The UNO Criss Library Archives & Special Collections holds the Arthur Paul Afghanistan Collection, one of the largest collections of Afghan primary and secondary materials outside of the country. It contains over 20,000 titles in more than 20 languages including Dari, Pashto, and English.
The Arthur Paul Afghanistan Collection is comprehensive in scope. The library seeks to acquire materials pertaining to all aspects of Afghan life and culture, from prehistory to the present. Although the majority of the collection consists of history and literature, it also includes materials on economics, education, folklore, law, agriculture, language, architecture, music, geography, and geology. Items date from 18th Century to the present and include books, periodicals, microforms, maps, documents, newspapers, dissertations, organizational documents, and personal papers. Most of the collection consists of materials in English, and the two official languages of Afghanistan, Pashto and Dari (Afghan Persian).
In addition, there are publications in many other languages, including German, French, and Russian. Among the important items in the collection are the various publications of the Afghan resistance groups or "mujahideen" based in Pakistan during the 1980’s, reports of the U.S. Department of State relating to Afghanistan and Kabul Radio Pashto News Monitoring Service. In 1982, the Library created the Afghan Oral History Project, which resulted in more than 46 hours of interviews describing the political situation and the personal experiences of many individuals since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
In the fall of 1974, Arthur Paul, an economic advisor to the Royal Government of Afghanistan from 1960 to 1965, donated his private collection of Afghanistan material to the University of Nebraska at Omaha. The collection became part of what is today Criss Library Archives & Special Collections.
During his stay in Afghanistan, Mr. Paul (1898-1976) collected both published and unpublished material, including many unique items. Since 1974, the Criss Library has made extensive efforts to add to Arthur Paul's original contribution.
The majority of the newer materials were acquired through purchases, although gifts have also enriched the collection. Since the Soviet invasion in December 1979, resources and information from Afghanistan have become more difficult to obtain. Many libraries and collections in Afghanistan were destroyed, and books were stolen from libraries during the civil war and the Taliban regime. As a result, the collection has become increasingly important, serving as a research library for the UNO community and attracting scholars from all over the world.