Digitization of the Infa Yattara Family Library’s Timbuktu manuscripts

Dr. Ian Straughn of Brown University provides a glimpse into his work in Bamako, Mali to preserve manuscript cultural heritage materials through a pilot award (EAP913) from the Endangered Archives Programme of the British Library.

The libraries of Timbuktu, and the abundance of centuries-old manuscripts they contain, have consistently attracted the attention of international media during the past five years. That coverage, however, has not been devoted solely to stories of scholarly discoveries regarding one of West Africa’s most productive scholarly centers of the pre-colonial period.  Instead, accounts have largely focused on the threat to these troves of knowledge during the town’s occupation by the al-Qaeda linked militants of Ansar Dine which began in 2012. To be fair, much ink has also been devoted to the optimistic story of local Malian efforts, often with support from outside donors and experts, to secret away a large percentage of these endangered manuscripts to the safety of Bamako, where they remain today.

More on the the Infa Yattara Family Library:

Manuscripts in the Yattara Family Private Library date back as far as the 12th century, and cover a diverse array of literary fields, including theology, mathematics, astronomy, and law. The carefully preserved and highly revered manuscript collections in Mali (Timbuktu, Jenne, and Gao) collectively represent a major hub for the rich development and global influence of the African literary heritage.

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