Thanks to Oppenheim’s well endowed financial situation in the early days of building his library, he was able to acquire rarities and valuable manuscripts. Photographs of his Cairo residence at the turn of the century showing small labels on shelves in the library provide evidence for a simple system of organization. During the 1920s, professional help came from the staff of Berlin’s State Library.
The collection focused on books dealing with the Near East and Islam. After Oppenheim resolved to begin his own excavations at Tell Halaf, he prepared himself for his new role with intensive study on his own. Only a few months after the excavations began, Oppenheim wrote: “Thank God, my books now enable me follow the results of prior excavations in a serious academic manner.” Oppenheim’s specialized library, together with his collections of objects and photographs, provided a solid foundation for the Institute for Oriental Research which he established in 1922. Four years later, its value was estimated at one million gold marks.