Summer 2003 (11.2)
I was horrified to learn
of the recent looting and destruction of so many cultural icons
and documents in Iraq due to the war. Loss of the Archaeological
Museum in Baghdad is a great tragedy for all of humankind, not
just Iraq. Now hundreds of invaluable monuments, dating back
to the Sumerian, Babylonian, Acadian and Assyrian period will
be lost forever.
This list includes the ancient cuneiform tables-the main eyewitness
of ancient history for the Middle East, including Azerbaijan.
Many of these fragile clay tablets have been either stolen or
shattered into pieces. This is a tragedy of indescribable proportions.
The arson carried out in the National Library in Baghdad is another
misfortune. Hundreds of valuable manuscripts and books dating
from the Ottoman period went up in flames. It is difficult to
imagine how libraries and museums could so easily be destroyed
in this our "civilized" 21st century.
These sad events in Iraq underline how essential it is for all
countries, and especially those in the developing world, to take
measures to prevent such tragedies from happening. Can you imagine
a similar loss of such collections in museums such as the Louvre
(Paris), the Hermitage (St. Petersburg), the Metropolitan (New
York), or the British Museum (London)? Who can guarantee that
this will not be repeated?
For many of us in these young countries, documenting our rare
archives via computer technology is much easier said than done.
We need equipment-computers to create databases, scanners, digital
cameras and software to help manage our photos, and compress
long files. In addition, we need training. Many of our older
specialists are intimidated by the new technology and afraid
of losing control, status and power to younger people who are
learning these technologies.
I think that a great concerted effort must be made to digitally
record all our manuscripts and historical documents, even in
museums that might be considered insignificant. Of course, such
projects are very expensive, but the world's cultural heritage
must be protected. These rare documents and artifacts are among
the greatest cultural treasures of the world.
Farid Alakbarov, PhD
Institute Of Manuscripts, Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences
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