Baghdad to launch digital archiving project for Iraqi manuscripts

Photo: Archive
Photo: Archive

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The head of the Iraqi government office in charge of archiving and preserving rare manuscripts announced this week that the Ministry of Culture, Tourism, and Antiquities was close to launching a new, comprehensive digital imaging project to copy tens of thousands of documents and make them available for study.

"This is one of the most important projects," said Director-General of the House of Manuscripts Ahmed al-Alyawi, in a statement, "that will ensure the preservation of manuscripts, in photocopies, in case the original is damaged or destroyed."

"The value of this pioneering project, which is concerned with photographing 47,000 manuscripts," he said, explaining that the total number "exceeds 64,000 diverse manuscripts and is invaluable, especially since Iraqi manuscripts have not been digitally preserved before." 

According to its former director, Usama al-Naqshabandi, the House of Manuscripts was established in 1962 as part of the Iraqi National Museum in Baghdad. It originally contained 2,526 documents, but expanded throughout the 1970s and 1980s as the government bought rare items from collections around the country.

In 1988, when the collection had reached 37,083 manuscripts, the state decided to found an autonomous entity that today holds an estimated 50,000 manuscripts, of which 7,000 are on loan from other institutions or private collections or are there for repair and conservation.

The project will provide modern imaging devices and the subsequent preservation and archiving equipment, much of which the Trade Bank of Iraq has donated.

The manuscripts held there are written in many languages, including Arabic, Turkish, Persian, Cyrillic, Hebrew, English, French, and German, and includes jurisprudence, literature, poetry, language, politics, and mysticism.

The collection is reflected by the various types of scripts, calligraphy, paper, and ink used that, according to Alyawi, contain some of the most prized and rare manuscripts in history.