The strength of cultural heritage

21 December 2011, 11:57

Three projects with one shared goal: the protection of Iraq’s ancient cultural heritage.

The house of books

Back in 2004 we met Saad Iskander, the current director of library of the National Archive of Baghdad. Together we developed the “House of Books” project, thanks to which this ancient institution managed to survive and rise from the ashes of a terrible fire and the horrors of civil war which was devastating the country.

In collaboration with another symbol of world culture – the National Library of Florence – which suffered a similar disaster when it was flooded in 1966, we succeeded in restoring, preserving and digitalising thousands of texts, including many ancient ones, to keep them safe from any future disasters.

Italian experts helped us make sure that know-how transferred to Iraqi librarians could become useful throughout the country, effectively training staff from public libraries across Iraq. Today we are delighted and proud that Baghdad Library is visited every month by thousands of scholars and enthusiasts.

Books of reconciliation

In 2013, we launched a new project dedicated to the conservation and restoration of the archives on the country’s ancient ethnic minorities. “Books of reconciliation” involved Turkman, Christian, Chaldean, Armenian, Sabaean, Mandeans, Shabaks, Kaka’i and many other communities. Baghdad experts who trained as part of the “House of Books” project helped librarians from each community to conserve and restore their own heritage of books and archive material. This process took 2 years and included training courses, technical studies and a survey of the literary history of each community.

All the initiatives were based around shared dialogue and study between all the involved communities, encouraging interaction.

The project culminated in the creation of a book called “Books and Documents, Heritage of Iraqi Minorities”, published in English, Arabic and Sorani Kurdish, bringing together for the first time, historical details of book collections and cultural traditions of the Iraqi minorities.

Sounds of Iraq

With “Sounds of Iraq,” Shyam Allami, a young and enthusiastic Iraqi musician, created the first national sound archive at Baghdad Library, which houses all the original recordings which survived the war, in order to recover and disseminate the country’s many styles of music.