Site search

Site menu:

Find Out More

Archives

Categories

Contact Us

Subscribe to Email Updates

Tag: Iraqi Jewish Archives

Ten years after a call for help, Iraqi Jewish documents go on display

In June of 2003, the National Archives Preservation Programs received a call for help from Iraq. Sixteen American soldiers had found tens of thousands of documents and 2,700 Jewish books while searching in the flooded basement of Saddam Hussein’s intelligence headquarters. The historic material was soaking wet.

And so Doris Hamburg and Mary-Lynn Ritzenthaler boarded a C-130 cargo plane and flew to Iraq.

“It was fascinating and exciting,” said Hamburg, Director of Preservation Programs at the National Archives. “We didn’t know quite what we were heading toward—but we were told everything would be fine.”

After Hamburg and Ritzenthaler arrived in Baghdad, they went to a warehouse on the banks of the Tigris River. Inside the warehouse was a freezer truck, and inside that truck were 27 metal trunks.

The trunks held masses of documents and books that had been submerged in four feet of water in the flooded basement of Saddam Hussein’s intelligence headquarters in Baghdad. And although the contents had been frozen to preserve them, Hamburg and Ritzenthaler could smell mold when they climbed into the truck.

“Freezing is a common way to stabilize materials when they become wet,” said Ritzenthaler, Chief of the Document Conservation Laboratory. “They acquired a freezer truck—it was quite a feat in those days in Baghdad to find a truck and to keep it fueled.”

The two women began … [ Read all ]

Furloughed Fed volunteers at local historical society

When the National Archives closed its doors on October 1 due to the government shutdown, staff did not know when they would return to work. So Meris Westberg took her skills to the Historical Society of Washington, DC (HSW).

When Westberg joined HSW a few months ago, she had talked to the collections manager, Anne McDonough, about volunteering there. But the hours were similar to her work hours at the National Archives, where Westberg works on books and manuscripts in Hebrew and Arabic from the Iraqi Jewish Archives, so it didn’t seem likely she would be able to give many volunteer hours—until the furlough allowed her the time.

Westberg is a conservation technician, and so with the permission of HSW staff, she developed some short-term preservation projects that would benefit their staff and researchers. She created a Google spreadsheet of over 100 city directories from 1820 to 1900. These books were the “Yellow Pages” of their time, according to Westberg, and they are popular with researches.

The directories were in varying conditions: some were rebound and in good shape, others were falling apart. Westberg examined and noted the condition of each on her spreadsheet and did some light conservation work, including bracing the volumes with twill tape, surface cleaning, and interleaving acid-free paper behind iron-gall ink signatures. She also recommended the care that each volume needed … [ Read all ]