The Ancient Alexandria Library Anew for the 21st Century

The Ancient Alexandria Library Anew for the 21st Century


>>Joan Weeks: Afternoon
everyone. We’re very excited today
to present this program on the library of Alexandria. On behalf of all my colleagues in the African Middle
Eastern division, I’d really like to extend a
very warm welcome to everyone. I’m Joan Weeks, I’m head of the
Near East Section of the African and Middle Eastern Division
and we’re very pleased to present this first program
in our new reading room of our noontime lecture series. And this program on the
ancient Alexandria Library Anew for the 21st century by
Heba El-Rafey is going to be very exciting today. However, before today’s
program starts and we introduce our speaker, I’d just like to give you a
brief overview of our division in the hopes that you’ll come
back into our reading room to use the collections. AMED, as we call it the African and Middle Eastern division
is a custodial division, which means that we actually
house the collections. We’re comprised of three
sections that build and serve these collections
to researchers from around the world. We cover over 78 countries in
more than two dozen languages. The African section
includes the countries of all of Sub-Sahara Africa. The Near East section covers
all of the Arab countries, including North Africa and the
Middle East, Turkey, Turkic, Central Asia, Iran, Afghanistan,
Armenia and Georgia. And the Hebraic section
is responsible for Judaica and Hebraica worldwide. And we are in our
new reading room. So please come back and we’re
going to talk about how you get to connect and use
the collections. And I’d also like to talk to
you about our four corners blog where our curators write up
special and very innovative and interesting stories
about our collections. It covers the four areas, study
reading them, so Hispanic, European, Asian, and our room. And also I’d like to remind you that this program
is being videotaped and if you ask questions, you’re giving permission
to be recorded. And now I’d like to invite
Karen Leggett to the podium to give a brief overview
of the role of Sister Cities
International and the friends of the BA organization. Thank you.>>Karen Leggett:
Thank you very much. We’re delighted to be here
in the library of Congress. It has such a long
history of collaboration with the Bibliotheca
Alexandrina initiated largely by former BA director and
now retired Ismail Serageldin and his close friend,
the former librarian of Congress, James Billington. And thank you very much to
Joan Weeks and her colleagues in the African Middle
East division for arranging all the details
of this presentation today. The Baltimore looks, our Alexandria Sister City
Committee includes our friends of the BA, Maryland,
Virginia, and DC. We’re familiar in this country
with friends of the libraries in Montgomery County,
Fairfax in this area and all around the country. The friends of the
BA are international. We’re one of about 15
active organizations from countries literally
all over the world, which gave substantially
when the library was created and opened, organized in the
1990s and opening in 2002 and now they meet every year. The international friends of
the BA, IFBA meet every year in Alexandria in October. A lot of social relationships
have developed and they also continue
to support the library. We do that in a variety of ways. Our friends’ organization
includes members from throughout the
Washington area and nationally. So if it’s a project that
interests you, you have cards on your seat, take a look
in and we’re always looking for new members who are
interested in promoting the idea of Egypt in collaboration. One of the ways we do that
is with Skype conversations. We facilitate Skype
conversations between fifth and sixth graders in Maryland,
Virginia and Alexandria Egypt. And it is marvelous to see these
young people speaking live. And we’re also now
beginning to use a platform with a nonprofit
organization located in Washington called
MapWorks Learning. And their narrative
atlas platform is going to enable these students to
collaboratively create videos, maps of their cities, write
essays that they share and do all of this
collaboration. They’ll also do the
live conversations, which are a bit tricky
when you have school hours and a time difference. But the MapWorks Learning
platform will allow the collaboration, what they call
asynchronous collaboration. So we’re looking forward
to it to expanding that. And we continue to promote
Egyptian cultural activities and we bring librarians
and students to Washington and Baltimore whenever we can. And that’s why this week
we’re particularly happy to host Heba El-Rafey. And now, I’ll give
it to Muhannad Salhi.>>Muhannad Salhi: Good
afternoon everybody. Thank you all for
joining us today. Our speaker Heba El-Rafey is
the director of public relations and international communications
of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina. Following a career
with the organization that has spent 18 years and in
various leadership capacities, she brings with her
that experience of strong communication,
presentation and management skills. She is concurrently responsible for overseeing the BA
youth activities program, which focuses on capacity
building and engaging of young Egyptian — young Egyptians as well
as being the main link with the international
friends with the BA network. She has extensive hands
on experience in creating and engaging cultural
activities, event management, and creating platforms
for dialogue. She received her BA in European
studies, Italian and Management from London University
in 1995 and continued to receive advanced
certificate in marketing from the Chartered Institute
for Marketing in 1998. After a short stint in
the marketing profession for a FMCG company, Heba
shifted her career to work in the cultural sector with
the library of Alexandria, fulfilling her greater interest in spreading knowledge
in communities. She is the recipient
of the European Council of International School Award
for International Understanding and she currently serves
on the advisory committee for the Public Relations
Department of Pharaoh’s University
in Alexandria. So without further
ado, Ms. Heba El-Rafey. [ Applause ]>>Heba El-Rafey: Great. So yes, I will be talking to you
a little bit about the library of Alexandria or what we also
call the Bibliotheca Alexandrina or you may hear us refer to
it as the BA just for ease. So the ancient library of
Alexandria has a certain legacy and many people have heard of the ancient library
of Alexandria. Actually, in the past, it was
common practice for people to include a library in
ancient Egypt as part of the Egyptian temples or even
the royal palaces, as learning and academic research
were closely related to temple and religious life. So the ancient library
of Alexandria was in fact dreamt initially
by Ptolemy I Soter in approximately 285 BCE. And the ancient library
itself was actually built in what is known as the
royal quarter in Alexandria. And at its peak, it’s said to have had approximately
700,000 scrolls in various languages. So basically, it was there to
serve as a universal library or a depository for
universal academic thought. And as such, there were very
