30 people were killed and more than 100 were wounded when a car bomb exploded on al-Mutanabbi Street in Baghdad in 2007. The street lined with booksellers was the center of Baghdad’s literary and intellectual community. San Francisco bookseller and poet Beau Beausoleil initiated a coalition “Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here” to honor the memory and future of the street. With book artist Sarah Bodman, Beausoleil invited 260 book artists to create or “re-assemble” a book that was lost in the bombing. An exhibition of the artists’ books is currently traveling from the Cambridge Arts Council (May 13-June 13, 2013) to the Center for Book Arts in New York (July 10-September 21, 2013).
A set of the artists’ books will be donated to the Iraq National Library and Archive, which has been beautifully rebuilt since it was burned to the ground and looted in April 2003. Seven of the library’s staff lost their lives that month. The number of staff has since risen from 65 in 2003 to 450 in 2011, and the number of readers has risen from 120 a month to 1500 a month. A record! With the help of several countries, the Czech Republic in particular (their national library has 60,000 registered readers!), the Iraq National Library intends to build a new five-story Digital Library. (Or perhaps we’d better say five-floor!)
NOTE: This week, AMBS Architects revealed their ambitious design for the new public Baghdad Library.