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October2006
HOME Cast Your Ballots Trick . . . Or Treat? Ode To Autumn Letters About Literature A-B-C . . . Easy As One, Two, Three A Library Mission to Iraq On The Campaign Trail
A Library Mission to Iraq

Many nations of the world have a national library. In America, it's the Library of Congress, which has been strongly supported by the U.S. Congress and the American people since its founding in 1800. Other nations, especially those ravaged by war, have not been so fortunate.

The Library of Congress team at the Republican Palace: (from left) Michael Albin, Mary-Jane Deeb and Alan Haley, 2003 "Traditional 'Garden of Eden,' east over the Euphrates, 250 miles N.W. of Babylon," ca. 1915

An obvious case is the National Library in Baghdad, Iraq. Throughout its history, the Library of Congress has come to the aid of other libraries to assist them in assessing their holdings and how best to preserve them. This has been true in the case of Russia, other nations of Eastern Europe, even the Vatican Library, where, between 1927 and 1939, Library of Congress staff helped the Vatican develop a card catalog for all the printed books in its collections.

The mission of many of these national libraries is a special one: to preserve a record of the entire nation's cultural heritage, something the Library of Congress has done since its beginnings.

The National Library of Baghdad has worked under extraordinary circumstances to preserve Iraq's heritage. A team of specialists from the Library of Congress recently traveled there, under the auspices of the State Department, to offer assistance and expertise. Because the Library of Congress has extensive holdings from nations around the world, we also have specialists who are well-versed in foreign publications.

Several of those specialists went to Baghdad to help the National Library staff begin the process of rebuilding the collections damaged by war or neglected during the reign of Saddam Hussein. According to "The Library of Congress and the U.S. Department of State Mission to Baghdad: Report on the National Library and the House of Manuscripts" findings, some of the archives documenting Hussein's regime since 1977 were purposely burned. Much of the other materials fortunately were unharmed.

The Global Gateway Web site of world culture and resources is an excellent site for information on Iraq. The "Portals to the World" section has links to more than a dozen specific topics relating to that nation. A "Country Study" of Iraq is also available, including a detailed history of this ancient land. By going to the American Memory search page and typing in "Iraq" you will get 73 "hits," including 19 maps from the Library's Geography and Map Division.


A. The Library of Congress team at the Republican Palace: (from left) Michael Albin, Mary-Jane Deeb and Alan Haley, 2003

B. Underwood and Underwood, "Traditional 'Garden of Eden,' east over the Euphrates, 250 miles N.W. of Babylon," ca. 1915. Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction information: Reproduction No.: LC-USZ62-92656 (b&w film copy neg.); Call No.: Stereo Foreign Geog File - Iraq [P&P]