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[Fwd: Burned Books and Blasted Shrines [Andras Riedlmayer]]



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Subject:      H-ISLAMART: Burned Books and Blasted Shrines [Andras Riedlmayer]
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Date: Mon, 1 May 2000 07:44:30 -0400 (EDT)
From: Andras Riedlmayer <riedlmay@fas.harvard.edu>

BURNED BOOKS AND BLASTED SHRINES:
CULTURAL HERITAGE UNDER FIRE IN KOSOVO
Exhibition - April 15 through July 31, 2000
Fine Arts Library,
Harvard University,
25 Prescott Street,
Cambridge Massachusetts
Features photographs and other materials documenting the systematic
destruction of cultural heritage during the 1998-99 conflict in Kosovo.
The photographs, by Andras Riedlmayer, bibliographer at the Harvard
Fine Arts Library, and Andrew Herscher, a practicing architect and
Ph.D. candidate at Harvard's Graduate School of Design, were taken
as part of a post-war survey of the state of cultural heritage in Kosovo
in October 1999.
Documentation on the destruction of architecture in Kosovo, compiled by
the Kosovo Cultural Heritage Survey, will be published later this summer
as a database on the new ArchNet website http://www.archnet.org
The Survey's reports on the state of manuscript libraries and museums
in Kosovo appear in the Dec.1999/Feb.2000 and Mar./May 2000 issues
of Bosnia Report, published by the Bosnian Institute (London). The
reports are available on line at the Bosnian Institute's website
http://www.bosnia.org.uk
For more information, call +1-617-495-3372 e-mail riedlmay@fas.harvard.edu
__________________________________________________________________________
In preparing my exhibition, I took my little packet of burned books
(which I'd brought back from Kosovo inside a Zip-lock bag wrapped in
paper towels and stuffed into the cut-off bottom half of a large empty
plastic Coke bottle) up to the paper conservators at the Strauss Center
for Conservation, on the top floor of the Fogg Art Museum.
They helped me to unpack them and to arrange a sample for display.
As we watched a conservator and an intern gently picking through the
remains with tweezers, we all learned something new about the way books
burn. They don't turn into wispy paper ash, like the crumpled newspapers
one uses to start a fire in the grate. When scores of books packed into
shelves or in piles are set ablaze, the pages fuse and carbonize, turning
into clinkers in the intense heat due to the lack of oxygen.
We watched as the conservator picked out these small bits of charcoal --
the carbonized fragments of manuscripts and old books. They were hard
and black, some had shiny surfaces that reflected the afternoon sunlight.
Looking closely, one could distinguish: smooth, blackened fragments of
leather bindings; loose fibers or carbonized pieces of woven cloth from
the inside of the spines of books; chunks of charcoal in which one could
still see the fused layers of pages; still smaller fragments of burned
paper; black charcoal dust. One larger piece, softer and grayish in color,
not completely turned to carbon, was still recognizable as a book: the
remains of a spine, or perhaps the fore-edge of a volume, less than an
inch wide and perhaps 2-3 inches long, with the curled edges of charred
pages still visible on the narrow ends. It had come from the burned-out
interior of a 15th-century mosque in Pec, torched by Serbian policemen
on June 11, 1999, the day before the first NATO peacekeepers arrived.
It was an odd feeling to take the glass laboratory dishes with these
burned remains of books down to the Fine Arts Library to put them in
the display cases. Sad, almost reverential ... and also furious at those
who have burned both books and human beings in Bosnia, in Kosovo, and
in too many other places in recent years.
In my office, I keep a copy of a poem, an elegy for the burned Sarajevo
library by a Bosnian poet, which talks about the removal of tons of such
clinkers from the ruins of the burned out National Library.
It brings home the vulnerability of the human knowledge that institutions
such as universities and libraries are established to cultivate and
preserve. We like to believe that we can be keepers of the records
of civilization and we do our best to preserve them from fires and floods
and other natural calamities. But what can one do to keep books and
human beings safe from the barbarians?
Andras Riedlmayer
Harvard University



