Library of Congress repatriates 163,000 files to Afghanistan

Many of the included artifacts don't exist in Afghanistan any longer, having been destroyed in wars and natural disasters.

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Library of Congress
Library of Congress

The Library of Congress has completed a three-year project to digitize 163,000 documents relating to the cultural history of Afghanistan, and this week officials handed over these hard drives to the Afghan Minister of Information and Culture, Abdul Bari Jahani, and Abdul Wahid Wafa, Executive Director of the Afghanistan Centre at Kabul University. The collection will reside in 10 Afghan institutions, including the National Library of Afghanistan, National Archive of Afghanistan, American University of Afghanistan, Kabul University and Kandahar University. This concludes a project that began in January 2013 with a grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

The digital Afghanistan collection includes books, manuscripts, maps, photographs, newspapers and other historically significant materials dating from the 1300s to the 1990s, and in some cases the Library of Congress holds the only copy. Sadly, many of the artifacts in the collection were destroyed in recent wars or natural disasters, meaning they no longer exist in Afghanistan itself. The files include extensive bibliographic records and background information as well.

The collection is also accessible online via the World Digital Library, a project headed up by the Library of Congress and UNESCO. One of the WDL's main goals is to encourage "virtual repatriation."

"One of my goals as Librarian is to open up the riches of the Library of Congress to all people, wherever in the world they might be," Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden said. "I am so thrilled we had these items to share with the people of Afghanistan. This project is an example of what can be accomplished when resources are paired with the Library's extraordinary treasure-chest of items from around the world."

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