It’s not as sexy as saving ancient manuscripts from Islamists, but these manuscrips need rescue from humidity and bad storage, according to Dr. Abdel Kader Haïdara, of the SAVAMA-DCI (Protection and Exploitation of Manuscripts for the Defense of Islamic Culture) project, which works to protect manuscripts in Timbuktu and beyond:

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????The project aims to save over 300,000 manuscripts. According to Dr. Stéphanie Diakité, the manuscripts of Timbuktu are from the 13th through the 19th centuries, and are a corpus of religious, scientific, philosophical and artistic works, and include “tales, poems and music treaties.”

Most were written in Arabic, by Africans, although some originated in Andalusia or the Mashreq.

Diakite told Star Africa: “The purpose of the crowdfunding effort is to ensure the preservation of the physical integrity of the manuscripts. Each one of them needs to be put in special boxes equipped with a system against humidity. Rain[y] season will begin soon in Mali, the preservation action is thus of the utmost urgency. The crowdfunding campaign that has been launched on the 21st of May, 2013, and is due to end on the 20th of June[.]”

Note: Dr. Bruce Hall calls into question the fund-raising appeal. Dr. Diakité’s response:

Thank you for bringing the concerns of Mr. Hall to our attention.

I would appreciate your informing him that more than 300 000 evacuated manuscripts are in hand in safehouses and that a first time ever inventory of the the manuscripts has been completed.    We have identified 73 large categories of manuscripts in the inventory in a large variety of languages as stated.  Many manuscripts do not originate in Timbuktu as stated.

Please also remind Mr. Hall that the public collection containing 29, 000 manuscripts that Abdel Kader and his teams from SAVAMA DCI (which Mr. Hall does not seem to know is an association of library families) evacuated was returned to the Government as soon as it arrived in the south.  This collection is not part of the manuscripts in safekeeping subsequent to evacuation operations he lead with SAVAMA DCI.  Nor is it part of the work of T160K.

Please also remind him that it is part of the public record, if Mr. Hall had consulted it, that our current efforts are an in extremis response to very significant physical integrity issues being experienced by the evacuated manuscripts.  They are distinct from any long term efforts to permanently record the contents of the corpus through digitization or for research in the corpus.

Finally, we would have welcomed Mr. Hall’s interest and responded to his concerns if he had brought them to us.

See more:

Star Africa: YOU can save the Timbuktu manuscripts: interview

IndieGoGo: Timbuktu Libraries in Exile

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