Magazine article UNESCO Courier

The Written Word

Magazine article UNESCO Courier

The Written Word

Article excerpt

THE fire which destroyed the Library of Alexandria is often cited as one of the natural catastrophes which have afflicted humanity. Many other fires have impovershed for all time the memory of mankind. They are mentioned less often, but we who have suffered their effects at first hand know that these irreparable losses have been instrumental in permanently distorting the contribution of our peoples to universal civilization.

Today our identity and our heritage are faced with the threat of a form of destruction which may be less spectacular but is quite as pernicious and is taking place more insidiously. So insidiously, in fact, that the international cultural community does not yet seem fully aware of it and ready to take action. This form of destruction, which is jeopardizing the safeguard of the written heritage of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, today not only concerns the developing countries; it has become a serious and urgent global problem. The fragility of the material on which manuscripts are written, the inadequacy of the resources allocated to national libraries, legal loopholes and the lack of facilities for training specialists, are all misfortunes which are shared, albeit unequally, by all countries and institutions. …

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