July 15 – Corine Wegener – Saving the Iraqi Jewish Archive

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July 15 – Saving the Iraqi Jewish Archive

Corine Wegener is the Cultural Heritage Preservation Officer in the Office of the Under Secretary for History, Art, and Culture at the Smithsonian Institution. She coordinates the Smithsonian’s role in emergency response and recovery for cultural heritage threatened by natural disasters, human conflict, and other challenges.

During the U.S. invasion of Iraq members of Achmed Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress searched the flooded basement of the bombed out Iraqi Secret Police headquarters for intelligence information. Instead they discovered hundreds of books, documents, and other materials, many of them written in Hebrew, which came to be known as the Iraqi Jewish Archive. All that remained of the once flourishing Jewish community of Baghdad, these materials had to be saved.

Major (Ret.) Corine Wegener, then an Army Reservist and a curator at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, was in Baghdad serving as the Arts, Monuments, and Archives Officer for the 352d Civil Affairs Command. Wegner will describe her team’s efforts to preserve the archive in a freezer container during the hot Baghdad summer of 2003 and the race against time to maintain its frozen condition during its trip to the National Archives for conservation. Finally, Wegener will talk about how modern day Monuments Men are learning from this case in their training today.

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