In close cooperation with the Libyan authorities and the Office of the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General to Libya and Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), Mr Ghassan Salamé, and with the support of UNESCO’s Heritage Emergency Fund, the UNESCO Cairo Office organized a mission to the University of Benghazi in Libya from 5-14 April 2018 to evaluate the state of conservation and carry out a needs assessment for the restoration and preservation of the University’s Collection of Manuscripts and Books.
According to Dr. Maree Al Mogherbi, Dean of Benghazi University, the Collection includes approximately 3000 documents, some dating back to the 11th century. The Collection of Manuscripts and Books previously held in the University’s library had been heavily affected by the armed conflict, displaced from its original deposit and is in urgent need of restoration. The University lacks trained personal and the necessary equipment and chemicals to treat these documents. The University therefore requested the urgent intervention of the United Nations to save these precious documents from being irrevocably damaged, which would represent an enormous loss to the Libyan people. UNSMIL shared the request with UNESCO and an expert mission was organized, thanks to funding provided through UNESCO’s Heritage Emergency Fund and UNSMIL’s logistical support.
Dr. Stavros Andreou (Cyprus), a conservator specialized in ancient manuscripts, conducted this first evaluation mission to assess the state of conservation of the Collection. Working closely with local Libyan experts and University personnel, he identified needs and developed recommendations in terms of staff training, equipment and materials, in order to develop a long-term preservation project for the University’s Collection of Manuscripts and Books. Dr. Andreou also conducted a first-aid manuscripts conservation workshop, including theoretical lessons and practical exercises, for the Library staff in Benghazi University and for representatives of the Libyan Department of Antiquities (DoA).