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Friday, May 30 • 10:30am - 11:00am
(Book and Paper Session) Conserving the Iraqi Jewish Archive for Digitization

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In 2003, conservators from the National Archives and Records Administration were called in to consult on a group of records and books related to the Jewish community which were recovered from the flooded basement of Saddam Hussein's intelligence headquarters in Baghdad. The material was beginning to mold and fuse together as it had only been partially dried in the sun before being closed up in metal trunks. Given the lack of resources available in the region to stabilize and preserve the collection, the collection was shipped to the US for these activities to be carried out under the auspices of the National Archives. NARA performed an initial assessment in 2003.

With support from the Department of State to NARA, the final phase of the project was funded in 2011 to hire a team to catalog the material, digitize the rare books and archival materials, and make them available to the public on a dedicated website. Conservation treatment was carried out to permit safe handling, digital imaging, and exhibition of selected items. An exhibition in Washington, DC opened in fall 2013. This paper will discuss the challenges and lessons learned in a large scale mold remediation, conservation, cataloging, and digitization project.

When creating a treatment protocol for this collection, the authors had to consider the large volume of material in the collection, the limited time frame of the project, and the variety of binding and archival formats. The workflow was streamlined to support digitization and provide the best possible image of very compromised records. Physical challenges included widespread mold growth, severe cockling and distortion, and blocking together of pages. Legibility of the text was impaired by surface grime, ink bleeding during the water event, and staining from mold and dirty water. This project did not impose an archival arrangement on the materials, but a member of the conservation team had to establish a page sequence for digitization; a decision which was complicated by the conflicting orientations of Arabic, Hebrew, English, and other languages.


Anna Friedman

Conservator, Iraqi Jewish Archive Project
Anna Friedman came to the Iraqi Jewish Archives project at NARA from the Field Books Project at the Smithsonian Institution Archives. She worked in the book conservation lab at the Folger Shakespeare Library, and was the Book and Paper Conservation Fellow at Winterthur Museum from... Read More →
avatar for Katherine Kelly

Katherine Kelly

Conservator, National Archives and Records Administration
Katherine Kelly joined the Iraqi Jewish Archive Project at the National Archives in February 2012.  Previously, she has worked as Collections Care Conservator for Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa, Conservation Intern for the Harvard College Libraries, and Conservation Technician... Read More →

Friday May 30, 2014 10:30am - 11:00am PDT
Grand Ballroom A