Rebuilding a Library from Scratch

From Aramco World magazine July/August 2018 comes this rather surprising announcement about a Canadian museum exhibition that features an ancient library in the Middle East.

The exhibit is titled 168.01 — A Library Rising from the Ashes. In 2003 The College of Fine Arts at the University of Baghdad lost its entire library of 70,000 books during the invasion of Iraq when looters set fire to the collection.

Previously in the 13th century Mongol army invaders destroyed all the libraries in Baghdad. The invaders threw the entire library of the Bayt al-Hikma (House of Wisdom) into the Tigris River to create a bridge of books their army could use to cross the river.

“The pages bled ink into the river for seven days—168 hours—at the end of which the books were drained of knowledge.” 

Wafaa Bilat, the Iraqi artist, named his museum exhibit 168:01 to indicate the first moment when grief yields to a spur to take action to move forward from loss. 

His exhibit runs at the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto through August 19, 2018.


From the Web: 

The artist of the exhibit has been running a Kickstarter Funding campaign to buy new books. In 2016, more than 1600 books were donated to the project around the world. Here is Wafaa Bilat below:


Kickstarter Funding – Wishlist Books were purchased from Amazon by the 168.01 team using funds from the Kickstarter campaign. Books were first sent to the Art Gallery of Windsor and the Esker Foundation as part of the exhibitions, before being prepared for shipment to Baghdad.

During the exhibition at the Esker Foundation, the local community purchased white books from the gallery and the gallery used the money to buy books from a local bookstore.

Individual and Institutional Donations – People and institutions from around the globe purchased books from the Amazon list and/or donated books from their personal collections. These books were also sent to the galleries for the exhibition and prepared for shipment after the exhibitions ended.

At the end of the exhibition at the Esker Foundation, all of the purchased and donated books from all sources were organized, cataloged, and prepared for shipment.

The Books are being prepared for delivery to Baghdad. To see how the books will be shipped as well as awards the artist and exhibit have received click here:


The librarian behind it all

Judith Frangos is the 168.10 librarian who will be setting up the library system at the University of Baghdad, a school that is still hurting from the losses incurred in 2003. 

To read an interview with this librarian please click here












For more information on the 268:01 Baghdad library project—click on “updates” at the top of these Kickstarter pages or the “Next update” link at the bottom.

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