many international scholars and academics and philosophers who enjoyed a considerable
amount of academic freedom at the library of Alexandria. Now, some of these names
you may have heard of, but you might not have realized that they were actually resident
scholars at the library, including, for example,
Eratosthenes. Now, he was a Greek
mathematician, geographer, poet, astronomer and music theorist. And in fact, he also held the
position of chief librarian at the library of Alexandria. And he is known to have invented
the discipline of geography. In fact, he was the first person to calculate the
circumference of the earth. And this indeed, this method that he used is practiced
every 21st of June in the summer solstice in
the plaza of the new library of Alexandria by children. And it’s very interesting
to note that his calculations
were a mere fraction of the current calculations that we have using
modern technology today. Another important mathematician
and astronomer, Greek origin, and again, another chief
librarian of the library of Alexandria was Aristarchus. Now, he was the first actually
to place the sun at the center of the universe and said
that the earth was the one that revolved around the sun
and he also put the planets in their correct order. Another again, Greek origin,
one you may have heard of here in the library of
Congress is Callimachus. He was actually a
Libyan of Greek origin, but he was also a noted
poet and critic and scholar. And he was the one
who was responsible for producing a bibliographic
survey or what we would now
consider to be cataloging or the process of cataloging. And he did so for the
contents of the library. Euclid known as Euclid
of Alexandria. Again, another Greek
mathematician, and he’s the father — — of geometry. And his elements, the major work that he produced was actually
a main textbook for learning up into the earliest,
the 20th century. And this was all done at
the library of Alexandria. Were they all Greek? Now, they weren’t
necessarily all Greek. We also had an Egyptian priest
who also practiced there and he is known as
Manitho or Manetho. And he’s the one who actually
divided the chronology of the ancient Egyptian history into what we now
known as dynasties. So he’s very important in
terms of Egyptian history. So those are the scholars. What about the actual
activities that took place? Well, actually many of the
scrolls that were at the library of Alexandria were either they
were acquired through purchasing or they were taken
from passing ships through the Mediterranean port
or they were taken from Athens and copied and often
translated and returned or sometimes not returned
or the copies were returned. And the most famous
translation that took place at the ancient library
is something called the Septuagint . Now, the Septuagint is
basically the translation of the Old Testament and
some other related texts from Hebrew into Greek. And this was performed
by 70 Jewish scholars, hence the name Septuagint. So what happened to
the ancient library of Alexandria and
all this glory? Well, there are many
different theories and nobody knows 100
percent for sure. But I will present to you
the basic or what we perceive to be the most common theory. So the demise of the ancient
library of Alexandria, the library lasted
about 140 years. And the demise began in 48
AD during the Alexandria war where there was a clash between
Ptolemy XIII and Julius Caesar and Ptolemy who was the
brother of Cleopatra. Now, Julius Caesar had
no intention of burning down the library,
that was not the case. But in fact, he was — in order
to win the war, he set alight to his own fleets at the
docks and unfortunately that fire spread and went into
the royal quarter and much of the library was destroyed. And so in the years, further
Roman rule also actually destroyed what was known as the
Daughter Library at the Serapeum because they started to expand. And when Christianity entered
there was a destruction or an attempt to go against
all things considered pagan. And eventually, Alexandria
did become the center for Christian learning
privileged by the teaching of origin and Clement. Now, by the time the
Arabs entered in 642 AD, under the direction of Amr ibn
al-‘As, there was no library and there were no
books at that time. So, from the ancient souevenir,
for conception to inception, how did the new library
of Alexandria come about? Well, it was the dream of
late Professor Mostafa Abbadi and Dr [inaudible], who
was actually president of the Alexandria University
at the time in the 70s. And they wanted to revive the
legacy of the ancient library. So the presidency actually
took up this ambitious goal. And in 1988, they requested that
the UNESCO would be involved with them in order to
reinstate this universal legacy of the ancient library
of Alexandria. And indeed the UNESCO did agree and they held a international
competition, architectural competition
to see what sort of a building would we create. And in fact those who won the
competition were very small architectural firm from Norway
called Snohetta consisting of five architects,
including one Egyptian. And they won this
obviously winning design, which the library is now
currently in this way. So after this international
competition in the 1990, there was something called
the Aswan Declaration. And basically this was the
gathering of world leaders to form the international
commission for the revival of the ancient library
of Alexandria. And they decided to
commit themselves to what they considered to be
the first library to be designed and constructed with
the assistance of the entire international
community. And many of the people who were
there include royalty such as, for example, her majesty
Queen Noor of Jordan, Princess Caroline of Monaco,
and actually in fact Librarian of the Congress Emeritus
Dr. Daniel Boston. So construction began in
the 90s and the total cost of the project amounted to approximately 225
million US dollars of which 100 million
dollars were in the form of international donations. And this is the new
library of Alexandria as the model had presented. It is actually built
approximately in the same ancient royal
quarter of the ancient library, and it has four main objectives;
to be the world’s window on Egypt, to be Egypt’s window
on the world, to be a library for the new digital
age and to be a center of learning and dialogue. As you can see, the
building itself is like a tilted circular shape
and this is representing the sun as it rises in the
horizon, so that it’s there to receive all kinds
of knowledge and transmit them throughout
the Mediterranean world. We also have a very
large granite wall that surrounds the
main building. And this granite wall
actually has engraved in it, letters representing
125 alphabets from around the world
and throughout time. And the idea here is to symbolize encompassing the
world’s knowledge regardless of whatever language
it is presented in. Here, you can see more of
the plaza from further away or what we call the complex. And it also has a bridge which
connects to the University of Alexandria, which is on
the other side of the road and beyond, further into the sea
representing eternal knowledge. And finally, this
is the planetarium which here represents the earth
that revolves around the sun. So as you can see, the library
