With the burning of books and the destruction of so many historical items, it is important that archivists digitize everything they can, especially rare books and manuscripts.
While the world was watching the Academy Awards ceremony, the people of Mosul were watching a different show. They were horrified to see ISIS members burn the Mosul public library. Among the many thousands of books it housed, more than 8,000 rare old books and manuscripts were burned.
“ISIS militants bombed the Mosul Public Library. They used improvised explosive devices,” said Ghanim al-Ta'an, the director of the library. Notables in Mosul tried to persuade ISIS members to spare the library, but they failed.
The former assistant director of the library Qusai All Faraj said that the Mosul Public Library was established in 1921, the same year that saw the birth of the modern Iraq. Among its lost collections were manuscripts from the eighteenth century, Syriac books printed in Iraq's first printing house in the nineteenth century, books from the Ottoman era, Iraqi newspapers from the early twentieth century and some old antiques like an astrolabe and sand glass used by ancient Arabs. The library had hosted the personal libraries of more than 100 notable families from Mosul over the last century.
Taking high-quality jpeg photos of each page is a quick and easy way to preserve old texts. I've been doing this with my mother's letters written back in the 1930s. Here's hoping libraries will digitize their rare collections and store the digitized files in several locations.