For centuries, Timbuktu, Mali, has quietly housed some of the greatest treasures of the ancient world: hundreds of thousands of scientific, literary, and religious manuscripts. But when Al Qaeda jihadists seized control of the city in the wake of a coup in 2012, the manuscripts found themselves in dire threat of destruction. To save them, a group of unlikely allies worked together to organize one of the most brazen evacuations of cultural heritage ever attempted . . . and succeeded in rescuing 95 % of Timbuktu’s ancient written heritage. In examining the story of the manuscripts, this article considers three areas—preparation, evacuation, and continued preservation—in which cultural heritage institutions can gain insight into the preservation of historical treasures in the midst of conflict.
Our current media environment is in a state of post-truth disruption: fake news is rampant, trusted media sources are viewed as partisan and suspect, and emotional appeal and personal belief hold more influence than objective facts. While many information professions are focused on combatting fake news through media literacy education, policy development, and advancements in search and social media technology, the archival profession has a slightly different task: evaluating how fake news can be preserved. The proliferation of fake news marks a significant cultural shift in information, politics, and identity, and is a valuable retrospective on how we consume and share media and assess its collective impact on society. But archiving fake news is a complex endeavor, particularly when it comes to ensuring that the archive includes enough context to help future researchers interpret the information. This article briefly explores some of the ways archivists may need to rethink traditional archival practices when developing repositories for fake news in their archives.