Preserving Iraqi Jewish Heritage

When an unexploded U.S. bomb in Baghdad caused a flood in the intelligence headquarters of Saddam Hussein, army troops discovered a treasure trove of tens of thousands of ancient objects and manuscripts, historic photos, books, and documents telling the story of Iraq’s once thriving Jewish community. I originally heard about this story in this piece from WBUR’s Here and Now, in December 2013, which includes an interview of two childhood friends who were among the last Iraqi Jews finally allowed to flee Iraq in the 1970s.

Books Drying From the Flood

Books Drying From the Flood

More good news is that we now have access to this collection that is still undergoing preservation efforts this year. The Iraqi Jewish Archive currently provides visual access to many of these items, stating that the entire collection will be available to access in June 2014.

To search the collection, first enter your general search terms, in this case “torah.” On the subsequent page, you may filter results along the left side by Record Type, Language, Dates, and Subject Matter. Keep in mind a search for “torah” brings back results about synagogue leases, Arabic prayerbooks, and other types of material that mention “torah.”

'Torah' Search Screenshot

‘Torah’ Search Results and Filter Options

 

Enjoy looking through this material as I have been… the items, stolen and confiscated from Iraqi Jews, are slated to be returned to the Iraqi government after the loan period is up. Jewish and other organizations around the world, however, have been fighting to have the artifacts protected within the United States or returned to their previous owners. There is currently a push in Congress to format a new plan for the fate of these Jewish treasures.

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Digital Public Library is Live!

A wondrous thing happened this past week in the Digital Public Library of America going live. This portal provides the public with free, open access to endless cultural and historical materials that have been digitized at countless institutions.

A valuable support to all modern and traditional libraries, the DPLA brings “different viewpoints, experiences, and collections together in a single platform and portal, providing open and coherent access to our society’s digitized cultural heritage.” (Quoting the DPLA history page)

One may use the search bar (pictured below) to find this Yiddish sheet music in its entirety, historic photos of synagogues around the world, or even this sound recording of broadcaster Claude Sullivan’s 1958 journey to the new State of Israel.

DPLA Search bar and Browse Features

DPLA Screenshot: Search Bar and Browse Features

Although you may browse and access these items for free, please be aware that many of them are copyrighted by their creators or by the institution that houses them. Some you may use without asking permission– please check the “rights” section on the finding aid, as pictured below. This is the page that comes up when you click on the item’s title in the list of search results.

Screenshot Illustrating Reproduction Rights

Screenshot Illustrating Reproduction Rights

I hope you enjoy this precious resource as much as I do! It represents the new age of open information in libraries that can help us learn more about our cultural heritage and that of those with whom we share this earth. See you there!