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Ashurbanipal was the king most associated with advances in culture as well as protection of the State, and as the last great king before the final defeat of the Assyrians. He possessed a rare interest in preserving the art and science of his day, sending emissaries to other lands to make copies of all existing texts as well as writing down legends and histories. These he compiled in what is recognized as the world's first true library.

The Ashurbanipal Monument project was begun in 1983 with the completion of the model. The rendition of the king relied on a few depictions taken from ancient bas-reliefs. The making of the eight-foot tall statue took three years. By 1987 the finished bronze was presented to the city of San Francisco as a gift from the Assyrian people. In 1988 it was installed at the side entrance to the main library in the Civic Center.

This building later was transformed to house the collection of the Asian Art Museum, which used to be in Golden Gate Park. A new library was built directly across the street from the statue so that today Ashurbanipal stands with his back to the museum and facing the library.