Training Iraqi restorers in the Czech Republic

Photo: Institution for Restoration and Conservation Techniques

A special ceremony was held in Prague's National Library on Thursday to present diplomas to Iraqis who had just completed a course in restoration work at a special school in Litomysl. The course was organised as part of the Czech Republic's contribution to the reconstruction effort in Iraq.

Within the framework of this project, the Czech government brought a number of Iraqis here to learn how to restore and preserve old documents and artefacts at the Institution for Restoration and Conservation Techniques in Litomysl.

Restoration skills are currently at a premium in Iraq, where many historical archives and artefacts were badly damaged during the conflict there last year.

The course involved a lot of restoration work on valuable archive records sent from Iraq to the Czech Republic. Dr Michal Durovic from the State Central Archive in Prague oversaw much of this activity:

"The main topic of this project was teaching our Iraqi colleagues how to restore and conserve damaged archival document records from Baghdad. I hope that the finished products were very, very good. We hope that this project will continue next year with the same colleagues from Iraq."

The Czech Republic was the only country in the world whom the National Library in Baghdad entrusted with the restoration of priceless records, which were damaged by fire around the time of the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime. The Iraqi students also participated in restoring these documents.

In view of the success of this project, the Czech government is also cooperating with Iraq in setting up a restoration workshop and laboratory in Baghdad so that the Iraqi students can put the knowledge they have learned to good use almost immediately.

A first consignment of equipment for these premises has already been transported to the Iraqi capital with the aid of the Czech army. It's also hoped that the students will undergo further training here next year.

Mohamed Sabri Abdul-Rahim is one of the Iraqis who took the course. He works as an archaeologist and has a special interest in restoring Iraq's old monuments and buildings. He feels the course has provided him with some of the knowledge needed to fulfil this goal:

"I have got a lot of important information through this course. It was conducted on two levels, both theoretical and practical. Naturally, it was useful. I hope in the next course we will get a lot more information, particularly in terms of practical knowledge, so that I can do what I think will be useful for the monuments in Iraq."

As well as learning a lot on the course, coming from Iraq to the Czech Republic for a couple of months to study must also have been quite an experience for Mr Abdul-Rahim:

"It was real nice but it was too cold for me. I love light, heat and sun. But it was nice."