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<html>
Date: Mon, 1 May 2000 07:44:30 -0400 (EDT) <br>
From: Andras Riedlmayer &lt;riedlmay@fas.harvard.edu&gt; <br>
<br>
BURNED BOOKS AND BLASTED SHRINES: <br>
CULTURAL HERITAGE UNDER FIRE IN KOSOVO<br>
Exhibition - April 15 through July 31, 2000 <br>
Fine Arts Library, <br>
Harvard University, <br>
25 Prescott Street, <br>
Cambridge Massachusetts<br>
Features photographs and other materials documenting the systematic
<br>
destruction of cultural heritage during the 1998-99 conflict in Kosovo.
<br>
The photographs, by Andras Riedlmayer, bibliographer at the Harvard
<br>
Fine Arts Library, and Andrew Herscher, a practicing architect and <br>
Ph.D. candidate at Harvard's Graduate School of Design, were taken <br>
as part of a post-war survey of the state of cultural heritage in Kosovo
<br>
in October 1999.<br>
Documentation on the destruction of architecture in Kosovo, compiled by
<br>
the Kosovo Cultural Heritage Survey, will be published later this summer
<br>
as a database on the new ArchNet website
<a href="http://www.archnet.org/" eudora="autourl"><font color="#0000FF"><u>http://www.archnet.org</a><br>
</font></u>The Survey's reports on the state of manuscript libraries and
museums <br>
in Kosovo appear in the Dec.1999/Feb.2000 and Mar./May 2000 issues <br>
of Bosnia Report, published by the Bosnian Institute (London). The <br>
reports are available on line at the Bosnian Institute's website <br>
<font color="#0000FF"><u><a href="http://www.bosnia.org.uk/" eudora="autourl">http://www.bosnia.org.uk</a><br>
</font></u>For more information, call +1-617-495-3372 e-mail
riedlmay@fas.harvard.edu <br>
__________________________________________________________________________<br>
In preparing my exhibition, I took my little packet of burned books
<br>
(which I'd brought back from Kosovo inside a Zip-lock bag wrapped in
<br>
paper towels and stuffed into the cut-off bottom half of a large empty
<br>
plastic Coke bottle) up to the paper conservators at the Strauss Center
<br>
for Conservation, on the top floor of the Fogg Art Museum.<br>
They helped me to unpack them and to arrange a sample for display. <br>
As we watched a conservator and an intern gently picking through the
<br>
remains with tweezers, we all learned something new about the way books
<br>
burn. They don't turn into wispy paper ash, like the crumpled newspapers
<br>
one uses to start a fire in the grate. When scores of books packed into
<br>
shelves or in piles are set ablaze, the pages fuse and carbonize, turning
<br>
into clinkers in the intense heat due to the lack of oxygen.<br>
We watched as the conservator picked out these small bits of charcoal --
<br>
the carbonized fragments of manuscripts and old books. They were hard
<br>
and black, some had shiny surfaces that reflected the afternoon sunlight.
<br>
Looking closely, one could distinguish: smooth, blackened fragments of
<br>
leather bindings; loose fibers or carbonized pieces of woven cloth from
<br>
the inside of the spines of books; chunks of charcoal in which one could
<br>
still see the fused layers of pages; still smaller fragments of burned
<br>
paper; black charcoal dust. One larger piece, softer and grayish in
color, <br>
not completely turned to carbon, was still recognizable as a book: the
<br>
remains of a spine, or perhaps the fore-edge of a volume, less than an
<br>
inch wide and perhaps 2-3 inches long, with the curled edges of charred
<br>
pages still visible on the narrow ends. It had come from the burned-out
<br>
interior of a 15th-century mosque in Pec, torched by Serbian policemen
<br>
on June 11, 1999, the day before the first NATO peacekeepers
arrived.<br>
It was an odd feeling to take the glass laboratory dishes with these
<br>
burned remains of books down to the Fine Arts Library to put them in
<br>
the display cases. