The Prince Claus Fund, through its Cultural Emergency Response programme (CER), and the Whiting Foundation announce a new call for proposals for projects in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean to safeguard documentary heritage that is acutely threatened by recent conflict or other disaster, whether natural or man-made.
Manuscripts, rare books, archives, tablets, inscriptions, and other kinds of documentary heritage are living records of the ideas of bygone eras, sometimes the only form in which the past survives. Whether they are housed in libraries or held by families who have passed them down from generation to generation, they are cherished by the people who watch over them as objects of historical importance and deep local meaning. They are also especially fragile vessels, susceptible to fire, insects, and humidity – and sometimes singled out for deliberate destruction by those afraid of their power to express viewpoints and cultivate nuance.
When disaster strikes – an earthquake, a flood, or an armed attack – the threat to these cultural objects is heightened; when it is overlooked or local resources for rescue are lacking, the heritage may be lost forever. CER has a history of helping to prevent or minimize such loss, for example by providing swift funding in Timbuktu, Mali to begin the evacuation, digitisation, and inventorying of hundreds of thousands of ancient manuscripts to save them from the hands of militants; in Nepal to salvage the Madan Puraskar Pustakalaya archives – one of the largest repositories of Nepali-language materials in the world – after severe earthquake damage; and in war-torn Syria for the removal to safety of the Knooz archive of 19th and 20th century journalism.
This new funding collaboration aims to continue this work, helping preserve writing for a new generation, contribute to the appreciation of cultural achievement, diversity, and history, and support the dissemination of forgotten or endangered stories worldwide.