here and on the left there, there’s the conference
center, is a cultural complex which is dedicated to
recapturing the spirit of openness and scholarship that the original
Bibliotheca Alexandrina did. And I hope to show you within
the next coming slides exactly that it is indeed much more
than just a simple library. In October of 2002, the library of Alexandria was officially
inaugurated in a grand event. Now, I did mention that there
were some eminent visitors and scholars of the
ancient library. So it’s only befitting
that the new library of Alexandria also hosts
eminent scholars and visitors. And just to give you an example
of a few people who have been at the library or
have visited us, and in no way is this limiting. For example, the late professor,
Nobel Laureate Ahmed Zewail, even the director,
Martin Scorsese, Umberto Eco, Wole Soyinka. So you can see they come
from various backgrounds, countries, and even professions. More recent times,
we’ve had our president, president Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi. We’ve had Pope Tawadros
II, we’ve had [inaudible], royalty such as Queen Sofia of
Spain, Prince Henrik of Denmark, presidents including
the president of Cyprus, even the first lady, Laura
Bush when her husband was in presidency visited us. But they’re not just
old diplomats and official delegations. We’ve also had some artists such
as Vin Diesel and Ralph Fiennes who have — we’ve
graced our premises. So we need to talk
about the fact that it is in fact a library. So the library itself does
exist, but the idea of it is not to just be an access — sorry,
a place for storage of books, but to become an access point
for information and knowledge. Our main library is there for
all of our patrons who are above 16 years of age. And in fact it is the largest
open stack reading hall in the world. It contains currently over 2
million books and monographs, including digital format,
over 100,000 e-journals, extensive e-resources. And we also have a
Francophone library. Now, this was the result
of a very large donation, perhaps one of the
largest donations or gifts from one organization
to the next when the Bibliothèque nationale
de France donated 500,000 books to the library of Alexandria. And thus our Francophone library
becomes the fourth largest Francophone library
outside of France itself. So the library basically
accommodates around 2,000 readers. We have over 8,000
members and it’s designed to house approximately 8 million
volumes in open and close text. We are also a member of the
International Federation of Libraries Association
or the IFLA. And in fact, one of our
current directors is on the governing body
of the IFLA and has been for the second year running. And later on this this
month, actually next month, we’ll be hosting two
IFLA satellite meetings that I know one of the colleagues here
will be actually attending in Alexandria. As you can see in terms
of design on the inside, there are 98 columns and
at the top they’re there to represent the lotus flower which was very prominent
in ancient Egypt. So users have access to
a vast array of services and obviously linked
to the Internet. And we offer community services, access to academic
research and theses. And we’re also a
depository library for many organizations
including the UN, the EU and the Arab League. But apart from the main
library, we also have a number of specialized libraries
including an arts and multimedia library. And this obviously has a
special collection of books and musical scores
and periodicals and audio visual collection
of over 50,000 items. And it also has the archive
for all of the musical and cultural performances
that take place at the library of
Alexandria today. We have a dedicated map
library, but I will say that it’s not only for those
who are 16 years and above because we need to instill the
love of reading and the love of thirst for knowledge
when they’re young. So we have a dedicated
children’s library for those who start from the age of
six up until the age of 11. And we have about 23,000
visitors of young children who come and attended
the library every year. And they have access to a
computer lab, activities, rooms, storytelling, puppet
shows, multimedia corner. And even the books themselves
there are multi-lingual because many of the students
in Alexandria might go to different language schools
such as a French school or a German school or
English school and so on. Obviously, the peak for their
activity is usually during the academic breaks of
winter and the summer. And that’s when the children’s
library cooperates with all of the other departments
and centers at the library to provide workshops for
them throughout the year. What happens when they turn 12? Well, they have another
specialized library and dedicated for them
for the ages of 12 to 15, which is Young People’s Library. And here we have
over 18,000 visitors and they get access also to
digitize books and periodicals and other e-resources. And they are actually
an active member also of the International
Education and Resource Network, which is something
around the world. And they’re able to use all
different types of technology. What happens at a library if
you have any visual problems? If you are blind or
visually impaired? No problem. Come to our specialized
library for the blind and visually impaired
named after Taha Hussein who is actually a very famous
Egyptian novelists who was in fact himself blind. We have over 700 patrons who
come and use our resources and we give them access to all
of the resources of the library, whether it’s through large
print, through Braille — Braille, sorry, through audio
books and other facilities. But it’s not all about reading. We also do courses for them. And this is for example, the
orientation and mobility course. So we try to teach specifically
targeting young children and women how to use the
white cane so they’re able to become mobile
independently in a country where perhaps we still need to
provide further access to them. We also have rehabilitation
programs for the younger blind and visually impaired. So we get them easily
integrated into society, teaching them Braille
and how to use computers and give them other
mobility skills. But what we are re-known for
is also our digital books. Now, the digital books are
a way to facilitate access for information for those who have visual disabilities
and we do that. And we have actually started
producing our own digital books since 2010 and the Library of
Alexandria is actually the first in the Arab world to
have its own studio that produces these digital
talking books according to the international
thesis standard. And we are the first
library in the world also to produce the Holy
Koran in full text and full audio for our members. We have produced over
220 books to date. Another very interesting
unit, which I am very proud of is our special needs unit. So, even if you are fully
visual, you have your eyesight, you may suffer from
mental disabilities, whether they are cognitive
or learning disabilities. Well, we have a place
for you as well. And you can also enjoy access to
all of our resources and get all of the information
that you require. And we actually do
conduct abilities tests for these patrons
at the library. And we do individual work
plans for them in order that they can also maximize from
