Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Power of Artifacts

The National Archives has a selection of artifacts from the Iraqi Jewish Archive on view through January 5, 2014.  

After visiting the heart rendering display, CPO can attest that even in their damaged state, these artifacts retain a power to help us imagine a now vanished community.  Indeed, given all the indignities they've suffered, perhaps they are a bit too pristine.  Given their aged but clean condition, it's hard to imagine them as they were found-- waterlogged in the basement of Saddam's secret police headquarters.

And what of their ultimate fate?  What assurances do we have that Iraqi authorities will ensure they are preserved for future generations and made available to scholars and members of the exiled Jewish community?

Digitizing them may preserve what information they contain, but electronic copies are no substitute for the real thing that is of tangible cultural value to the Iraqi-Jewish Community in exile.  And looking at religious texts printed centuries ago in places like Vienna and Venice as well as all the items of a personal nature taken from deported Jews, any thinking person must really question the rights of the modern nation state of Iraq to these artifacts in the first place.

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