Blog Posting

Cataloging the Medieval Timbuktu Manuscripts: the Mamma Haidara Library in Mali

by Naomi House, MLIS

2 page spread manu on parchment

Pledge T160K

Every so often the average person at home is able to contribute to something of global importance.  The large scale cataloging project of the rescued medieval Timbuktu library manuscripts is just such a project!

The corpus of Timbuktu comprises over 400,000 manuscripts and dates back for generations, with numerous private libraries that have been handed down from generation to generation for over 700 years, creating a record of commerce, poetry, scholarship, law, and everyday life that has undiminished power to teach and inspire today. The libraries include manuscripts form Andalusia and Southern Europe, Arabia, Egypt, the Arab trading ports on the Indian Ocean, and Morocco and other centers of medieval learning, as well as the region of Timbuktu itself. Timbuktu is a traditional crossroads of culture and has played a peacekeeper role in the region. The manuscripts chronicle this role. They represent an astounding diversity of topics and authors, including a significant number of women’s voices.

Ancient Arab Manuscripts In Bouj Beha, Mali

A cultural heritage of this magnitude has incredible power to bring people together. We saw this power when people from all walks of life, whole villages, and speakers of every language in the region gave their time and effort, even under considerable risk, to help us evacuate them to the south. We believe that cataloging these manuscripts is a positive step towards a process of enduring peace and a reduced toll of human misery for this entire region.  With the help of the global community this priceless heritage will be preserved and cataloged!

Today, make a one-time contribution to the Mamma Haidara Library:

All photos copyright Stephanie Diakite and Mamma Haidara Library and used with permission

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