the benefits of the library. They also take computer courses and they have specially
designed computers for them, but they’re not only limited
to that internal unit. They also get involved
in cultural activities. So you can see here some of
the patrons who are involved in a choir and they also
celebrate international days such as the International Day
for Persons with Disabilities, World Down Syndrome day
or World Autism Day. So that’s the library
side of it. But we are, as I said,
a cultural complex. So what are sort of
cultural activities do we do? Well, we actually contain
a number of museums at the library of Alexandria. And museums in this case are
no longer just there to display but also involve in
educating as well. So we have surprisingly
an antiquities museum, not just because we’re based in
Egypt, well, it might be a part of it, but in fact we’re the
first library in the world to have an antiquities
museum housed inside. And the reasoning behind this
is when we started to excavate or relay the foundations
for the new library, as soon as you start digging
into the streets of any place in Egypt, what comes out? Artifacts. Right? They just
suddenly pop out. So with these artifacts, we
decided, well, it would be good to house these and show
these to the people who come and visit the library of
Alexandria, hence the need for an antiquities museum. And this is divided
in various sections. So we have currently over 1,300
artifacts on display beginning with the ancient
Egyptian section. And this is a period that
lasted for about 3,000 years. And here we’re trying to
focus on the intellectual and artistic side of the era. An example here also
we have certain mummies that we are famous
for obviously in Egypt and here you can
see wooden mummy of someone called Iba,
the son of Ankh Hor. Then we go onto our
Greco-Roman section, which is in fact our largest
collection that we have. And this would be from the
period 323 BCE to 331 BCE. And one of the examples of the important artifacts
here is this bust for example of Alexander the Great. And this was actually found
in Alexandria during one of the Polish expeditions. Then we move on to
the Byzantime period. And this would be from
approximately 395 AD to 642 AD. One of the important
pieces is this icon which depicts Jesus Christ
sitting on the throne of glory and is surrounded by the
symbols of the four evangelists; Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Finally, we go through to the
Islamic period, which begins from 642 AD to about the end
of the Ottoman era in 1924. And one of the masterpieces
here is this hanging lamp from the Mameluke
period, which is covered in decorative writings
from the holy Koran. Now, I did mention that
we have our own artifacts that we discovered under the
foundations of the library and these are our
site artifacts. Now, there were actually
111 pieces that we found and they include two
very interesting mosaic plaster pieces. And I’ll show you one here. Now, this one, as you
can see, this dates back to around the second century
BCE, is done in rock — marbles and rock limestone. And you can see there’s an image
of a dog, which is very unusual and he’s sitting next to
an upturn Greek vessel. Now, I always say, and I have
to say this even when I’m here, every single time
I see this piece, I remember His Master’s Voice. I don’t know if that rings
a bell with you as well, but it certainly
looks familiar to me. We also have a vast collection
of sanguine antiquities because don’t forget we
are on the Mediterranean. And the material is also
full of antiquities. And many expeditions
went on underworlds and they took the
antiquities out. And so these submerged
antiquities were taken out from the Bay of Abukir
and also the Eastern Harbor. And this is one of the statues,
for example, that dates back to the third century BCE. And surprisingly, even though
it was kept underground — under the water and salt water, they were actually
very well preserved. By coincidence, this
particular exhibition of sanguine antiquities
is currently on tour. It was last at the institute,
Minneapolis Institute of Art and it will soon be
in the Reagan Museum in California in October. So if any of you are there,
please do go by and have a look. Just because we talk about antiquities can’t
mean we can’t be tied to the modern age
that we live in. So our antiquities museum has
created a digital database where all of the collections of
the museum are available online. You can access it from the
privacy of your own home and you’ll be able to have a
look at all of the artifacts, get more information
about it, the time period that it was found in and so on. We also have something
called the Wall of Knowledge and you may have heard
of the Book of the Dead? Well, this is a very
famous papyrus. This is obviously just a digital
representation on the wall, but we have actually created
our own augmented reality application that you can use
and then it sort of comes alive as you present IT
in front of the wall and it gives you
more explanation about what’s going on. Incidentally, this is available
in three languages; Arabic, English and French, which are
the three official languages of the library itself. They do a vast number of education programs
with the children. They host exhibitions
in our facilities. They also conduct
conferences and host lectures and for example, this is
professor John Darnell who’s giving a lecture on
Egyptology from Yale University. Apart from the antiquities
museum and somewhat similar, we recently established in
2018 the Zahi Hawass Egyptology Center and have — have
you heard of Zahi Hawass? I know he is very famous here. Here’s the Indiana Jones
of Egypt with his hat. And this particular center
is actually located in Cairo, not in Alexandria, but
it basically focuses on raising the public awareness
about archeological heritage and the means to protect it. And Zahi Hawass is
very much involved. It’s not just his name
that’s on the center. And he actually went, for
example, on a trip to Giza, to the pyramids, with a
number of children to explain to them a little bit about
the history of the area. And this was in celebration of
the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, for example. This was in last December. The — so the second museum we
have is the manuscript museum. And this museum is a
center that basically aims at the cooperation and
scientific exchange in the field of manuscripts with similar
museums all over the world. So the museum itself contains
approximately 120 manuscripts and rare books, but the
actual collection surpasses the thousands. And they contain actually
original and facsimile and photo printed manuscripts. The museum also houses
two pieces of the Kiswa of the Holy Kaaba
or the covering of the Holy Kaaba in Makkah. This particular pieces date back
to 1936 and they were donated by the grandchildren of the
economists Tal’at Harb in Egypt. Our oldest manuscript
that we have dates back to approximately 978 AD. This one is an interpretation
of the Holy Koran by [phonetic] and apart from being one
of the oldest manuscripts in our collection and
indeed the world as well, it’s very important because
the documents the transition and the writing of
the Arabic language from not using dots
to using dots. I don’t know how
