April 11 | West African Manuscripts round table

Please join us at New York University’s Tamiment Library (10th floor, Elmer Holmes Bobst Library, 70 Washington Sq. South) on Wednesday, April 11, 6:30-8:00PM (doors open at 6pm) for a round table on issues relating to early West African manuscripts.

A fundamental source for the history of West Africa lies in rich archival collections, most famously the manuscript libraries of Timbuktu. Documents from the Mali and Songhai Empires and the centuries before European colonial rule offer a vital window into the region’s complex ties to the wider Muslim world, and to cultures and polities in Africa, Europe, and the Middle East.

Ousmane Kane (Harvard) and Michael Gomez (NYU) will discuss their recent work reassessing the religious and political history of West Africa, research which relied heavily on the documentary evidence to be found in such collections. Alexandra Huddleston is a photojournalist who spent part of her childhood in Mali, returning there in 2007 to document the traditional custodianship of manuscript collections in Timbuktu, before they were dramatically spirited out of the city for protection from advancing insurgents in 2013.

The participants will discuss their experiences with West African documents, as well as the challenges of consulting and protecting these renowned archives of human history. Geared toward a general audience, the event welcomes those interested in African, Islamic, and medieval history, as well as librarians and archivists concerned about the preservation of threatened cultural heritage collections. Copies of the speakers’ publications will be available for purchase.

Event is open to the public. RSVP not required but would be appreciated; register here:


(Co-sponsored by New York University’s Elmer Holmes Bobst Library, the departments of Middle Eastern & Islamic Studies, History, and Africana Studies, and the Medieval & Renaissance Center, with support from Long Island University’s Palmer School of Library and Information Science.)