Preserving History

Written on: October 31, 2013 | 1 Comment

Next week we will be opening an extraordinary exhibit, “Discovery and Recovery: Preserving Iraqi Jewish Heritage,” at the National Archives in Washington, DC. The exhibit, spanning more than 400 years, tells the story of the dramatic recovery on May 6, 2003, of 2,700 books and tens of thousands of documents from a flooded basement in the headquarters of the Mukhabarat, Saddam Hussein’s secret police.

Before Treatment: Letter from the British Military Governor’s Office

Before Treatment: Letter from the British Military Governor’s Office in Baghdad to the Chief Rabbi Regarding the Allotment of Sheep for Rosh ha-Shanah, the Jewish New Year, 1918.

The discovery, named the Iraqi Jewish Archive, included some of the most sacred texts of the Jewish people, including an ancient Torah, Talmud and Zohar—along with tens of thousands of documents relating to the Jewish community in Iraq. Upon the discovery of the documents, we were immediately called in due to our Agency’s extensive expertise in protecting great cultural treasures such as these from decay and destruction.

Materials drying outside the Mukhabarat

Materials drying outside the Mukhabarat, Saddam Hussein’s intelligence headquarters.

 

Led by our Director of Preservation Programs, Doris A. Hamburg, and supported by the U.S. Department of State, the National Archives has for more than a decade taken painstaking efforts to preserve these texts and digitize them for universal public access. Their relentless dedication has ensured that these sacred texts will be kept alive and accessible. The result is a wonderful demonstration of the talent which exists here at the National Archives.

Before Treatment: Passover Haggadah from Vienna, 1930

Before Treatment: Passover Haggadah from Vienna, 1930. This colorfully illustrated French and Hebrew Haggadah was published in Vienna. Caption on image: “Eating Matzah.”

 

After Treatment: Passover Haggadah from Vienna, 1930

After Treatment: Passover Haggadah from Vienna, 1930. This colorfully illustrated French and Hebrew Haggadah was published in Vienna. Caption on image: “Eating Matzah.”

 

The exhibit, in the Lawrence F. O’Brien Gallery, opens on November 7 and closes on January 5, 2014, with guided tours available upon reservation at www.recreation.gov.  Check our Calendar of Events for exhibit-associated programming.

Restoring and prolonging the life of archival records, and minimizing their deterioration, is core to the mission of the National Archives, and we are pleased to regularly offer technical advice and assistance on behalf of the U.S. Government, both in the United States and around the world.

Additional information:

Read more about NARA’s efforts to restore the archive:
http://www.archives.gov/preservation/iraqi-jewish-archive.html

Preview images:
http://www.archives.gov/press/press-kits/iraqi-jewish-archive/images.html

See the “sneak peek” video of the exhibit:
www.youtube.com/watch?v=bZmP0uwzEII

Learn more about NARA’s Preservation Program:
http://www.archives.gov/preservation/internal/

 

One Response to “Preserving History”

  1. Diane Grant said:

    Wonderful historical piece sounds very interesting. Looking forward to seeing it.


    (November 12, 2013 at 9:21 am)