The Timbuktu Manuscripts

The Timbuktu Manuscripts: discover a trove of Timbuktu’s ancient manuscripts digital exhibition and collection is the result of a collaboration between a Malian association called SAVAMA-DCI whose main goal is to preserve and make widely available Arabic manuscripts from Timbuktu and Google Arts & Culture.

Back in 1973, a preservation campaign of the Timbuktu’s collection made of approximately 400,000 codices was initiated by the Ahmed Baba Center (CEDRAB). In 1996, the newly founded association SAVAMA-DCI started raising awareness among private owners about the value of their family manuscripts, providing technical and financial support for the processing and conservation of these materials, and encouraging them to keep the manuscripts in their possession. If funding was limited at first, the association was over time able to collect enough funds to ensure the preservation and inventory of the collections. In 2012, with the jihadist occupation of Northern Mali, the fear that manuscripts would be destroyed lead to the transfer of Timbuktu’s manuscripts collections to other towns in the region like Bamako. According to SAMAVA-DCI over 370.000 codices were rescued.

« Dans la nuit noire de notre existence, les manuscrits sont les projecteurs qui éclairent le passé. »

Dr. Abdel Kader Haidara, fondateur de SAVAMA-DCI

The Timbuktu Manuscripts virtual exhibition is incredibly rich (more than 40.000 manuscripts from libraries and private collections) and provides many options to learn about the collections, their history, and the rescue and preservation processes.

The website includes:

  • shorts videos documenting the manuscripts’ preservation
  • pictures documenting the rescue operations, and the digitization of manuscripts
  • topical sub-collections of digitized manuscripts (astronomy, ethics, jurisprudence, mathematics, medicine, geography, etc.)
  • general information about the Arabic manuscripts tradition with a focus on the African tradition
  • detailed descriptions of the collections composing The Timbuktu Manuscripts collection
  • historical and literary information situating these manuscripts in the larger context of knowledge production and dissemination in Africa and beyond.

The most incredible experience offered via this virtual exhibition is the digital archives of the Timbuktu Manuscripts:

The main page gallery is staggering.

The archives includes more than 400,000 handwritten pages from the Qur’an, mathematical, astronomical and medical treatises, sex and black magic manuals, etc. dating from the 11th to the 20th century. A selection of manuscripts are accessible full-text from section 2. The Books. Section 3. Grid View allows to glance at individual pages displayed in a table view when section 4. A Universe of Verses gives access to individual pages in what appears like a much less organized display:

At the very bottom of the main page, The Timbuktu Manuscripts virtual exhibition links to other Google Arts & Culture projects to learn more about Malian music, modern art, architectural heritage, etc.

The Timbuktu Manuscripts website will default to the language of your Google Account. But the interface is accessible in any language available in Google (although some content may not translate).

And for those eager to learn more about the Timbuktu manuscripts, we suggest they go visit the Tombouctou Manuscripts Project website. This project focusing on the “content of the manuscripts, the circulation of scholars and ideas, the economy of the manuscript book, and other aspects of the “work of scholarship” in Timbuktu” was established in 2003 by an Associate Professor at the University of Cape Town (South Africa) and remains very active.

Reading Muslims Project

Reading Muslim is an inter-and multi disciplinary project funded through the university of Toronto’s Connaught Global Challenge Grants Program.

Reading Muslim project is a Network of academics, scholars and researchers, and is re-examining the place of textuality in the Islamic Studies. This project is aiming to “elevate the understanding of Islam, Muslims and society”, by examining a set of methodological and political questions about the Islam today through the lens of textuality.

  • “Who are the privileged readers of Muslim texts?
  • What is the relationship between texts and Islamic tradition?
  • Who gets to decide the relationship between textuality and orthodoxy?
  • How do texts support the legal and bureaucratic institutions of the modern state in its project of governance?

This project provides access to three different types of content such as articles, podcasts and videos. Each item provides an introduction about the author along with the full access to the content.

“Reading Muslims begins from the premise that consideration of texts and textual methods are indispensable to the study of Islam. Islam began with a book : al-Kitāb, the Qur’anic revelations. From this first textual experience came others: Qur’anic exegesis, the Law, Sufism, etc. Islamic studies scholars, whether Muslim or not, read Muslim texts to understand the Islamic tradition. But they also read Muslim bodies and practices through an ethnographic lens. And, to make things more complicated, they read Muslims as readers of their texts, paying attention to various interpretations within Muslim communities.”

This platform is comprised of four research hubs. Hub 1: Muslims as Readers, Hub, 2: National Security and Anti-Muslim Racism, Hub 3: Reading Practices, Hub 4: Anthropology of Islam. Under each hub researchers and community partners are looking “textuality in Islamic studies and its place in the formation of community identities in dynamic societies.”

Each hub provides a brief introduction to the aspects that will be examined, name of the researchers and community partners as well as access to the various available contents through the Reading Muslims platform.

Moreover, Reading Muslims provides information about their upcoming events on their website.

Qur’an Tools

Qur’an Tools [login page] is a free and open source software facilitating the critical study of the Qur’anic text. It was created and developed by Dr. R. Michael McCoy former Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Notre Dame and Dr. Andrew G. Bannister, Adjunct Research fellow at Melbourne School of Theology, and an Adjunct Lecturer at the University of Toronto.

In order to use Qur’an Tools, you will need to create an account (email/password). Once logged in, all functionalities become accessible: searching, browsing, text mining, grammatical analysis, cross-referencing, and so much more.

To get started, we suggest consulting the User Guide that provides an outline and explanations of the many features available.

From the homepage, you can already conduct a great variety of searches in Arabic, English transliteration or English. It is important to point that English translations used by Qur’an Tools are:

  • M. Pickthall’s The Meaning of the Glorious Koran: an Explanatory Translation published in 1930
  • A. Yusuf Ali’s The Holy Quran Translation released in 1937
  • A. J. Arberry’s The Koran Interpreted first published in 1955
  • M. H. Shakir’s The Holy Quran originally issued in 1968.

The ‘Roots’ window offers to add a specific word root to your search box, the ‘Verse Picker’ allows to access directly a particular verse, and the virtual keyboard enables to type either Arabic letters or transliterated characters.

Qur’an Tools is so rich in terms of options and functionalities, that it would impossible to provide a screenshot of every single result page that may display. However, we can highlight some commonalities accross results pages: the Arabic text always comes accompanied by its transliteration in Latin characters, and a translation; also, search terms are highlighted.

Reader Mode
Interlinear Mode
Parse Mode

More advanced features can be found at the top of the page:

Among those, we will only highlight the ‘Chart” functionality that provides visual representations of the textual analysis:

Last, from the Preferences and Account Settings page, users can customise display options such as the search result highlight colour, or the default English translation. And for more insight on how to use the software, a video tutorial is available. Students and scholars whose research involves textual analysis of the Qur’anic text will benefit greatly from this powerful tool.

Qur’an Tools is an open source project, released under the GNU General Public License with terms of use.

Digital Ottoman Studies

Digital Ottoman Studies (DOS) is a hub contributing to growing field of Digital Humanities by presenting projects, publications, tools, and events through the lens of Ottoman and Turkish studies.

This website seeks to create a digital network for future projects by bringing together diverse platforms, institutions, studies, and individuals. Thus, DOS provides access to projects and data bases that are created by other organization which includes Ottoman Archives, maps, manuscripts and etc.

Information on DOS is classified into 6 categories of Projects, publications, Tools, Databases, Platforms and under each category, there are sub-categories that direct the users to the respective projects which are encompassing “600-year-old Ottoman Empire’s archival heritage, diverse ethnics and geographical regions., etc.”

The Project category brings together variety of works in GIS, Network Analysis, Text Analysis, Databases, and 3D-AR-VR, each provides access to a wide range of research and academic projects form historical urban and industrial comparative analysis to Mapping Ottoman empire and region, or a digital history research project on Travels in the 19th century Ottoman empire.

Also, users can browse different database projects like Ottoman Inscriptions, Digital History, The Open Islamicate Text Initiative, etc. When possible, the DOS has provided the name of the project managers and then directs the user to the project’s main website.

Moreover, in the Publication tab users can have access a list of published articles, books and dissertations that are classified based on the topic/subject and some are accessible as an open access publication. 

The tab of Databases has organized a list of various type of databases such as Archives, Map collections, manuscripts collections, dictionaries, E-resources, Photo collections, calendar convertors and Gazetteers.

https://www.getty.edu/research/tools/digital_collections/notable/gigord.html

The Platform tab introduces the users to wide range of websites and podcasts including Hazine, Hajj Trail (Game), Ottoman History Podcast, Digital Humanities Turkey

“DOS is founded by Fatma Aladağ and she is coordinating the platform, whilst Assoc. Prof. Yunus Uğur is leading the project.”

GSSneareast: “Network for Gender and Sexuality Studies in the Near East”

GSSneareast: Network for Gender and Sexuality Studies in the Near East is an online research and networking platform designed by and for scholars interested in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies in the Near East. Its aim is to set the grounds for a collaborative, stimulating, and inter-disciplinary virtual environment dedicated to researchers and institutions engaged in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies in the Middle East and beyond. The platform was softly launched in the Fall of 2021 and should be completed in the Fall of 2022.

GSSneareast was created and is maintained by Gülşah Şenkol, a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Orient-Institut Istanbul, specializing in comparative women’s history in the Middle East. Dr. Şenkol graduated in History from Ohio State University in 2019, and held a number of visiting fellow positions at North-American, Turkish and Swedish Universities/Research Centers. Her research focuses on the history of feminist movements in the Middle East in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

“GSSneareast is grounded firmly in the idea that gender, and sexuality studies need[…] to be a collaborative endeavor, and that conversation[s] about our disciplines, approaches, and research will play a big role in moving scholarship forward.”

The platform was endorsed by numerous research institutions: the Queer and Feminist Studies Working Group at the European University Institute (EUI), Gesellschaft für Turkologie, Osmanistik und Türkeiforschung (GTOT), Institut Français d’Études Anatoliennes (IFEA), Institute for Mediterranean StudiesFoundation for Research & Technology Hellas (IMS-FORTH), Kadir Has University Gender and Women’s Studies Research Center (KHAS GWSRC), Koç University, Netherlands Institute in Turkey (NIT), Rem-Em: Remembering and Coexisting in the Eastern Mediterranean Platform, Sabancı University Istanbul Policy Center (IPC-MERCATOR), the Association for Women’s and Gender Studies in Turkey (TOCIKAD), the History Foundation (Tarih Vakfı), the Swedish Research Institute in Istanbul (SRII), Women’s Library and Information Center Foundation in Turkey (WLICF).

At the time of our visit, the GSSneareast platform highlighted various past and future projects such as:

According to Dr. Şenkol’s description of the project, the GSSneareast platform should eventually feature geographic information system (GIS) mapping tools to create an interactive database of scholars in the field, WGSS programs, departments, and research centers in the region and beyond, Libraries and archives holding relevant collections, not-for-profit organizations, research projects, and databases focusing on Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies in the Near East. The platform should also make available practical information for young scholars in the field (“How to’s”), a podcast, and a discussion forum, and hold an annual colloquium and a biennial workshop to advance conversations on innovative approaches to the field.

To learn more about the GSSneareast platform and related projects, you may watch this short promotional video :

Collection of Persian, Mughul and Indian Traditions Miniature Paintings

The Minassian collection consists of numerous precious miniature paintings from the Persian, Mughul and Indian traditions. The manuscripts and miniature paintings of this collection are housed in John Hay Library at Brown University.

“Figure lying on bed in outdoor setting is watched by four other figures. Possible funeral scene. The text that is second from the top, encased in the peachish area, says, in Arabic, “Bismillah e rehman i rahim”.
“Leaf” Minassian Collection of Persian, Mughal, and Indian Miniature Paintings. Brown Digital Repository. Brown University Library. https://repository.library.brown.edu/studio/item/bdr:80654/

This collection is from the estate of Mrs. Adrienne Minassian the daughter of an active art collector and dealer of Islamic and Near-Eastern antiquities, Kirkor Minassian (1874-1944), he was based in New York and Paris in the early 20th century. Mrs. Minassian continued her father’s legacy and she too was one of the few dealers of Islamic art in America. After her passing in a serries of bequests her collection was given to Brown University. To read more about Mrs. Minassian and her Father click here.

This collection is accessible online through the Brown University Center for Digital Scholarship.

The paintings often include text from Persian and Indian tales. Many of the illustrations within the Minassian Collection are depictions of stories from the classical Persian text, Shahnama of Ferdowsi.

Black ink drawing of male bust in profile. Fine line quality, no color used.
“Leaf” Minassian Collection of Persian, Mughal, and Indian Miniature Paintings. Brown Digital Repository. Brown University Library. https://repository.library.brown.edu/studio/item/bdr:80739/

Physical Description: Excellent workmanship on miniature. Image in excellent condition, slight damage to surrounding paper. Paper is rather heavy, but not coarse. Water stain evident on verso. Beautiful specimen. Colors appear as brilliant as inlay. Leaf is very similar to a depiction of Yusof published in Soudavir which is identified as Bukhara style.
“Leaf” Minassian Collection of Persian, Mughal, and Indian Miniature Paintings. Brown Digital Repository. Brown University Library. https://repository.library.brown.edu/studio/item/bdr:80651/

the collection can be browsed based on 3 Thematic Categories of Image and content, Material and Technique and Style and Type. Under each category there are more sub-categories. On the item level a description consisting of an abstract of the item and a note is provided, which present more detailed technical and historic information about the paintings style and content .

African Journals Online (AJOL)

African Journals Online (AJOL) is a not-for-profit organisation based in South Africa founded in May 1998 with the aim to promote online access to African-published peer-reviewed research. It was initially conceived and developed as a pilot project by the International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publication (INASP), a Non Profit Organisation based in Oxford, UK. In August 2000, AJOL relaunched featuring 50 English language African ­published journals in agricultural sciences, science and technology, health and social sciences. In the following years, many titles from South Africa and Francophone Africa were added, and the database was redesigned and improved.

At the time of our visit, AJOL hosted 551 journals, of which 291 are full-text available (Open Access), and indexed millions of articles (with abstract when available) authored by scholars from 35 African countries.

Since 1998, AJOL has been working for African research to contribute to African development (…). AJOL main page, Dec. 6, 2021.

The Board overseeing AJOL is made of researchers, scholarly publishers and academic librarians. Apart from its founding collaboration with the International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publication (INASP), African Journals Online is also supported by international organizations such as the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), the Ford Foundation, World Wide Science Alliance (WWS Alliance), Hirani, Research for Health programme and the  Coherence in Information for Agricultural Research for Development (CIARD) initiative.

Journals considered for integration to African Journals Online are selected according to the criteria outlined below:

  1. “The journal must be scholarly in content, and contain original research (in addition to other content)
  2. The content is peer-reviewed and quality controlled
  3. The journal has an established publishing track record 
  4. The journal has an actively functioning Editorial Board (institutional affiliations and contact details required)
  5. The journal has a registered ISSN and eISSN
  6. The journal will provide all content for inclusion on AJOL (tables of contents, abstracts, and full text) in electronic format and in a timely manner. Partner journals are responsible for ensuring their content on AJOL is up to date.
  7. The journal guarantees all requisite permissions are granted to allow AJOL to operate an article download service
  8. The journal is published within the African continent (i.e. management of publishing strategy, business development and production operation are all run from an African country).”

AJOL journals’ collection can be browsed by category (disciplin), title (alphabetically), country of publication:

Open Access journals are tagged as such on the general titles‘ list, and also compiled in a Free-to-read titles’ list:

In addition, African Journals Online makes available guidelines for different professionals (researchers, librarians and authors) to best use the platform (see below) and links to numerous additional resources.

The website is available in English only.

The Poetry Encyclopedia الموسوعة الشعرية

The Poetry Encyclopedia الموسوعة الشعرية is the first electronic encyclopedia of Arabic poetry launched in 1998, and then the website was updated in April 2016. The Encyclopedia is a model that demonstrates the efforts of Abu Dhabi’s Department of Culture and Tourism to enhance the cultural scene. The department is keen to research, record and document the ancient heritage of Arab culture, and reissuing it in a modern form as a sustainable legacy for current and future generations.

All those interested in literature, poetry and readers can visit the Poetry Encyclopedia and take advantage of the resources, content, easy search channels and interactive applications available through this new advanced edition. “Poetry Encyclopedia 2016” a new vision for cultural resources.

The homepage displays various corners, such as Poet and Diwan شاعر و ديوان, poem of the day قصيدة اليوم, article of the month المقالات الشهرية and the listening corner الاستماع للقصائد, which includes a large number of poems heard by the voices of elite poets and artists. The heritage library and linguistic dictionaries are other areas that are worthwhile exploring.

The encyclopedia currently presents selected collections of elite Arab poets, past and present, even if the poets didn’t have a printed collection. It includes about 3 million verses within 143,000 poems in 3,080 collections.

It is important to note that the new version provides information on the poet, the poetic diwan, the appropriateness of the poem’s systems (Metre and rhyme) and learn about different styles of Arabic poetry and read literary analysis. Also, users can search by poet’s name, verse, phrase, or date of authorship.

