Maria Luisa Russo, PhD, is specialist in preservation and conservation of library and archive materials, and works as field manager in Mali for the Centre for the Study of Manuscript Cultures (University of Hamburg), and field representative in Mali for the Hill Museum and Manuscript Library (Saint John’s University, Minnesota). Conservator, archivist and librarian by education, since 2015 she has been coordinating projects on the safeguard and preservation of Malian manuscripts.
She has longstanding experience at national (Italy) and international level on the preservation, conservation and management of manuscript collections. She was in charge of the codicological description and preservation plan of the Islamic manuscript collection at the University of Turin; in 2008-2009 she took part in the international project for the safeguard of Mauritania manuscripts.
She gives lectures and presentations in university courses and international conferences; she has published articles in national and international journals, books and conference proceedings.
Paper Abstract: Beyond our libraries’ door: cultural heritage preservation and social challenges
Cultural heritage preservation calls for thinking beyond the limits that we usually take for granted when dealing with historical collections. While considering such activity as solely aimed at preserving the past, we tend to forget its multiple and wider meanings from a social point of view.
Activities aiming at preserving the physical integrity of collections and the permanence of texts, such as preventive conservation, conservation treatments, and digital preservation, are part of a wider challenge that engages actively with education and social development. The preservation of Arabic-script manuscripts in Africa, both in their library and archive value, has to be considered from a broader perspective: this speech will address the role of individuals in charge of collections care and transmission not only from the point of view of cultural heritage preservation, but also for their implications for communities – both local and international.
Preservation and conservation intertwine with digitization as part of a long-term safeguard strategy that does not look to the past, but to the future, and can actively contribute to sustainable development.
The speech will address multiple meanings and challenges linked to written cultural heritage preservation, both physical and digital, and how the role of individuals in charge of collections care has to be considered “beyond the library’s door”.