Building peace in the minds of men and women

Irina Bokova discusses digital preservation and science technology for cultural heritage conservation with Dr. Ismail Serageldin, Director of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina

On 2 October 2013, the Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, met with Dr. Ismail Serageldin, Director of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, in the presence of H.E. Mr. Mohamed Amr, Ambassador Permanent Delegate of Egypt to UNESCO; H.E. Mr. Aly Maher ElSayed, Ambassador, Head of External Relations Sector at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina; and Dr. Marwa El Sahn, Director, in charge of Francophone activities at the Library of Alexandria.

The Director of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina informed the Director-General about the vast mobilization of Egyptian youth to protect the Library during the recent times of demonstrations and damage to national buildings in Egypt, including last June, and voiced the “tremendous hope of such unknown youth-power taking charge of its destiny” in this time of social transformation for the Egyptian people.

Dr. Serageldin extended an invitation to the UNESCO Director-General to visit the Library in the near future and outlined recent progress of the Library as a centre of excellence in the field of digital preservation, and a major cultural and intellectual centre for knowledge worldwide. He continued by commending UNESCO for its achievement in developing guidelines and addressing the challenges of historic urban landscapes conservation, a growing concern in a number of countries. H.E. Ambassador Mohamed Amr also referred to the challenges facing the preservation of the Old Historic Cairo and UNESCO’s assistance in this context.

 The Bibliotheca Alexandrina, an independent and highly respected international institution of excellence in the field of library development, was inaugurated in Alexandria, Egypt, in 2002, and enjoys a very high number of visitors to its six specialised libraries and four museums.

Dr. Serageldin expressed interest in developing cooperation with UNESCO in the areas of science and technology for cultural heritage preservation and the conservation of urban landscapes.

The Director-General and Dr. Serageldin also exchanged on the current challenges facing the World Digital Library, for which Dr. Serageldin was elected as the Chairman of its Executive Council, and on which UNESCO and the Library of Congress (U.S.A.) are active members. They both expressed concerns with regard to the important needs of developing countries in the preservation of their digital archives and libraries in a global context of economic crisis, and they underscored the need to build knowledge and capacity in the developing world in order to narrow the “digital divide”. 

Addressing the issue of expanding multilingual and culturally diverse content on the Internet, to provide resources to educators, and to contribute to scholarly research, Dr. Serageldin informed the Director-General of the establishment within the Bibliotheca Alexandrina of a highly advanced centre on the safeguarding of the Arabic language, referring to its sophisticated lexical classification. 

The Director-General commended Dr. Serageldin for the Library's impressive achievements in a time of social transformation across the country.