many are familiar with the Arabic language, but
if I have a certain symbol, if I put the dot on the
bottom, it gives me one letter. And if I put the dot on the top, it gives me a completely
other letter. So in the past, people
were very, very proficient in Arabic language and
they didn’t need two dots. So they could just
read very easily. And in fact it was
insulting to put the dots. It meant that I’m saying you’re
ignorant and you don’t know how to read this until I
put the dots for you. But eventually it became
more and more complicated. So there was a transitional
period to this day. Now, we are unable to
read without these dots. The oldest rare book
that we have in our collection
dates back to 1482 AD and it was printed in Venice. And we also have a facsimile
copy of what is considered to be the only surviving vestige of the ancient library
of Alexandria. Now, that we said at its peak
it had around 700,000 scrolls. Were they all burnt? Did anything survive? We’re not 100 percent sure,
but this particular piece of papyrus is located at the
Vienna Museum in Austria. And it is claimed to be
a part of the collection of the ancient library
and it’s said to have sort of like an index of some of the
other schools that were there, but it’s very difficult to read. Again, tying in our
history with the future, the manuscript museum
also does a large number of digitization projects
where they are — they do digital copies of
all of these manuscripts, especially because researchers
want to access the knowledge, but the paper is so fragile
that there’s no way we can give that in the hands of everyone. So they’re able to do that
without damaging the manuscript. More and more educational
programs and courses for the children. But something that we
are also very proud of is that we take care of our own
manuscripts and rare books in our own conservation lab. Now our conservation lab is
there to protect, maintain, and restore various manuscripts,
documents and rare books. But not only do that — we do
that for our own collection. Now, we have become the center
or the focal point for people in our region and around us. So we have done about
2000 ledges and documents for the Suez Canal Authority. We’re in the process
of doing restoration for the Greek Orthodox
Patriarchy in Alexandria for some manuscripts
dating over 1000 years old, for the [inaudible] and even
for those further beyond in Kuwait and other areas. And you can see an
example here of one of the manuscripts before
it’s restoration and after. And what’s important with
the way that we do this is that it’s actually reversible. So if in the future there’s
a better way of doing it, we can undo what we have done
and do it in a better way. We are also the leaders and
pioneers in using nanotechnology in terms of our restoration
fibers. And this is the first time
that this his been done — this has been done in an
Egyptian restoration lab. Our manuscript center focuses
on disseminating the knowledge about Arabic and
Islamic heritage. It has over 5,000 titles and
it does a lot of research and publishes scholarly
critical works. And it gathers like-minded
researchers together to discuss and further address many
of the manuscripts it has. Now, apart from the
manuscript museum, we also have a Sadat Museum for
the late president Anwar Sadat. In fact, there are
three in Egypt and one of them are located
at the library. Obviously, it contains
a collection of his personal possessions,
his library, video content, a number of his awards, a recording of his voice
reciting the holy Koran. It also collects — it
has a collection of medals and president’s military suits. And most importantly, we
also have the military suit that he wore on the day
of his assassination on the 6th of October in 1981. And you can still see
the bloodstains on that. We also have a history of
science museum that talks about basically the sciences
through the ages in Egypt from ancient Egyptian to
the Hellenistic period through to the Arab
and Muslim world. We also like and
cater for the arts. So we have a vast number of
15 permanent exhibitions, 14 of them about the arts. We have the Impressions
of Alexandria Collection. And this is specifically
for Alexandria, including lithographs
and maps and photographs and everything pertaining
to Alexandria between the 19th century
and the 20th century. The World of Shadi Abdel Salam who was a very famous
distinguished and acclaimed filmmaker and creative designer
and set designer. We have the Arabic Calligraphy
collection from Mohamed Ibrahim. We have the history of
printing of the Egyptian press and this is the Bulaq
press, there we go. And the Bulaq press was
established under the rule of Mohammed Ali Basha in 1820. And in fact, the first
publication to come out of this press was an Arabic
Italian dictionary in 1822. We have Star Riders that
talks about astronomy in the Arab world, folklore
and ethnic costumes and jewelry and painting from around
the country [inaudible]. We also have the artists’ book and these are international
artists who come in our Biennale every two years
at the library of Alexandria, and they present their
interpretation of the book or the influence of the book
in their art or what have you, and this is presented. A very important other
exhibition that we do for artists is called
the First Time. And this is for budding
local artists who want to have the opportunity
to display their artwork. So we gather them together
and we give them the space and that they are able to
provide — to display their art. We have a number of ceramic
collections, Mohie El- Din: A creative journey in terms
of ceramics and sculpture. Adam Henein, Ahmed Abdel Wahab. We have a specific
sculpture collection as well. And the BA is becoming a hub for creative sculpture
experiences in the region. Visual arts such as Hassan
Soliman, Farouk Shehata, and also Seif and Adham Wanli. But it’s not all about the arts. We also have an exhibition
for our digital world because we are very
much connected to the century we’re
living in today. And we’d like to present
the projects that we work on and I’ll tell you a little
bit about those in a minute. We actually conduct over 1,000
events per year at the library. So it’s very, very busy. Anytime you come, you’ll
have something going on. And these may range from,
for example, performances from the BA art school
for the children who cover 15 different program
activities from music, dance, theater, visual arts, and
these are the children who learn the violin
through the Suzuki method. Theater performances. We encourage local either the
directors or actors in order for them to get involved in it. We even provide them with grants
for the production of theater. And actually, the library
of Alexandria was selected as the venue for the one night
only exclusive performance of Hamlet by the globe
theater in London when they did a globe tour. And that was in front
of a full house. But it’s not all about the
classical and Shakespeare, we also do the modern. And we have the modern music and concerts we encourage local
artists and bands to form. And we have an international
summer festival that takes place and is starting actually
this Friday. And you can see that the
plaza is absolutely full of people coming
to enjoy the arts. And we also have surprisingly,
