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Capturing a War

On March 20, 2003, explosions were heard in Baghdad. Special-operations commandos from the CIA's Special Activities Division from the Northern Iraq Liaison Element infiltrated throughout Iraq and called in the early air strikes. According to then-President of the United States George W. Bush and then-Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Tony Blair, the reasons for the invasion were “to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, to end Saddam Hussein's support for terrorism and to free the Iraqi people.”

Mural of Saddam Hussein with his hand on a woman's head. Michael Brian Daake Collection The Library of Congress team at the Republican Palace. From left to right are Michael Albin, Mary-Jane Deeb and Alan Haley. 2003

As part of an effort to preserve “born-digital” content, the Library began capturing websites related to the Iraq War in March 2003. Currently available and processed are more than 200 sites.

The web capture team is still crawling the Internet for sites related to Iraq and will continue to update the collection as items are processed.

The Library has a website devoted to information about its program to capture and preserve historically important websites so that they can be accessed by future generations of users.

Subject areas in which the Library has been collecting websites include recent Supreme Court nominations; Hurricane Katrina; the papal transition following the death of John Paul II; and the crisis in Darfur, Sudan. Some of the websites captured by the Library and its partners are currently available by accessing the "Projects" section of the site.

Because an ever-increasing amount of the world’s cultural and intellectual output is created in digital formats and does not exist in any physical form, the Library of Congress and libraries and archives around the world are interested in collecting and preserving content on the web.

The Web Capture Program is directly related to the Library’s larger digital preservation program, called the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program.

In 2003, staff from the Library’s African and Middle Eastern Division visited Baghdad in order to help with a State Department-sponsored project to reconstruct the National Library and Archives in Iraq. The Library’s team was the first outside group to go into the stacks containing the book and newspaper collections of Iraq’s national library. They found the majority intact. The team also viewed water-damaged materials that had been removed before the war from the national library in hopes of protecting them and placed in the basement of the Board of Tourism. These materials, which included 400,000 pages of documents—some dating back to the Ottoman period—and 4,000 rare and forbidden books, were damaged when pipes broke during the summer of 2003. A full report is available.


A. Mural of Saddam Hussein with his hand on a woman's head. Michael Brian Daake Collection. Veterans History Project. Reproduction Information: Reproduction information not available.

B. The Library of Congress team at the Republican Palace. From left to right are Michael Albin, Mary-Jane Deeb and Alan Haley. 2003. African and Middle Eastern Division. Reproduction Information: Reproduction information not available.