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Preserving the Iraqi Jewish Archive

In May, 2003, Coalition forces searching the flooded basement of Iraqi intelligence headquarters in Baghdad discovered startling evidence of Iraq’s once-vibrant Jewish community.  More than 2,700 books and tens of thousands of documents – wet and moldy – were removed and laid in the sun to dry.  Conservators from the National Archives in Washington, DC, recommended the materials be frozen to prevent further deterioration.  The items were then flown to the United States and freeze dried and have since been in the custody of the National Archives.

The remarkable survival of this written record provides an unexpected opportunity to better understand this 2,500-year-old Jewish community.  For centuries, it had flourished in what had generally been a tolerant, multicultural society.  But circumstances changed dramatically for Jews in the mid-twentieth century, when most Iraqi Jews fled and were stripped of their citizenship and assets.

To provide accessibility throughout the world to the damaged materials found in 2003, the US National Archives and Records Administration and its partners have preserved, cataloged, and digitized the books and documents.

The National Endowment for the Humanities, Division of Preservation and Access, supported the initial item-by-item assessment of the materials and the creation of a database inventory.  NEH also supported the conservation treatment of a variety of items as a test bed for later work on the collection

To learn more and to view the collection:

Return to Preservation and Access