Library of Alexandria’s conservation and preservation training programmes for the Ministry of Antiquities
In the past four years, the smuggling of ancient monuments to outside Egypt has increased dramatically leading to the loss of a huge amount of historical cultural belongings of all types. One of the cultural materials that is less studied and known to archaeologists working at the customs points is paper materials, either printed books or written manuscripts; that is what the Manuscript Museum department of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina can help with.
One of the aspects of cooperation between Bibliotheca Alexandrina and the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities was a one year training program that took place from June 2014 to July 2015, in six courses for about 100 employee of the ministry from different Egyptian cities.
The course was instructed by chemists and microbiologists of the Chemistry and Environmental Monitoring section of the Manuscripts Museum Department. It was mainly about “Chemistry of historical archival materials” aiming at giving those archaeologists good insight about original manuscripts and rare books composition and form, in order to help them decide whether a smuggled document is an original one, and to teach them handling and conservation methods. Six separate workshops were held, each one was four days and tackled the following topics:
- Written books and printed books;
- Spontaneous deterioration of the papers of printed books in the mid-nineteenth century;
- Chemical treatment of books and manuscripts;
- History and art of binding;
- Microscopic differentiating between different types of fibers;
- Micro-chemical spot testing analysis;
- Pigments and dyes;
- Preventive conservation, environmental monitoring and biological deterioration;
- Differentiating between textiles and colorants;
- Fundamentals of leaf casting.
The Chemistry and environmental monitoring section provides training courses on a semi-regular basis, and several courses were previously given to students from several universities in Egypt and other countries: Saudi Arabia, Kazakhstan, Morocco and others.
Dr. Mohamed Soliman (Director of the Manuscript Museum, The Library of Alexandria / IFLA RBSCS Standing Committee Member)
Thank you, David. We also hope to repeat and expand this experience whenever possible.
Thanks for this informative post, Mohamed. This looks like a great model for training government officials about identifying and handling rare printed materials.
Thank you so much Mr. David.