Minister signs MoU with British Library on Debut Visit to the United Kingdom

19 Mar 2019

The Minister of Culture, Tourism and Sport, Her Excellency Dr Hirut Kassaw Wondim, visited and held discussions with the British Library in London in her first engagement as part of a wider visit to cultural institutions in the United Kingdom.

Accompanied by her delegation, which included H.E. Ambassador Fesseha Shawel Gebre and the Director of the National Museum of Ethiopia, Efrem Amare, the Minister was welcomed by the Library’s Chief Executive, Mr Roly Keating as well as the Head of Collections and Curation, Dr Kristian Jensen and the Head of Asian and African Collections, Dr Luisa Mengoni.

On the occasion, the Ethiopian National Archives and Library Agency and the British Library signed a Memorandum of Understanding to foster greater collaboration, research, capacity building and knowledge exchange between the institutions going forward.

In discussions that followed, the Minister welcomed the Library’s decision to officially visit Ethiopia in May, while thanking its management for the decision to donate digitised images of Ethiopian manuscripts in their collection and microfilm readers to the National Library and Archive Agency during the visit.

Finally, the Minister, on behalf of the Government and people of Ethiopia, while thanking the Museum for their decision to donate digitised manuscripts to the Agency, requested the return of these manuscripts taken following the Battle of Maqdala. In making the request, the Minister underlined that the manuscripts could not simply be viewed as historic artefacts but were a part of the existential fabric of Ethiopia and its people.

Dr Kristian Jensen, Head of Collections and Curations, said: “One of the British Library’s core purposes is to work with partners around the world to advance knowledge and mutual understanding. We are delighted to have formalised our ongoing and future engagement with peer institutions such as the National Library of Ethiopia, and with the Ethiopian government, through this Memorandum of Understanding. We are very aware of the importance of the Ethiopian manuscripts in our care to people in Ethiopia, and to researchers across the globe, and we are therefore committed to making them more widely accessible, both through exhibitions such as our recent display, African Scribes: Manuscript Culture of Ethiopia, and by digitising the manuscripts and making them available to all online.”

—ENDS—

For further information, please contact the Ethiopian Embassy Press Office on press@ethioembassy.org.uk or 020 7838 3883.

Background:

The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom and one of the world’s leading research libraries. It provides world-class information services to the academic, business, research and scientific communities and offers unparalleled access to the world’s largest and most comprehensive research collection. The Library’s collection has developed over 250 years and exceeds 150 million separate items representing every age of written civilisation. It includes: books, journals, manuscripts, maps, stamps, music, patents, newspapers and sound recordings in all written and spoken languages.

The Library’s Ethiopian manuscripts are being digitised as part of Heritage made Digitalproject, which aims to digitise more than 250 manuscripts from the Ethiopian collection, many of which are already available online.

The Ethiopian collections in the British Library include over 500 manuscripts most of which are written in Ge’ez and were acquired on various occasions since the mid-eighteenth century, including at the Battle of Maqdala.

For further information, visit the British Library website: www.bl.uk.

 

 

 

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