BAGHDAD: In an annex of Iraq’s nationwide museum, a conservator pores over a Seventeenth-century manuscript, finishing up delicate restoration work as a part of efforts to protect and digitise 47,000 valuable texts.
“Some manuscripts date again virtually 1,000 years,” stated Ahmed Al-Alyawi, who heads the Home of Manuscripts physique.
“There are writings in Arabic, Persian, Turkish, Hebrew and Kurdish,” he added, noting the texts’ “immense cultural range.”
In a rustic that bears the scars of a long time of battle and has seen antiquities and cultural heritage frequently plundered, the Home of Manuscripts’ assortment has managed to outlive.
It was safely stashed away within the Baghdad suburbs, whereas the nationwide museum was ransacked within the turmoil following the 2003 US-led invasion. Workers and residents prevented subsequent looting makes an attempt on the “underground shelter” the place it was saved, Alyawi stated.
The gathering, now ensconced within the nationwide museum within the capital Baghdad, consists of books, parchments and calligraphy boards, a few of them broken by humidity, pests and centuries of use.
Some manuscripts date from the early Abbasid period, whereas some seventh-century calligraphy boards in Kufic script had been written on parchment “even earlier than the manufacture of paper,” Alyawi stated.
A conservator sporting a white lab coat brushed mud from a gnarled board, as a colleague reduce wonderful paper to restore a Seventeenth-century Persian textual content devoted to the Shiite spiritual commemoration of Ashura.
Every intervention should “protect the outdated look” of a piece, stated Tayba Ahmed, 30, who has been doing restoration for 3 years.
However it additionally should cut back any injury to the work “in order that it may dwell longer,” she added.
A textual content “might not have a canopy, the pages is perhaps indifferent, you might have to stitch and make a leather-based cowl,” she stated.
“You’ll be able to spend a number of months with the identical e-book.”
Ahmed is certainly one of seven Iraqi conservators who’re at present present process coaching, funded by the Italian embassy, to assist them perform their colossal restoration mission.
This system entails working with Italian skilled Marco Di Bella, whose nation has beforehand funded gear for the Home of Manuscripts’ places of work, together with lighting.
Peering over an 18th-century Ottoman astronomy e-book, its pages stuffed with elegant black ink calligraphy, Di Bella made feedback in English that had been translated into Arabic.
“Probably the most complicated course of is… deciding what to do and the right way to intervene on the manuscript,” the Italian conservator informed AFP.
“Each single manuscript is assessed… we describe the injury” and take a look at “to know… the origin” of every piece, he added.
This system additionally helps reintroduce conventional conservation supplies that at the moment are coming “again into vogue,” Di Bella stated, corresponding to starch as an adhesive.
Whereas his crew has simply 4 scanners to digitise your complete archive, Alyawi decried a scarcity of funding that prevented buying different specialised gear or hiring extra employees.
Regardless of the obstacles, Alyawi expressed optimism that his groups might restore as much as 100 works per 12 months — making a gradual dent within the probably 1000’s of works requiring consideration.
The Home of Manuscripts archive “is a number one assortment in Iraq and the area,” stated Zakaria Haffar, Iraq mission supervisor on the Nationwide Library of France (BNF).
In October, the Home of Manuscripts signed a partnership with the BNF, following monetary assist from the Aliph Basis, which works to guard cultural heritage in battle zones.
Along with offering supplies — corresponding to specialist paper and leather-based — the cooperation will see an “trade of expertise” to help with digitization, restoration and cataloguing, Haffar stated.
Mayassa Shehab, who has labored in restoration for half her life, stated the preservation and digitization mission is of immense significance.
“It’s the heritage of our nation,” the 52-year-old stated. “Because it has been handed all the way down to us, we should cross it on to future generations.”
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