Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Timbuktu's Manuscript Center, an Insurgent Victim

In 2009, I wrote about a welcomed development in Timbuktu, Mali, that was a long time coming. The precious ancient manuscripts (some dating back to the 1300's) I had seen several years earlier just sitting exposed on dusty shelves and cabinets had now finally received a proper building that would help preserve them. The Ahmed Baba Institute of Higher Learning and Islamic Research, with its collection of over 30,000 manuscripts, became an arson victim, burned by the Islamic fundamentalists as they were pushed out of Timbuktu by the French.  It is hoped that at least some of the manuscripts were removed to safe places ahead of time, just as they had been hidden or buried over the centuries in times of conflict. With only a small fraction digitized, it would truly be a loss if these historical and religious documents went up in smoke after surviving so long in a challenging environment.

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