Long-Term Plans

The conservation, digitisation and cataloguing of 285,000 manuscripts is an enormous task. At present, CSMC is concerned with a few thousand manuscripts in a pilot stage of the project which will run out in July 2014. The establishment of a functioning network of funding and research bodies and coordination of their efforts is indispensable for the preservation of the Timbuktu manuscripts. This will allow all involved participants to cope with multiple challenges as follows.

Maintenance and Security
  • The facilities at the manuscript archive in Bamako should be maintained during the transitional period until the manuscripts can be returned to Timbuktu. Plans should include provisions for security and the running costs of the archive during the transitional period.
  • Offsite storage facilities will need to be maintained during the process of transferring the manuscripts to the archive.
  • The conversion of some offsite storage facilities into more permanent archives should be considered, to avoid concentration of all collections in one place and thus reduce security risks.
Expert support and quality control
  • Given the scale of the Timbuktu collections, the current conservator position should be extended for another four years, and an additional conservator position created to ensure efficient management of preservation.
  • A specialist in cataloguing should work with the team of SAVAMA-DCI to advise on manuscript cataloguing and conduct quality control.
  • A specialist in archive photography is needed to regularly check workflow of digitisation and ensure that digitisation methods are kept to the highest standards.
Integration of the manuscript archive in Bamako into the wider public and academic circulation, by
  • Creating various channels of dissemination of the results of the overall project;
  • Organising conferences for scholars, report meetings for stakeholders and press conferences for the general public;
  • Setting up an information website to ensure transparency of preservation, digitisation and research activities at the manuscript archive.
Provisions for returning the manuscripts to the Timbuktu libraries
  • Organising conferences with the owners of the libraries to report on work being done on the manuscripts and to ensure that they are aware of the aims of conservation and research that the international community is supporting;
  • Renovating and equipping the manuscript libraries in Timbuktu;
  • Establishing public access status for these libraries and creating a unified system of in situ access to the manuscripts;
  • Developing a strategy of transferring manuscripts back to Timbuktu;
  • Developing a strategy of continuation of the work started in Bamako.

Given the magnitude and complexity of these objectives, a working group of scientific and financial experts should be set up in order to establish the workflow and estimate the costs of the overall long-term plan. To this end the group should draw on SAVAMA-DCI recommendations as well as expert advice from CSMC and other potential participants in this international endeavour. A regular international management committee should also be set up to evaluate progress and make decisions concerning all facets of the project as a whole.