In addition to the heritage library corner, which includes 488 references of the most famous and the most important collections and encyclopedias of Arabic literature and its dictionaries.

The Poetry Encyclopedia provides an interactive electronic portal and an integrated tributary of knowledge and literature. It provides readers with easy and quick access to a wide range of poems and listen to them in different techniques. As well as providing an archive space, and channels for recording their impressions and opinions.

Wikilala: an Ottoman digital library

Started in 2019, Wikilala is a digital library making available and full-text searchable documents printed between 1729, when Ibrahim Müteferriqa founded the first Turkish printing Press and the letter revolution in 1928. The project was launched by Hiperlink‘s (first Turkish digital library) project manager, Sadi Özgür, and an academic member at the History Department of Istanbul Aydın University that acted as a consultant, Harun Tuncer.

Wikilala aims “to enable researchers and enthusiasts studying in almost all branches of science, such as culture, art, history, literature, architecture etc. to rediscover even the smallest details in order to illuminate a landscape that has been dimly lighted for two centuries. (…) Wikilala allows (…) to access this huge storage of knowledge.”

“About” page, Wikilala (URL:https://www.wikilala.com/about)

According to the description on the “About” page, Wikilala includes thousands of books, magazines, journals, newspapers,etc. that have been digitized in high-resolution, catalogued, and OCR’ed (i.e. Optical Recognition Character) to allow for full-text searchability. The project also include the “latinization” of texts to allow people who don’t have command of Ottoman Turkish to search the texts in Latin script.

To access Wikilala materials, visitors need to create an account (which is free with an institutional email). Once logged-in, the entire library becomes available.

From the main page (captured above), users can search the library in Latin or Arabic scripts (thanks to a handy multilingual and multialphabets virtual keyboard), or pre-select the type of documents they want to search/read: Newspapers, Journals, Books, Manuscripts and Documents.

From the results page, users will be able to sort the list in the order they want (alphabetical, chronological, etc.) and/or refine the list using the filters available in the right-hand-side column.

There are two methods to open documents: clicking on the Read Now button at the bottom right of the item’s page, or scrolling down to the thumbnails view: both options will open Wikilala’s viewer. The viewer is limited to online reading and full-text search: unfortunately, it does not offer download, saving or printing options. Perhaps will this be a future development?

Wikilala is a platform developed by a private company named hiperkitap, that works on numerous other products individuals and institutions can subscribe to or purchase. McGill can trial it for free until the end of 2021: take advantage of it!

The interface is available in both Turkish and English.

Islamic Art at The David Collection

The David Collection is a museum of fine and applied art in Copenhagen, Denmark, built around the private collections of lawyer, businessman and art collector C. L. David.

The museum is particularly noted for its collection of Islamic art one of the largest in Northern Europe. The collection of Islamic art contains works from almost the entire Islamic realm, from Spain in the West to India in the East and dating from the 7th to the 19th centuries.

Islamic Art Collection

The Islamic works of art are presented from three different perspectives: Islamic art organized chronologically and geographically, Islamic art grouped according to material, and Islamic art presented in its cultural context.

Dynasties and Geography

The works of art here are divided into 20 sections according to specific epochs and dynasties and according to different geographic regions. Each of the 20 sections provides a historical introduction, a map, a selection of works of art, coins, and architecture.

Materials

The objects are categorized into eight different groups. This makes it possible to see how both stylistic features and techniques were developed within a specific medium both over time and across geographical borders.

Calligraphy / Miniature Painting / Ceramics / Glass / Stone and Stucco / Ivory, Wood, and Papier-mâché / Metalwork, / Weapons, and Jewelry / Textiles, Carpets, and Leather

Cultural-history Themes

Focusing specifically on the cultural background for art in the Islamic world, this section illustrates fourteen themes of special relevance. Each theme is illustrated with a selected group of objects, accompanied by an explanatory text.

Islam, the Religion \The Five Pillars of Islam \ The Prophet Muhammad \ Mecca and the Kaaba \ Sunni and Shia \ The Mosque \ The Religious Prohibition Against Images \ Symbolism in Islamic Art \ Islam in China \ Sufis \ Dervishes, and Holy Men \ Trade, Measures, and Weights \Mechanics, Astronomy, and Astrology \ Medical Science \The Art of War