As it has done for millennia, the Library of Alexandria in Egypt has agreed to save nearly the entire remaining collection of the Koninklijk Instituut voor de Tropen (Royal Tropical Institute) in Amsterdam, which is at risk of disappearing into the dustbin. Largely defunded by the Dutch government, only the profitable parts of the Tropeninstituut are being kept afloat, which excludes the 230-year-old library.
Hundreds of thousands of books and documents were slated for destruction this year. In a final attempt to preserve something, Hans van Hartevelt, director of the Tropeninstituut Library, sent a distress call to his contacts in North Africa and the Middle East. He received a reply from Egypt.
"I cannot bear the thought of this material ending up in the shredder," wrote Ismail Serageldin, director of the Library of Alexandria in an email to Van Hartevelt. Serageldin sees the collection as valuable because it represents a rich archive of the field of development cooperation. The Egyptians have agreed to preserve 400,000 books and 20,000 journals and cover the cost of packing and shipping.
"This is the best possible option," says Van Hartevelt. "Alexandria is the cradle of book civilization. They see it as an honor to be able to house the collection. That honor is entirely mutual.”
Van Hartevelt calls the Egyptian intervention a “bizarre but great twist”.
(Article in Dutch)