our own BA Orchestra; Bibliotheca Alexandrian
Orchestra. These are residents,
staff members who part of the orchestra and they
also do their performances. More workshops for children because they can’t
be left behind. Conferences whether local,
regional or international. And we are also the key place
where many high profile meetings like to come and gather. So for example, last December
we had a joint meeting of the Arab ministers
for tourism and culture. And they gathered in this main
hall to discuss the importance of the interrelationship
between tourism and cultural sectors
in the Arab world. Obviously, we are a
library, we enjoy the books, so we have our own
international book fair. And that takes place every year
where many publishing houses from around the world
come and attend. And we usually have
one country every year as the guest of honor. Accompanying that is a cultural
program where many people come. “But what about the sports?” I hear your cry. Well, why not? We can do sports as well. So rather than just say,
you know, hosting concerts and what have you in the plaza, we can also transform
it into a squash court. And this — in this
instance, we are — actually, we’re hosting the
women’s Alexandria International squash open in 2015
and I’m proud to say that the Egyptians are
actually doing very well in squash whether
it’s women or men. Okay. Our planetarium. Remember that Earth that’s
revolving around the sun? Well, that’s our
planetarium science center and it’s basically becoming a
leading Egyptian institution for informal science
education — — and it’s the idea is
science should be made for all. It consists of a planetarium
theater which is a member of the International
Planetarium Society and it does full
dome projection. And in fact we have actually
produced our own full dome shows locally and we are one
of the first to do that. It houses the history of Science
Museum I referred to earlier and it also has something which
we call the ALEXploratorium and this is for children
and it’s a hands on facility where children can actually
go and test out the sciences that they see here or touch in everyday life
physically themselves in this particular area. They conduct regular activities. For example, the measuring
of the circumference of the earth I spoke
about earlier. They do programs
during the school year on different subjects,
animals, plants, human body, what have you. They also have a science
festivity, which usually is host to about 7,000 students from the
area who come and like to engage in the different sciences in a very interesting
and exciting way. We also host the International
Science and Engineering Fair where high school students
come and they present projects and prototypes and so on. And the winning projects then
come to the USA here to compete with other countries
around the world. And this year, Egypt actually
won the three top prices in that event. They hold a number of
conferences and lectures. And this, for example, is
a lecture by Omar Samra. Here’s the first Egyptian
to climb Mount Everest, to complete the Seven Summit
Challenge, and he’s actually one of three Egyptian youth
who have been selected by NASA to go to the moon. So the Egyptian flag will
be on the moon very soon. So watch out for that. They also go out to the schools
and initiate science clubs in the actual schools. Now, it’s interesting
because we’re relatively new. Inaugurated in 2002, we
are very proud to say that we have been born digital. So we don’t have to actually,
you know, manipulate something and create it for
the 21st century. And we are an active member of many leading digital
institutions around the world. We have over 3,300 computers
spread throughout our facilities, millions of pages
of digital texts and thousands of hours of digital
film and video. We have the only complete
backup and copy and mirror of the Internet archive. Now, the Internet archive
is actually based here, the original in San Francisco. And it’s the recorded memory of
the web pages on every website down the Internet since 1996. So it’s got a lot
of information. But our staff has locally
actually done a lot of hardware and programmings to
increase that capacity to hold now 4.9 petabytes
of data. Speaking of petabytes
and other bytes, we also house a supercomputer. Now, the supercomputer is a
high performance computing cluster facility. And what that does basically is
this computer here that you see in front of you, can
serve researchers so that they can
conduct, get this right, 118 trillion calculations
per second. So you can imagine the amount
of information that you can get through this supercomputer. And it’s very valuable,
particularly in applications concerning
bioinformatics, nanotechnology, and many more. We have our own digital lab and
that’s very heavily involved in the digitization process. How do we get everything
that we have online so that people can access it? Well, they also cooperate
with our International School of Information Science
and the two together with another department
do a number of important digital projects such as the memory
of modern Egypt. Now, we talk a lot
about ancient Egypt, but Egypt is still on the map. We still have a modern history and we have a very
positive future. So this one is — basically
covers the past 200 years of modern Egyptian history. And it has a number
of documents and films and micro fissures
and everything. And they actually also produce a
quarterly magazine including all of the history of Egypt. We have presidential websites. So we have a website
archiving all of the documents, films and everything that you
want for Gamal Abdel Nasser who was president of
Egypt between 54 and 70. For the late Anwar
Sadat that we spoke of who was president
between 70 and 81. But also for President
Mohamed Naguib, who was actually the
first president of Egypt between 1953 and 1954. We have done the same,
not only in that, I actually have also find
that in terms of social media. Social media is supposed
to connect people and a lot of people get to know each
other and know what’s going on. But then even then, I realized
that many different countries and cultures prefer different
social media platforms. So in Egypt, for example, we’re
very much involved in Facebook and I understand that that’s
not so popular here as, for example, Instagram. Am I correct? So in that case,
sometimes again, coach — the technology divides us. Are you able to see
what I’m doing?>>Audience Member: Yes.>>Heba El-Rafey: Okay, great. Okay. So we were
talking about the memory of modern — of Egypt here. [inaudible]. Okay. So you’re going
to see my notes with me. That’s all right. Okay. I’ll give you
a sneak preview. So the Arab memory
project basically aims to build the largest digital
archive similar to ancient — modern Egypt or the Arab world. Okay. Another thing that we
have is we actually own several copies of Description
de L’Egypte. And this is a very
important book. It’s a 20 volume book
which was commissioned by Napoleon Bonaparte during
his expedition in Egypt in 1798. And it’s a collection
of plays and texts that basically document
everything related to Egypt during that period. And what we’ve done is actually
we’ve taken a digital copy of all of those texts in
place and put them online through this website and
you’re able to search it. And I would like
