Editorial 

Heritage, literature and who we are

The land between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers is said to be the cradle of civilization. Archeologists have found evidence that man gathered in cities, hunted, traded and prospered in this area that is now part of Iraq more than 7,000 years ago.

One of the single most important collections of that 7,000-year history was at the National Museum of Iraq in Baghdad. On Thursday and Friday the 28 galleries of the museum were ransacked and most of its treasures looted by the newly liberated people of Iraq. Ancient stone carvings, cuneiform tablets, ceramic urns, even a solid gold harp from the Sumerian era were all taken or destroyed.

On Sunday the people of Baghdad moved on to lay waste to the National Library and Archives. First they looted then they burned, turning archives of Ottoman royalty, letters from the court of Sharif Hussein of Mecca (the man who started the Arab revolt against the Turks), and every doctoral dissertation ever written in Iraq to ash, blown away in the wind. When the vandals were done they moved on to the Library of the Korans.

Critics say U.S. soldiers did not do enough to prevent the looting and now the world has lost important records of civilization, while the Iraqi people have been stripped of some of their history.

On the other side of the world from Iraq and, given the 11 hour time difference, about the same time as the National Library and Archives was going up in flames, nearly 300 people gathered at the Westin in Whistler Saturday night to raise money for Whistler’s first permanent library and museum, a place for the literature and history of this town. The Imagination dinner and auction – one of at least eight local fundraising events between April 11 and 18 – was a big success, raising $58,000. That total, in tough economic times, is one measure of the importance people place on the proposed facility. But there is a long way to go before it is a reality.

The Whistler library/museum building has a $10 million price tag. The municipality has committed $5 million toward the construction cost but one year of fundraising for the second $5 million has produced only about $650,000, and most of that came in one donation from the Whistler-Blackcomb Foundation. It’s been obvious for a while that in the present economy raising another $4.35 million is going to be tough.

At one time it was suggested by municipal hall that the proponents of the Nita Lake Lodge project put up $3 million for the library/museum, which would have been enough to get construction going this spring. That cash contribution, plus another $2 million to retire the debt on Millennium Place, would have produced the bed units the Nita Lake Lodge proposal requires.

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