22 Recovered Original
Items And A Look Into The Fascinating Preservation Process
This exhibition was created by the National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, DC, with generous support from the U.S. Department of State.
The exhibit, sponsored by the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum, details the dramatic recovery of historic materials relating to the Jewish community in Iraq from a flooded basement in Saddam Hussein’s intelligence headquarters, and the National Archives and Records Administration’s ongoing work in support of U.S. government efforts to preserve these materials.
Running through September 3, 2018, the Discovery and Recovery exhibit features 22 recovered original items and a “behind the scenes” video of the fascinating yet painstaking preservation process.
On May 6, 2003, just days after Coalition forces took over Baghdad, American soldiers found thousands of books and documents relating to the Jewish community of Iraq. Submerged in four feet of water, these materials belonged to synagogues and Jewish organizations in Baghdad.
The water-logged materials quickly became moldy in Baghdad’s intense heat and humidity. Seeking guidance, the Coalition Provisional Authority placed an urgent call to the nation’s foremost conservation experts at the National Archives. Just a week later, National Archives Director of Preservation Programs Doris Hamburg and Conservation Chief Mary Lynn Ritzenthaler arrived in Baghdad via military transport to assess the damage and make recommendations for preservation of the materials.
From prayer books and Torah scrolls that are hundreds of years old to school records and community letters from
the 20th century, the remarkable survival of this written record of Iraqi Jewish life provides an unexpected
opportunity to better understand this community.