to just note here that every single
website I refer to for the moment here is all
accessible from the privacy of your own home for
free and it’s searchable in different languages. So please do go ahead and
explore and have a look. So, yes, we do do a number
of academics research because we are also considered
to be a research library. We have the CULTNALT which is
the center for the documentation of cultural and natural
heritage. This is also in Cairo. And it conducts a vast
number of important projects and it actually picked
into the first nice screen, interactive screen, projection
screen called Culturama. And is basically gives
you a timeline from — of Egyptian history
from ancient Egypt through to the Islamic period. They also created the eternal
website, eternal Egypt website, which includes again
ancient Egyptian artifacts, but they go beyond just
the BA’s collection. But they also go into modern
folklore, cultural heritage and also music, including
for example, one of the most famous
Egyptian singers Umm Kulthum. This particular book
documents her life and also includes a CD
of some of her songs. Yes, we are in Alexandria. We are on the Mediterranean. So we must also concern
ourselves with all things related to that. And we do a number of researches and documentation regarding
the Alex Mediterranean region. And we also conduct a lot
of map work and using GIS. And this basically enables
us to create modern maps with the changes of
the city’s structure. And it also includes a map
of Alexandria for children because we never want to
leave the children out. And that’s what’s really
interesting at the library. It’s been around now
for 18 years of — well, officially 17 years, but there was a year
of soft opening. So, it’s actually for myself
who I’ve engaged a lot with some of the youth. There are young children who
started to attend the library at the age of six
and 18 years on. They’re now a young adult and they still engaged
with the library. And that’s what we like to do to and keep them always
involved with us. So the Alex Mediterranean
Institute also documents things related to the heritage,
cultural heritage of the region. And Alexandria was very up
there in terms of the cinema. And in terms of the
authors who live there, sacred places, and so on. Again, it’s not all about
heritage and the arts. We also talk about the
scientists and we have a center for special studies and projects and they basically
dedicate themselves to supporting postgraduate
researchers, including research grants for postgraduate researchers
below the age of 35 and micro research grants
for the younger group. We have the Bio Vision
Conference and this is actually a
conference that gathers over 2000 scientists, young
and old from around the world to come and discuss
a given topic. And it actually has
a Nobel laureate day. So we have Nobel laureates
who likes to come and engage with the young people. So for example, we have these
Nobel laureates who came and visited the library. And not only do they have
to have the Nobel prize under their belt, but they
can be eminent scientists in their own right. And here is an example of some
of the American scientists who have recently
come and attended at the Bio Vision Conference. We have a writing
and script center. As I said, the wall of the
library of Alexandria has over 125 letters represented
in different languages. And that was basically the basis of creating a writing
and script center. So studies, inscriptions
and calligraphy from all over the world throughout
the ages. And they recently
actually launched a website which teaches you
hieroglyphs step-by-step and you can take courses and
it has actually a dictionary. So if I type in book in
English or in Arabic, mind you, it’ll show me how to
write book in hieroglyphs and many different
ways according to how it’s being used. They do a number of publications
as well, for children and for the older generation. They have a website, which
basically is a digital library of inscriptions and calligraphy. Moving on, what about women? Well, women are very important. We know that. And recently, I know
here I was lucky enough to visit the the
National Geographic and they had the Queens
of Egypt exhibition. And it said ‘when women we
ruled the world’ was one of the t-shirts. Well, women kind of still rule
the world then maybe we do. And so we have our own
studies social transformation for women’s center. And they focus on women’s
studies in gender issues. And this was established
recently in 2017. Now, they also do a
number of researches and they have their own
data collection program. And they also gather
important women who key — in the societies that they’re
able to discuss and reach out and do some advocacy work. We have a center for Coptic
studies and this was established in 2013 and this focuses
on Coptic heritage. And here we’re talking about
Coptic for all Egyptians, not necessarily just
it’s Christian. And they have their own magazine
that they issue as well, which deepens the
concepts of tolerance and acceptance of the other. We have a center for Islamic
civilization studies and one of the projects that they have
done here is actually called Islamic Reform Thought. And this is a website as
well and they have a series of publications called
Reissuing the Classics. So we talk about those
very important books in Islamic thought and bringing
them back to current life. Yes, we are also concerned
with our environment. So we have a sustainable
development program. And this program basically
conducts environmental studies and provides training and
particularly for the young. So we have something
called the Youth for Environmental Sustainability
and Better Understanding. And these are for
school students between the ages of 13 and 18. But we also have a league
of young masters for those who are mainly 18 and above. This was launched in
2006 and they meet weekly to discuss issues which
are relevant to them. But given that Alexandria also
has a large number of students from other African
countries to come, we created the African
League of Young Masters. And this way, they’re able
to meet with each other and other Egyptians and integrate better
within the society. But now all African
countries speak English. So we created a friend
co-form [phonetic] League of young masters. And the number of different
youth activities also take place. It says here that
according to the July, 2017, capmis [phonetic],
actually about 23 percent of Egyptians are between
the ages of 18 to 29. And if you include everyone
under the ages of about 30 to 35, that’s almost
half of the population. So you can see that we are
a very young population. So we created the Bibliotheca
Alexandrina Youth Activities Program and this focuses on four
main areas; entrepreneurship, youth culture, what we call,
‘I’m a responsible citizen’ and This is Africa
Entrepreneurship. So you might not be able
to land a job nine to five and not many people
want that job anymore. So they want to be their own
boss and do their own thing. How can you go about that? Where’s the feasibility study? Have you studied the market? How do you get the idea going? How do you get to start up? Youth culture. What is youth culture do? Youth have their own culture. Does it transcend
borders or not? So we create — we also host
