When the first sparks of revolution began in Egypt late last month, the conflict presented thousands of questions on what the Egyptian future would hold. To many librarians across the world, one of the major questions was what would happen to the historical treasures of the country as preserved in their museums and libraries. While the main demonstration took place in Tahrir Square in Cairo, reverberations were felt across the country. The Egyptian people felt the significance of the event and realized that their actions were more than just a whim; they were a movement towards a new era of leadership.
During the demonstrations in Cairo, protesters linked arms to surround the museums housing their culture heritage. In the midst of chaos, Egyptians realized the importance of maintaining their history. In contrast, looters stole or ruined many artifacts from ancient Mesopotamia in museums in Baghdad, Iraq in 2003. Not only are the museums and cultural institutions crucial to Egypt’s identity, but tourism accounts for a large percentage of the national economy. Without maintaining these artifacts for people traveling from all over the world to see, a new regime in Egypt will not be able to provide significant growth for their society.
Similar protections by the citizenry took place in Alexandria. A Wall Street Journal article on the topic extols the virtues of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, a 2002 reincarnation of the first library of Egypt, which was destroyed millennia ago. While the library in Alexandria closed for the duration of the uprising, it remains a visual symbol of a country renewed. While Egypt builds its future, I will watch expectantly as they use their shared cultural heritage to create a strong political and economic model that will thrive in North Africa. Only through the preservation of the past can we learn from it, and Egypt has a long-standing, powerful history.
For more information:
Egypt economy awaits its lost tourists, 2/15/2011
A Symbol for the New Egypt, 2/8/2011