Iraq National Library Digitizes Holdings, Staving Off Suppression

In Arabic by Bree Turner

In the face of years of war and threats from ISIS, the Iraq National Library has begun to preserve its holdings through digitization.

By Bree Turner

IraqflagOver the past 13 years, the National Library in Baghdad has been bombed, shot up, looted and damaged by water and fire — leaving many of the books therein torn, stained and even fossilized. But that is not the end of the story.

In order to preserve the history and culture of the country for future generations the library has instituted a digitization project to restore and preserve the books.

As recounted recently in the Daily Star, it is a painstaking process:

“Technicians sterilize manuscripts and documents for 48 hours, cleaning them of accumulated dust and other impurities. Then they go page by page, using Japanese tissue — specialized paper for book conservation and restoration — to either fill in torn edges or layer the more-delicate documents with a sheer coating to make them more durable.”

Once restored, the pages are photographed, transferred to microfilm and digitized.

This way, even if the actual book is destroyed, the history will be preserved. This is part of The National Library’s effort to combat terrorism and the threat posed by ISIS, which has systematically destroyed libraries.

Jamal Abdel-Majeed Abdulkareem, acting director of Baghdad libraries and archives said the ISIS members, “want history to reflect their own views instead of the way it actually happened.”

But, in an effort to defeat this prejudicial point of view, once a town or area is liberated from ISIS control, the library sends books to replenish whatever was stolen or destroyed, This way, “Iraqis in this area have access to these materials so they can always feel proud of their rich history,” said Abdulkareem.

About the Author

Bree Turner