On Friday, May 15, The Metropolitan Museum of Art will host a series of manuscripts from an important library in Timbuktu, Mali. These selected items, which date from the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, represent a small portion of the extensive manuscript holdings in public and private libraries in Timbuktu, Mali. As part of a conservation initiative of the Ford Foundation, they will be brought to New York from Timbuktu by one of the foundation's grantees Abdel Kader Haidara, curator of the Mamma Haidara Library.
The visit will be an opportunity for those involved with this conservation effort to meet with curatorial, conservation and library colleagues in the Museum to share in a dialogue on the care and significance of these important cultural treasures.
The Timbuktu manuscripts are the focus of a number of ongoing conservation projects. In conjunction with the visit to the Museum, The Goldwater Library has compiled the following selected list of electronic and print resources.
Expedition guide Isa Mohammed holds a 500-year-old manuscript in Timbuktu, Mali. Photograph copyright Chris Rainier. (source)
Projects & Participating Organizations
This extensive web site includes links to the individual participating libraries and collections; a bibliography of Timbuktu; related institutions and resources; and an archive of press coverage (some links are no longer live).
The Timbuktu Manuscripts Project was initiated through a collaboration between Norwegian Universities (NUFU), the Ahmed Baba Institute in Timbuktu (IHERIAB), and the National Research Council of Mali (CNRST). Through a grant from NORAD and the Ford Foundation, the project was launched in the year 2000. The Timbuktu Manuscripts Project is the first UNESCO MEMORY of the WORLD Project and the first NEPAD Cultural Project.
- Sauvegarde et Valorisation des Manuscrits pour la Défense de la Culture Islamique (SAVAMA-DCI) (French language version of web site)
Aluka: Manuscripts of Timbuktu (download pdf)
Ancient Manuscripts from the Desert Libraries of Timbuktu (2004, Library of Congress online exhibition)
The manuscripts on view are from the Mamma Haidara Commemorative Library and the Library of Cheick Zayni Baye of Boujbeha, two of the most noteworthy institutions in the Timbuktu area ... The Library is also pleased that copies of these manuscripts will be deposited in its collections and will be available for use by researchers and scholars.
This project, financed by Luxembourg, aims at ensuring the safeguarding of, and widely access to, the priceless handwritten cultural heritage both existing in the public and the private collections in the area of Timbuktu.
The WDL was developed by a team at the U.S. Library of Congress, with contributions by partner institutions in many countries; the support of the United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); and the financial support of a number of companies and private foundations. From the Mamma Haidara Commemorative Library
Islamic Manuscripts from Mali (Library of Congress)
Islamic Manuscripts from Mali features 32 manuscripts from the Mamma Haidara Commemorative Library and the Library of Cheick Zayni Baye of Boujbeha, both in Timbuktu, Mali.
Slavery and Manumission Manuscripts of Timbuktu (Center for Research Libraries, Cooperative Africana Microform Project (CAMP), Timbuktu Manuscript Digitization Project)
A recent project rose out of the research of John Hunwick into a private collection at the Bibliothèque Commémorative Mama Haidara in Timbuktu, Mali, of 19th century manuscripts relating to slavery and manumission in Timbuktu. The materials, in Arabic, provide documentation on Africans in slavery in Muslim societies (a field much neglected in U.S. research).
West African Arabic Manuscripts Project (University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign)
AMMS is a bi-lingual (English and Arabic) database that was developed at the University of Illinois in the late 1980s to describe a collection of Arabic manuscripts in southern Mauritania (Boutilimit). It subsequently has been used to catalogue seven other West African collections including the manuscript libraries at the Institut Mauritanien de Recherche Scientifique, Northwestern University, and the Centre Ahmad Baba in Timbuctu.
In the Popular Press
Malian manuscripts digitized (goldwaterlibrary.org)
Project Digitizes Works From the Golden Age of Timbuktu (2008); Timbuktu Hopes Ancient Texts Spark a Revival (2007) (NYTimes)
The Rush to Save Timbuktu's Crumbling Manuscripts (Spiegel Online, August 2008)
Saving the Timbuktu Manuscripts (Southafrica.info (International Marketing Council of South Africa (IMC)), October 2005)
Reclaiming the Ancient Manuscripts of Timbuktu (National Geographic News, May 2003)
For Further Reading
The Hidden Treasures of Timbuktu: Rediscovering Africa's Literary Culture / John O. Hunwick and Alida Jay Boye ; Photographs by Joseph Hunwick. New York: Thames & Hudson, 2008.