The New Library of Alexandria: Symbol for a New Egypt (and the World?)

Posted on February 13th, 2011 by

In antiquity, the Library of Alexandria in Egypt had as its goal to collect all the world’s knowledge and was an amazing storehouse of ancient Greek and Roman culture.  Its eventual destruction is counted as one of the greatest losses to world history and culture.  In 2002, a new library was built on the foundations of the old.  In fortunate contrast to the fate of the Iraq Museum in 2003, which was looted within 48 hours of the start of the Iraq War, the New Library of Alexandria remains safe and continues to provide the people of Egypt and the world with access to information, our shared cultural heritage, and the space to openly discuss ideas.

“Photos of students and others guarding the building from potential vandals and looters have been posted on the library website (www.bibalex.org). By contrast, over the past two weeks antigovernment protesters set fire to the Alexandria governorate headquarters and torched police stations around the city. “The population loves the library and they protect it,” said Mr. Serageldin. “It says a lot that people reacted this way.”

…[The library] has proved to be a key tool in “a battle for the hearts and minds” of Egyptians, and whose programs served as a catalyst for the current civic unrest. “We’re spreading the values of democracy, freedom of expression, tolerance, diversity and pluralism that I’m hoping are taking root in the young generation.” In less than 10 years of operation, the library has introduced information technology considered cutting edge anywhere on the globe. Its researchers have devised optical character-recognition software for Arabic and digitized key manuscripts for dissemination over the Internet. With some 1.5 million visitors and 700 events last year, the Bibliotheca Alexandrina (the library is formally known by its Latin name) has become a gathering place for scientists, literary figures and other thinkers from around the world.”

Read the rest of the article here.

See some amazing pictures here.

 

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