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Cultural Exchange

Librarian of Congress James H. Billington and Mohammad Kazem Mousavi Bojnourdi, director of the National Library and Archives of the Islamic Republic of Iran, signed a memorandum of understanding on Nov. 4 during Billington's recent visit to Iran.

Thomas Nast, artist. Tweed-le-dee and Tilden-dum. Illustration in Harper's Weekly, July 1, 1876 T. Johnson, engraver, from a photograph by James Notman

"I was impressed by the dedication and professionalism of Dr. Bojnourdi and his colleagues, whom I met on my brief trip to Iran," said Billington. "The trip was purely cultural in nature and designed to discuss exchanges of materials."

"The agreement we signed," said Billington, "will help to fill a 25-year gap in the Library's collection of materials published in Persian and other languages of Iran -- a move that will benefit not only Congress but also scholars of the Middle East. The agreement will also permit the two libraries to exchange mutually beneficial information in the areas of library science and preservation."

"I am hopeful that in the not too distant future Dr. Bojnourdi will be able to visit the Library of Congress in Washington so that we may be able to reciprocate the excellent hospitality he showed us during our visit to Tehran."

The Library of Congress has maintained offices abroad since 1962 to acquire, catalog, preserve and distribute library and research materials from countries where such materials are essentially unavailable through conventional acquisitions methods such as book dealers. The Library currently has six regional offices -- in New Delhi, Cairo, Rio de Janeiro, Jakarta, Nairobi and Islamabad -- whose collective acquisitions effort covers more than 60 countries. Iran has not been a participant in this program, which benefits other libraries and research institutions across the United States as well as the Library of Congress, since the Islamic Revolution of 1978-1979.

More information on the Library's acquisitions from around the world under this program can be found on this Web page.

Efforts to reach out to major national libraries around the world -- to build collaborative initiatives to acquire and share digital collections -- has been one of Billington's priorities as Librarian of Congress. Starting in 1999 with a partnership with the Russian State Library and the National Library of Russia, the program has led to what is now called the Global Gateway Web site. It is a portal to the Library's international collections with links to information from other sources around the world. In addition to Russia, the site includes partnerships with the National Library of Spain, the National Library of Brazil and the National Library of the Netherlands.

An excellent source of information on Iran is the Library's Country Study volume on that nation. These Country Studies, from the Library's Federal Research Division, are comprehensive guides to more than 100 nations.


A. [Southside Street, Tehran(?), Iran], [1955]. Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction information: Reproduction No.: LC-USZC4-2179 (color film copy transparency); Call No.: LOT 7631 [P&P]

B. A fifth century B.C. drinking vessel in the shape of a winged lion, from Hamadan. Image from "Iran: A Country Study," Federal Research Division, 1987. Reproduction information: Not available for reproduction.

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