Hundreds of thousands of precious medieval manuscripts have been smuggled out from Timbuktu only to face another threat: moisture damage.

The manuscripts, some of them origially produced in Timbuktu, SW Sahara, and others coming from different parts of the Medieval world (Andalusia, Southern Europe, Arabia, Egypt, Morocco, and several Arab trading ports on the Indian Ocean), had been part of dozens of libraries developed from the Middle Ages till today in the  legendary Malian city which formed the centre of an extensive trading network from the late 12th to the late 16th century AD. A considerable amount of them, housed for survey and protection at the Ahmed Baba Institute, were thought to have been destroyed as the Institute building was set on fire by Islamist groups during the recent Mali crisis. However, the some 300,000 manuscripts had been, in fact, evacuated from Timbuktu by librarians and archivists.

Still, stored in the metal boxes used for their evacuation, the 700-year old texts are already showing signs of damage and exposure to moisture. According to the campain page of activist group Libraries in Exile, what is needed is to store the manuscripts in an archival, moisture-resistant manner during their exile from Timbuktu.  “If physical harm from the current packing situation continues and if mould and mildew spread in the corpus due to increased humidity, the damage will be devastating.”, the announcement states.

To raise the $100,000 needed for securing proper storage facilities, the group has launched a public appeal through the IndieGoGo website. As explained in the campaign page, “$30 would preserve a single manuscript, while $9,000 would protect an entire footlocker. The funds will be used to buy moisture traps, archival boxes and additional storage, as well as to cover the labour required for the project”. So far, $40,000 has already been raised.

The statement goes on to say that the librarians have turned to crowdfunding because “the need to preserve the manuscripts is urgent” and “we can’t wait for governments and organizations with deep pockets to respond to this need.

In case you want to support the cause by donating, please visit: