore some of the most interesting images resulting from Hatt’s journey, while situating them within a longer history of foreign and vernacular photography of Iraq. 

While admission to the lecture is free, we kindly ask you to consider making a donation to support the work of Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research, including Cranbrook Archives.

Dr. Elizabeth Rauh is an assistant professor of Modern Art and Visual Cultures at the American University in Cairo. A scholar, writer, and curator specializing in the history of arts and visual cultures of Iraq, Iran, and Western Asia, her work examines artist engagements with Islamic heritage, popular image practices and technologies in the Islamic world, and arts of the twentieth century “Shi`i Left.” She also pursues research in ecological art practices in the Persian Gulf history, such as in her forthcoming study: “Experiments in Eden: Midcentury Artist Voyages into the Mesopotamian Marshlands” (Journal of Contemporary Iraq & the Arab World, Summer 2021). Her research has been funded by The Academic Research Institute in Iraq, the Darat al Funun Center for Modern and Contemporary Arab Art, the Max Weber Foundation, and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

The Iraq en Route presentation is a companion to a forthcoming exhibition curated by Visiting Research Fellow Dr. Elizabeth Rauh and coordinated by Cranbrook Archives in collaboration with Cranbrook Institute of Science. The project is generously sponsored through a grant from the Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Family Foundation, which also funded the rehousing of more than 50,000 photographic negatives in the collections of Cranbrook Archives. 

Cranbrook Institute of Science photographs are one of three core film-based collections in Cranbrook Archives that document art, architecture, education, material culture and science from 1929 to 1960. The Institute images chronicle its research and collecting activities, and were taken by a variety of Institute staff, including Dr. Robert T. Hatt, to whom nearly 1,000 are attributed.  A polymath whose research interests led him not only to the Middle East, but also Mexico and Africa, Dr. Hatt led Cranbrook Institute of Science from 1935 to 1967. In addition to personal diaries and travel journals in Hatt’s papers, his professional career is well-documented in the Archives through the Institute of Science Director’s Records, which include bound copies of over 250 of his authored publications. Visit our Digital Collections website to see all of the images from his trip to the Middle East.

On the Friday prior to the lecture date, registered participants will receive an email with instructions on how to join the virtual experience; a reminder will be sent one hour prior to the start of the lecture. Each link is unique, and advance registration is required for all participants. The lecture will begin promptly at its scheduled time and will be followed by a moderated Q&A session. The Center’s virtual auditorium will open fifteen minutes before the lecture begins for informal conversation and to permit participants time to test their Zoom connection.

For additional information, please send an email to or leave a voice message at 248.645.3307. The Center’s regular virtual office hours are Tuesday through Friday, 10am to 4pm.


En route near Ba'quba, Iraq (Dittawa District), 1952-1953. Photograph by Robert T. Hatt. Courtesy of Cranbrook Archives, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research. 

Close up view of the Winged Bull sculpture near Nineveh, 1952-1953. Photograph by Robert T. Hatt. Courtesy of Cranbrook Archives, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research.

Suzannah Hatt holds a hooded falcon near Basra, Iraq, 1952-1953. Photograph by Robert T. Hatt. Courtesy of Cranbrook Archives, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research.

View of large sailboat with people in the marshlands near Hilla, 1952-1953. Photograph by Robert T. Hatt. Courtesy of Cranbrook Archives, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research.