Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Researching at the Iraqi National Archives

In the latest TAARII Newsletter of the American Academic Research Institute in Iraq (available here, older issues are available here), there is a piece by Alda Benjamen called "Research at the Iraqi National Library and Archives" that gives a detailed report on a December 2011 research visit with up-to-date information about the current status of the Iraqi National Library and Archives (INLA).

Benjamen discusses issues of access, security, and the process for researchers requesting archival records. In covering the different time periods represented by the archival collections, Benjamen notes:
Researchers interested in the history of twentieth-century Iraq will find archival material up until the 1960s or so in the INLA. I was told that sources not deemed “sensitive,” such as reports on agriculture, from the Ba‘thist period are still available at the INLA. The overwhelming majority of Ba‘thist documents are currently housed at the Hoover Institution in California. Readers of the TAARII newsletter are likely to be familiar with the ongoing dispute with regard to the Ba‘thist archives in the U.S., and the demands of the Iraqi government officials and INLA staff to have them returned to Iraq. In Iraq, certain organizations have some Ba‘thist sources as well. These include: Iraqi political parties, certain organizations (e.g., organizations dedicated to martyrs), and a few Iraqi professors. The lack of Ba’thist archives in the country makes it difficult for Iraqi graduate students and researchers to conduct research on their country’s modern history. (footnotes omitted)
On the issue of Ba'thist documents in private hands, Benjamen further states in a footnote:
In a conversation with an Iraqi graduate student doing research at the INLA, I learned that a certain professor in Najaf has a collection of Ba‘thist documents. According to her, graduate students contact him and he readily shares archival material with them.