Wednesday, February 04, 2009

The Value of a Cultural Education

The Iraqi National Library Director, Dr. Saad Eskander, has had my attention for some time now. Dr. Eskander has been working to restore the Iraqi National Library and Archive (INLA) after it was burned and looted in 2003 by Americans, Sadaam loyalists, Iraqi citizens, and professional thieves. Dr. Eskander estimates that 60% of the archival materials and 95% of the rare books collection were either stolen or destroyed. In particular, he has called on an American organization with strong ties to former President Bush and a number of neoconservative think tanks, the Iraq Memory Foundation, to return an estimated 100 million pages of archival material that was seized by American troops. In order for Iraq to rebuild itself, Dr. Eskander believes a library is essential. He has talked at length with many American news organizations about the value of a library and archive in preserving culture, sharing culture, and providing a “cultural education”. He emphasizes the importance of cultural education in rebuilding a society and combating religious fundamentalism.

Dr. Eskander’s dedication to the INLA has not been without significant struggle. He and his staff have suffered through death threats, sniper attacks, further looting and the like. You can read many of the articles and profiles out there on Saad Eskander in the library’s databases and on the internet. Here is just a sampling:

“The Baghdad Librarian’s Story”
BBC profile of Dr. Eskander

Profile of Dr. Eskander, his work, and his struggle from The Guardian
Blog Dr, Eskander kept between Nov. 2006 to July 2007

INLA homepage including photos of the destruction and reconstruction of the library

“Iraq Records Spark Controversy”
“Millions of Saddam Hussein's records could soon be accessible at the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace at Stanford University, but the plan has been criticized by the director of the Iraq National Library and Archives (INLA).”*
*To read this article search from Factiva, log in with your library card number, and search for the title of the article.

“Iraq’s Cultural Curators Defy Sectarian Unrest”
NPR piece on Dr. Eskander and the INLA

From Academic Search Complete, Saad Eskander’s keynote speech to the Internet Librarian International 2004 conference

Books of Interest

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this blog post. It should remind all of us that the Iraqi cultural archives are among the oldest, most valuable and important to a continued understanding of civilization as we know it.