an international youth culture conference every year. We also hold simulation
projects for the African Union; The League of Arab states,
either the UN, the EU, even the economic sectors. “I’m a responsible citizen.” But you can’t just be enclosed
in your own little world and at your PC.What can you
do to actually become active and to help out in
terms of your community? Whether that’s through
initiatives that cover green projects
or through initiatives that are basically going
out, advocating that, “Youth, you don’t have to
go towards drugs to resolve any of
your problems.” And because of the library’s
close connection with the youth, we recently — Egypt recently
hosted the African Cup of Nations. And we were responsible
for getting those youth over to volunteer
and to be involved in organizing that
cup of nations. Speaking of Africa, we have an
Africa program, like I said, the African Union, but we
also have an international — website, sorry for
information for Africa. And this provides African
researchers very important access to resources that they
otherwise wouldn’t be able to access. And this is actually, we
have this in cooperation with the library
of Congress here. And graciously, they have
offered our researchers, those who have logged on,
access to important resources at the library of Congress. They hold important conferences and they also provide
particular grants. Well, what happens when
you come to the library? You’ll be greeted by someone
like me or my colleagues. And we get actually over one and
a half million visitors a year, 600,000 of those are readers. And we provide those who
want them with guided tours. But if you don’t come to us,
be sure we will come to you. So we also reach out to you and we have something called the
Professional Training Institute, enticing you to come to the
library and learn something new. And these are professional
courses, what we provide the public. And you can go on and
find out what they are. We have something called
the embassy of knowledge. And these embassies
of knowledge are sort of like satellite operations for
the library across the country in universities around Egypt. We have actually
covered about 20 of the 25 governorates of Egypt. And they’re are sort
of like mini outlets where people can access
the resources, get involved with the activities
that are going on and have their own specific
workshops done for them. And we have our own studio
department, so colleagues who are back there recording. We also have people who produce
our own films and documentaries and we have our own
YouTube channel. So please, go onto YouTube
and you’ll know what’s going on at the library more. But we’re still a library
and we still produce books because no matter what, how
much digitization you do and how much you do online,
at the end of the day, a book is a book and
we all enjoy having that between our hands. So we’ve actually published
approximately 800 titles today. And as I mentioned,
social media earlier, we know where the youth are
and where people are in Egypt. So we are very active
on Facebook with over 100,000
followers today. How do we do all of this? Where do we get our money from? Well, a large portion does
come from the government, but we also rely on donations,
whether they’re inclined or financial [coughs]. I think I’ve lost my voice
through all this excitement. So here are some of
the organizations that have cooperated
with us [coughs]. Excuse me. Finally, we also rely on
our international network. So the friends of the library
of Alexandria, perhaps Karen, you could tell me —
tell them a little bit about the friends before
I get my voice back. [coughs].>>Karen Leggett:
[inaudible] in this area.>>Heba El-Rafey:
And you also come and have a little bit of fun. Do some excursions around Egypt
to know a little bit more. So that I know is — it’s
seems like a lot, but trust me, I’ve just basically touched
the tip of the iceberg of what is done at the
library of Alexandria. Just so it gives you a little
bit of insight and a glimpse and hopefully to intrigue
you enough to come to Egypt, come to Alexandria,
visit us, look me up. And before and until you
do that, please go online, go to our website, have a look
at the sort of work that we do. And maybe there’s something that you can actually get
involved in, even while you’re in your own home here in the US. Thank you very much
for listening. And I’m happy to answer any
questions that you might have. [ Applause ] [ Inaudible Audience Comment ] Yeah? Yeah. [ Inaudible Audience Comment ] Okay. Well, we have
around 2,300 staff members, so we’re quite a
number of people. But bearing in mind that
we have a facility in Cairo that includes those who are
in the embassies of knowledge because they’re actually
staffed by us as well. And we also have our own
in house security personnel and our own housekeeping. So they tend to bring
the numbers up, but we’re relatively
young as well. Average age of about 39. Yeah.>>Audience Member: Well,
first of all thank you for this and [inaudible]?>>Heba El-Rafey: Yes.>>Audience Member: So it was
an excavation [inaudible]?>>Heba El-Rafey: It didn’t
start as an excavation. It was basically they were
laying the foundations to build a library. But as I said, and many
people will notice this. Once you start digging,
literally, you find artifacts. And because the layers
underneath are just full, you’re talking about over
7,000 years of history. So you can imagine
how much has piled up. So when they started
to dig, they realized that there are artifacts here. So they obviously, brought, they
brought in specialists to deal with that and they located 111
artifacts, which are on display at the library at the moment. But it’s in cooperation with
the Ministry of Antiquities. I must say, we’re obviously in
close cooperation with them. Yeah. [ Inaudible Audience Comment ] How? [ Inaudible Audience Comment ] [ Inaudible Audience Comment ] Do I have automatic — [ Inaudible Audience Comment ] Okay. Right. Well, what we have
— how large is it? I don’t know in terms of meters. To be honest with you,
it’s relatively big. [coughs] As I said, the building
itself [coughs] goes underground and above ground. [coughs] Oh, thank you. And — oh, this is me with
a different voice [laughs] and different personality. So we do have something called
the digital assets repository, or it’s a website where
we digitize everything. Excuse me, one moment. And we try to put on
our collections as much as possible onto that website. It’s mainly Arabic, more over than other languages
at the moment. But we do do that
within — we’re very — it’s very important
for us for our use. So we do according to copyright. So if you’re in the library of
Alexandria, able to access more, because you would be able
to see that on the shelf. But at the same time, if
you’re outside, you have only for perhaps 5 percent
according to the copyright laws. If it’s out of copyright,
then it’s fully accessible. In terms of our own
publications, you can actually find
PDF versions of many of those on the website. They’re fully uploaded. They’re for free. Don’t mind my voice. Please feel free to ask
any other questions. I will get the information out. [ Inaudible Audience Comment ] Yeah. Okay. Thank you very much.

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