National Archives at Kansas City

Exhibits at the National Archives at Kansas City

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Discovery and Recovery: Preserving Iraqi Jewish Heritage in the Concourse Gallery

June 18 - August 15, 2015

Exhibit explores Iraq’s Jewish past and showcases National Archives’ preservation expertise

On Thursday, June 18, the National Archives at Kansas City will open a new exhibition, Discovery and Recovery: Preserving Iraqi Jewish Heritage. The exhibit details the dramatic recovery of historic materials relating to the Jewish community in Iraq from a flooded basement in Saddam Hussein’s intelligence headquarters, and the National Archives’ ongoing work in support of U.S. Government efforts to preserve these materials. Discovery and Recovery is presented in partnership with the Midwest Center for Holocaust Education, and is free and open to the public. The exhibit runs through August 15, 2015.

In both English and Arabic, the 2,000 square foot exhibit features 23 recovered items and a “behind the scenes” video of the fascinating yet painstaking preservation process. This exhibit marks the first public display on a one-year national tour.


On May 6, 2003, just days after the Coalition forces took over Baghdad, American soldiers entered Saddam Hussein’s flooded intelligence building. In the basement, in four feet of water, they found thousands of books and documents relating to the Jewish community of Iraq – materials that had belonged to synagogues and Jewish organizations in Baghdad.

The water-logged materials quickly became moldy in Baghdad’s intense heat and humidity. Seeking guidance, the Coalition Provisional Authority placed an urgent call to the nation’s foremost conservation experts at the National Archives. Just a week later, National Archives Director of Preservation Programs Doris Hamburg and Conservation Chief Mary Lynn Ritzenthaler arrived in Baghdad via military transport to assess the damage and make recommendations for preservation of the materials. Both experts share this extraordinary story and take you “behind the scenes” in this brief video This video is in the public domain and not subject to any copyright restrictions.

Given limited treatment options in Baghdad, and with the agreement of Iraqi representatives, the materials were shipped to the United States for preservation and exhibition. Since then, these materials have been vacuum freeze-dried, preserved and digitized under the direction of the National Archives. The collection includes more than 2,700 Jewish books and tens of thousands of documents in Hebrew, Arabic, Judeo-Arabic and English, dating from 1524 to the 1970s. A special website, launched to make these historic materials freely available online at

The preservation, digitization, and website were made possible through the very generous financial support of the U.S. Department of State. The National Endowment for the Humanities, in partnership with the Center for Jewish History, were very helpful in providing key start-up support for the project.

The Jews of Iraq have a rich past, extending back to Babylonia. These materials provide a tangible link to this community that flourished there, but in the second half of the twentieth century dispersed throughout the world. Today, fewer than five Jews remain.

Display highlights include:

  • A Hebrew Bible with Commentaries from 1568 – one of the oldest books in the trove;
  • A Babylonian Talmud from 1793;
  • A Torah scroll fragment from Genesis - one of the 43 Torah scroll fragments found;
  • A Zohar from 1815 – a text for the mystical and spiritual Jewish movement known as “Kabbalah”;
  • An official 1917 letter to the Chief Rabbi regarding a request to Allow Jewish Prisoners to Attend Worship for Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year);
  • Materials from Jewish schools in Baghdad, including exam grades and a letter to the College Entrance Examination Board in Princeton regarding SAT scores;
  • A Haggadah (Passover script) from 1902, hand lettered and decorated by an Iraqi Jewish youth; and
  • A lunar calendar in both Hebrew and Arabic from the Jewish year 5732 (1971-1972) - one of the last examples of Hebrew printing produced in Baghdad.

Discovery and Recovery is divided into six sections:

Discovery: The dramatic story of how these materials were found, rescued and preserved is one worthy of a Hollywood blockbuster. A short film captures these heroic efforts. The section includes the actual metal foot lockers used to ship the documents to the United States.

Text and Heritage: This section explores Iraqi Jewish history and tradition through recovered texts, including a Torah scroll fragment, a Hebrew Bible with Commentaries from 1568, and a Babylonian Talmud from 1793.

Iraqi Jewish Life: Constancy and Change: Using recovered texts, this section explores the pattern of Jewish life in Iraq. Highlights include a Haggadah (Passover script), siddur (prayer book) and an illustrated lunar calendar in both Hebrew and Arabic (one of about 20 found that date from 1959-1973).

Personal and Communal Life: Selected correspondence and publications illustrate the range and complexity of Iraqi Jewish life in the 19th and 20th centuries. Original documents and facsimiles in flipbooks range from school primers to international business correspondence from the Sassoon family.

After the Millennia: Iraqi Jewish life unraveled in the mid-20th century, with the rise of Naziism and proliferation of anti-Jewish propaganda. In June 1941, 180 Jews were killed and hundreds injured in an anti-Jewish attack in Baghdad. Persecution increased when Iraq entered the war against the new State of Israel in 1948. In 1950 and 1951, many Iraqi Jews were stripped of their citizenship and assets and the community fled the county en masse. This section includes the 1951 law freezing assets of Iraqi Jews.

Preserving the Past: It is not surprising that the Coalition Forces turned to National Archives conservators for help. Learn about transformation of these materials from moldy, water-logged masses to a carefully preserved, and accessible enduring historic legacy. View the National Archives’ state-of-the-art treatment, preservation, and digitization of these materials.

This exhibition was created by the National Archives and Records Administration, with generous support from the U.S. Department of State.

Admission, hours, and additional information
Discovery and Recovery is a free exhibition and will be open through August 15, 2015. The National Archives at Kansas City is open Tuesday-Saturday, 8:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. for exhibits viewing and research. To schedule a group tour please call 816-268-8013 or email Free parking is available for National Archives visitors.

For additional information about the exhibition and the project

All Sewn Up: The Garment Industry Goes to Court in the Regional Gallery

Opening Tuesday, February 24 in the Regional Gallery All Sewn Up: The Garment Industry Goes to Court

The National Archives at Kansas City will open a new exhibit titled All Sewn Up: The Garment Industry Goes to Court on Tuesday, February 24, 2015. The exhibit explores the relationship between the Federal government and the garment and beauty industry from the 1870s to the 1950s.

Found in the vast holdings of the National Archives at Kansas City are records from Federal court cases that involve the garment and beauty industry. This exhibit showcases select cases demonstrating the variety of lawsuits that have made their way through the legal system, seeking to provide Federal protection for the consumer, for the company, or for the workers.

Some of these cases involve well-known names, such as Levi Strauss or Carhartt, seeking patent protection for their products. Others involve common citizens hoping to receive financial compensation following “beauty disasters,” such as exploding bottles of nail polish and hair loss from permanents. More importantly, other cases chronicle significant events in the history of the labor movement and the rise of unions in the garment industry.

Key court cases featured in this exhibit include:

  • Levi Strauss v. Meyer Lindauer and David Lindauer. This 1878 court case was filed by the Levi Strauss Company against the defendants for patent infringement relating to “improvements in pantaloons.”
  • Curlee Clothing Company v. Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America. This case documents the Union strike at the Curlee Clothing Company in St. Louis, Missouri, on June 1, 1925.
  • Hamilton Carhartt v. Star Clothing Company. This dispute over trademark infringement dates back to 1902, just 12 years after the company began.
  • National Cloak & Suit Company, v. Joseph Sonken and Moses Silverman, co-partners doing business under the firm name and style of National Army Stores Company. This trademark dispute resulted in Kansas City customers being warned about unscrupulous businessmen.
  • Donnelly Garment Company, a Corporation and Donnelly Sales Company, a Corporation v. International Ladies’ Garment Workers, an Unincorporated Union, et al. Billed as “one of the most bitterly contested battles in American labor history,” this Kansas City court case was filed in an effort to prevent the International Ladies’ Garment Workers Union from infiltrating the Donnelly Garment Company, which produced dresses under the “Nelly Don” brand.

Admission, hours, and additional information
All Sewn Up is a free exhibition and opens on Tuesday, February 24. The National Archives at Kansas City is open Tuesday-Saturday, 8:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. for exhibits viewing and research. To schedule a group tour please call 816-268-8013 or email Free parking is available for National Archives visitors.

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