Places that Matter

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Kurdish Library & Museum (former)

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from MAS.org, Rene Fan
Rene Fan
This unique library draws scholars from around the world
Place Details »

Place Matters Profile

By Molly Kleiman

A museum, library, and gallery, home to the largest collections of Kurdish materials and artifacts in the Western Hemisphere. More than a mere container for these items, the space itself is a curiosity.

The brownstone on the corner of Park Place and Underhill Avenue is, at first, indistinguishable from its surrounding row-house neighbors. The metal sign that reads "Kurdish Library" is camouflaged by vines. Be patient after you ring; Vera Beaudin Saedpour, founder, collector, compiler, archivist, activist, editor, character, will greet you at the door. Most likely, she is wearing a light cotton dress, with puckered sleeves and hems, traditional for Kurdish women. Visit the museum and she may offer you a cup of coffee, a cigarette or a fudgesicle. But just ignore the dogs, she warns, because they will become jealous of one another and then pester you incessantly.

Daughter of an orthodox Jew, Ms. Saeedpour got her surname and her inspiration for the library from her late second husband, who was a Kurd. Her dedication to Kurdish issues began quite accidentally, after reading an entry her husband had found in the Oxford English Dictionary: A "Kurd," the dictionary explained, was one of a "tall, pastoral, predatory people." Among the library’s archives, Ms. Saeedpour promises, are the correspondence letters back and forth, between herself and many major dictionary and encyclopedia editors. The offensive entries were, of course, changed.

"I’m a little old lady in a kitchen. I must leave a record so that people who have nothing can be recorded. The poor Kurd has no ombudsman. I am just an old lady," Ms. Saeedpour repeats, "I howl into a wind tunnel. And I will howl til I die."