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Iraqi Jewish Archive Preservation Project

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Iraq has one of the world's oldest cultural histories, which spans back some 10 000 years. As a birthplace of writing, the wheel, and countless other human inventions, Iraq’s past has shaped our present. For thousands of year, Iraq encompassed a vast array of religions, with the Jewish community comprising of approximately 150,000 in 1941. But with the changing situation in Iraq in the mid-twentieth century, the majority of the Jewish community fled the country. Jews had lived in Iraq for thousands of years yet it was only in May 2003, when coalition forces entered Baghdad, that over 2,700 Jewish books and documents were discovered in Saddam Hussein's intelligence headquarters. While it is only a small piece of the pie of the Iraqi Jewish community, these records provide a rich insight into Iraqi Jewish life and the heritage of this 2,500 –year-old Jewish community. It was this discovery that initiated the Iraqi Jewish Archive Preservation Project. Iraqi Jewish Heritage recovery9-lg.jpg
With the discovery of 2, 7000 Jewish books and documents, recording the 2,500 year-old Iraqi Jewish community, in 2003, the Iraqi Restoration Program was introduced. The remarkable survival of this written record of Iraqi Jewish life provides an unexpected opportunity to better understand the heritage of this ancient Jewish community. In order to offer accessibility to these historical documents, the US National Archives and Records Administration have verified, preserved, restored and digitized the documents and books, in order to make them accessible worldwide.

In order to adequately preserve and display these ancient documents and books, the work of the Restoration Project occurred in three phases; Initial recovery, freezing and shipping, and vacuum freeze-drying Identification, assessment, photographing title pages and covers, creation of a database, preliminary cataloging, and consultation with subject matter experts Completion of cataloging, stabilization of materials, digitization, boxing, creation of the exhibition in English and Arabic, collaboration with Iraqi conservators, and return of the materials to Iraq.

The U.S. Department of State is committed to working with Iraq to protect and preserve this shared heritage by engaging American institutional partners to collaborate with the Iraq State Board of Antiquities and Heritage on a variety of projects. These include infrastructure upgrades at the Iraq Museum in Baghdad, site management planning and architectural conservation in Babylon, and training Iraqi professionals in the conservation of objects, sites, and monuments at a specialized institute in Erbil.

Modern Iraq is often referred to as the "Cradle of Civilization" as it was home to the earliest known civilization, the Sumerian civilization, which arose in the fertile Tigris-Euphrates river valley of southern Iraq during the Ubaid period. Until 2003, Baghdad was the world's oldest Jewish communities outside of Israel. Yet, in the mid-twentieth century, with the altering circumstances in Iraq, the majority of the Jewish community escaped the country and were stripped of their assets and citizenship. All that remained of the Jewish civilization, that dates back to the prophet Abraham who resided in Ur in southern Iraq, were books and records detailing Iraqi Jewish heritage. It was in 2003 while searching for weapons in the basement of Mukhabarat, Saddam Hussein's intelligence headquarters, that the A U.S. Army team discovered these documents, resulting in the establishment of the Iraq Restoration Project. Textbook-fragment-lg 0.jpg
Special Elements
The collection includes a vast array of books and documents including; interview transcripts about being Jewish in Iraq, the correspondence between President of Baghdadi Jewish Community and Iraqi Government, a student folder with photographs from a Baghdadi Jewish school, official letters to Jewish organizations and government offices from the president of the Jewish community and many many more similar artifacts. Recovery1-lg.jpg
Related Links
The Preservation Project
Exhibition Archives