American Archives Month10.15.2013
An Archives is a place where important and historical records live. It is a place where these records are stored and preserved so people - like you - can use them now and for many generations to come. Professional archivists assess, collect, organize, preserve, and provide access to records and information that has lasting value.
I recently asked my new Public History intern, Bemba Diarra, “Why are you interested in Archives?” His answer reinforced the importance of Archives on an international level. So this American Archives Month I want to take the opportunity to not only highlight the importance of our archives but of archives all over the world. Because really, isn’t the history of the world important to us all?
– Jennifer Brancato, University Archivist and Coordinator of Special Collections
My country, Mali, is a in the middle of West Africa with a population of 14 million. Since 1960, the north has seen armed conflicts between the Malian government and the population living there, the Tuaregs. In April 2012 some Islamic groups affiliated to Al Qaeda decided to help the Tuaregs in their fight for the control of the northern territory. After conquering the territory, the Islamic groups decided to erase every trace of Malian history in the North. Therefore, they bombed historical houses, mosques, raided historical figures tombs, and burned archives. Luckily, in January 2013 the French, Malian and West African armies fought back and reconquered the north before it was too late. Although many historical places had been destroyed very few of the documents in the historical archive in Timbuktu were burned. The rest was saved and is being subject to digitization projects from archival organizations around the world.
This event proved to be critical in my decision to join a Public History program. I love the history of my country and I would do anything to protect it. I want to be able to save the information contained in the historical documents with digitization in case of another invasion or natural disaster. The historical documents located in Timbuktu are not relevant to just Mali but the whole region of West Africa, as Timbuktu was the economic city of the Malian empire in the 13th, 14th and 15th century. The preservation and protection of these important documents is vital to both the national and international community.
– Bemba Diarra, Wright State University Public History Intern
For more information about the destruction and rescue of the documents in Timbuktu see the following:
- Historical documents saved during Mali's invasion, CBS Evening News, 2/6/2013 (video) - http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=50140516n
- Mali conflict: Timbuktu manuscripts destroyed, BBC News, 1/30/2013 - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-21257200
- Timbuktu library – a treasure house of centuries of Malian history, The Guardian, 1/28/2013 - http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/jan/28/timbuktu-library-centuries-african-history
- Mali: Timbuktu Locals Saved Some of City’s Ancient Manuscripts from Islamists, Time Magazine, 1/28/2013 - http://world.time.com/2013/01/28/mali-timbuktu-locals-saved-some-of-their-citys-ancient-manuscripts-from-islamists/
- International experts and decision makers gathered at UNESCO adopt Action Plan for Mali’s cultural heritage and manuscripts, UNESCO, 2/19/2013 - http://whc.unesco.org/en/news/987/