During the Gulf War (1990-91), looting in Basrah led to the closure of the city's museum.
In 2008, following the defeat of Saddam Hussein’s regime in the Iraq War (2003-11), there were calls for a new museum to encourage the preservation, celebration and study of the region’s cultural heritage.
After careful consideration, with the assistance of the Iraqi Ministry of State for Antiquities and Tourism, Saddam’s Lakeside Palace was selected as the location.
The British Army was heavily involved throughout the project, providing security for the site, surveying the building and assisting with the redevelopment.
In September 2016, eight years into the project, the first gallery was opened. A further three spaces were opened in March 2019.