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Subject: Endangered books and manuscripts in Zambia

Endangered books and manuscripts in Zambia

From: Jan Paris <jparis>
Date: Wednesday, April 19, 2000
IFLA, the International Federation of Library Associations and
Institutions, has asked that the following information be widely
disseminated. I am posting this to the DistList with the thought
that it may come to the attention of some agency or institution
whose mission might encompass support for situations like the one
described below.

    Sjoerd Koopman (Mr)
    Coordinator of Professional Activities
    International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions
    P.O.Box 95312
    2509 CH  The Hague
    The Netherlands
    +31 70 314 0884
    Fax: +31 70 383 4827
    sjoerd.koopman [at] ifla__org

    IFLA Headquarters
    April 14, 2000

    Prof. J. Desmond Clark, emeritus professor of paleoarchaeology
    at the University of California, Berkeley, and one of the
    preeminent paleoarchaeologist and Africanists in the world, has
    just shown me a copy of a March 29, 2000 article from the Daily
    Telegraph (London) entitled: "Last Record of African Explorers
    Faces Ruin."  The article was written by Ishbel Matheson in
    Livingstone, Zambia.  It reads in part:

       "A priceless collection of books and documents, detailing the
        earliest days of European exploration in Africa, is under
        threat of destruction. The Livingstone Museum in southern
        Zambia has hundreds of valuable books, written by the first
        missionaries, adventurers and prospectors in central Africa.
        But the building's leaking ceiling collapsed in recent heavy
        rains, and many publications were damaged beyond repair.
        Others need expensive conservation work to save them. Piles
        of ancient, sodden volumes, with subjects as diverse as
        elephant-hunting and native practices, have been left to dry
        in the tropical heat.  Early newspapers, with vivid
        descriptions of life in what was then British-ruled Northern
        Rhodesia, can scarcely be opened, for fear of tearing
        fragile, brittle pages.

       "Flexon Mizinga, the keeper of history at the museum, said:
        'It means the whole history is wiped out.  When you lose
        this kind of thing, there is no replacement.  You can't get
        copies anywhere else.  These are the only copies we have.
        Valuable historical documents, which escaped the flood, are
        slowly disintegrating because the museum has no money for
        conservation. The original letters and journals of David
        Livingstone, the Scottish missionary, are the pride of the
        collection.  He was the first European to discover the
        nearby Victoria Falls, and he is remembered affectionately
        in the area as a Christian who campaigned to stop slavery.
        His notebooks describing his second Zambezi [River]
        expedition in 1858 are stored in the museum, with those of
        his companions, even though the institution is ill equipped
        to preserve them.

       "The journals of Sir John Kirk, a botanist, and Richard
        Thornton, a geologist, which record their first impressions
        of the African landscape and its commercial potential for
        the British Empire, are in battered cardboard boxes. The
        acidity of the brown paper which wraps the notebooks is
        slowly eating away the handwritten testimony of these
        Victorian explorers. In the museum's clock tower, amid a
        jumble of books and newspapers, is the work of Thomas
        Baines, an artist and a member of the Zambezi expedition.  A
        beautiful first edition of his famous Victoria Falls
        watercolours lies on a tabletop, vulnerable to the fierce
        heat and high humidity of the southern Zambia climate.

       "Kinglsey Choongo, a museum curator, says, 'The documents
        will not see the beginning of another century.'  Family
        members of the early explorers and settlers gave historical
        items to the museum because they wanted their ancestors'
        contribution to this part of Africa remembered. It seems,
        however, that in Livingstone and Zambia the history of the
        whites in Africa is being erased from the national
        consciousness. Tim Holmes, an author, lives in Zambia and
        has written a biography of Dr. Livingstone.  He believes the
        museum has been starved of funds because its collection is
        perceived as a relic from the colonial past.'After
        independence came, what Zambians wanted to know most of all,
        is their own history.  The colonial history was seen as an
        irrelevant burden. But trying to ignore colonialaism is like
        trying to tell the history of Britain without the Romans.'It
        is the former colonial countries who are now trying to help
        the museum out of its immediate crisis. The European Union
        has pledged 250,000 pounds. Conservationists fear that the
        money is too late because so much damage has been done. Nor
        will it be enough for the extensive upgrade needed to
        preserve the collections."

    Dr. Clark was the director and primary curator of the
    Livingstone Museum in its early manifestations from 1937 to his
    departure for Berkeley, California in 1961.  In 1951 he raised
    the funds needed for a major expansion of the museum complex and
    library in Livingstone.  A modest man, Clark nevertheless has told
    me in recent oral history interviews I have conducted with him
    for the Regional Oral History Office of the Bancroft Library, UC
    Berkeley, that it was he who built the magnificent book and
    manuscript collection for the museum's library.

    He personally worked with the descendants of David Livingstone
    and others to do so. Though now eighty-four years old, Clark can
    list practically every rare book title, journal and manuscript
    collection which is held in the Livingstone Museum library.

    Curiously, however, Clark's great legacy to the world will be
    his work as a paleoarchaeolgist in Africa.  The paleolithic and
    neolithic archaeological collections at the Museum are the result
    of his work over the course of his years working in Central and
    East Africa.  It was always Clark's intention also to build the
    museum's collections and library for the Zambian people. In the
    1950s he instituted museum outreach educational programs in a
    concerted effort to help the local peoples learn more about
    their early history.  Long before other museums instituted the
    practice, Clark designed small, portable travelling exhibitions
    for this purpose. Understandably it saddens him greatly to see
    that the museum and its resources are falling into ruin.

    I would hope that IFLA and its membership could rally support
    for Flexon Mizinga, Kingsley Choongo and others in Livingstone
    who are waging the uphill battle to preserve what remains of
    this priceless library collection.

    Thank you for spreading the word.

    Yours sincerely,
    Timothy Troy, Research Librarian
    Regional Oral History Office
    The Bancroft Library
    University of California, Berkeley

                  Conservation DistList Instance 13:52
                  Distributed: Friday, April 21, 2000
                       Message Id: cdl-13-52-008
Received on Wednesday, 19 April, 2000

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