Over 370,000 saved manuscripts from Timbuktu (2014-2018)
It went through the press for weeks: in spring 2012, Islamist groups occupied the northern parts of Mali and thus the ancient manuscripts belonging to the UNESCO World Heritage were threatened with destruction. However, through private initiatives around 300,000 of the manuscripts belonging to the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage were secretly transported to Bamako. The dramatic saving of the manuscripts was organised by Dr Abdel Kader Haidara (whose NGO „Sauvegarde et la valorisation des manuscrits pour la défense de la culture islamique” (SAVAMA-DCI) received the UNESCO Jikji Memory of the World Award on 1 October 2018). The resulting disorder and the threat from the humid climate in Bamako prompted various institutions among them the Jutta Vogel Foundation to provide financial support for the conservation of the manuscripts, thus making them usable for scientific purposes. The Jutta-Vogel-Foundation has also promised its support.
A lot has happened since then: Due to the bad condition of the manuscripts, it was first necessary to clean the manuscripts, produce boxes and equip suitable storage rooms. In addition, overview lists had to be written in French and Arabic in order to organize the manuscripts and to ensure that the holdings of each individual small library were preserved. It was also necessary to renovate and provide basic equipment for the library buildings in Timbuktu.
From 2014 till 2018, the project funded by German donors, achieved the following results: A total of 26,558 boxes were manufactured, in which 241,324 manuscripts are stored. Lists of 236,000 manuscripts in French and Arabic were produced, and 20 libraries in Timbuktu were renovated and equipped. All these activities were carried out by local staff employed by SAVAMA. International support has enabled various training and on-site expertise and provided help to purchase and to ship conservation materials.
In addition to the German donors, other international sponsors contributed to the fact that a total of 42,318 boxes for 370,057 manuscripts were prepared, 348,000 manuscripts were preserved and 122,218 manuscripts were digitised.
Dmitry Bondarev, Maria Luisa Russo and Abdel Kadef Haidara, the project leaders, expressed their gratitude to the Jutta Vogel Foundation and all the other institutions that contributed to the extremely successful project and this outstanding achievement at a ceremonial reception on 2 November 2018 in Hamburg City Hall. The financial support made a decisive contribution to protecting, preparing and sustainably preserving the rich heritage of Timbuktu.