Hoping to build a museum

Khanaqin collector accumulates around 11,000 VHS tapes in his home

KHANAQIN – Hussein Abu Zainab’s house in Diyala province’s Khanaqin district feels like a museum, with walls covered floor to ceiling by rows and rows of VHS tapes.

The 40-year old Abu Zainab has dedicated the past decade to collecting these tapes. His collection includes a variety of Iraqi, Arabic, English, and Persian movies, shows, cartoons, music, plays, and sports. He says many of his tapes are now rare finds in Iraq.

“For many years, I have been passionate about buying and collecting these tapes. I have dedicated a room in my house specifically for this purpose and have installed heating and cooling systems to preserve this treasure,” Abu Zainab told 964media, speaking in his native Kalhori dialect of Kurdish prevalent in Khanaqin.

Abu Zainab has gathered tapes from various provinces across Iraq, acquiring them in batches ranging from fifty to hundreds at a time. Sometimes, he even requests them via delivery. His passion for these cassettes is well-known, and people often bring them to him. In one instance, he purchased 500 VHS tapes at once, demonstrating his commitment to growing his collection.

The tapes span different eras, with some dating back to the early 20th century and others from more recent decades. However, as a dedicated collector, Abu Zainab has experienced increasing difficulty in expanding his collection.

“Gathering more cassettes has become increasingly difficult. Day by day, it gets harder,” he said. “Previously, I could purchase cassettes from several places, but now I can only find them from individuals who have kept them at home.” He says most people keep VHS cassettes of their personal and family events, which they are reluctant to sell.

Abu Zainab’s nine-year-old son, Mohammed, is a dedicated helper, assisting his father in organizing and preserving the tapes. Together, they plan to establish a museum to showcase their collection. Despite the challenges, Abu Zainab and his son remain hopeful about this goal, saying they are “determined” to achieve it.

Due to the overwhelming number of tapes, Abu Zainab has prepared another room in their house to accommodate future acquisitions. He believes their home will become a valuable resource for YouTubers and enthusiasts searching for rare content found on these tapes. He emphasized that he has a large part of archives from the 20th century, especially television programs. He also possesses a vast collection of drama series, many of which are unique and not available from other sources.

That has made him a go-to person for those in search of rare content.

“Some people on YouTube present old programs daily on their channels. They include old shows, songs, and movies, and they frequently request content from my collection,” Abu Zainab said, as he went around the room checking the cassettes.

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