The terrorist group ISIS or ISIL is doing more than slaughtering and enslaving large populations in the Middle East, it also is destroying much of Iraq’s and Syria’s precious ancient artwork.
Not only have priceless statues and shrines been demolished, but the sacred writings that chronicle Iraq’s history are at risk of being lost forever. So, technicians at the Baghdad National Library are taking steps to preserve the writings digitally.
Most of the writings, telling of sultans and kings of old, are written on crinkled, yellowing paper are in fragile condition. Some manuscripts are torn from years of use and from aging. Others were partially burned dying the last Gulf War. Some are virtually fossilized over time.
“Once restoration for some of the older documents from the Ottoman era, 200 to 250 years ago, is completed, we will begin to photograph those onto microfilm,” Mazin Ibrahim Ismail, head of the microfilm department, told U.S. News and World Report. This process will preserve the writings and help them survive any future threat.”
The books that have fossilized into stone are the hardest to restore, said Fatma Khudair, a senior worker in the restoration department. “We apply steam using a specialized tool to try to loosen and separate the pages. Sometimes we are able to save these books and then apply other restoration techniques, but with others, the damage is irreversible.”
In 2003, when the United States and other countries invaded Iraq, arsonists set fire to the library, destroying 25 percent of its books and 60 percent of the archives.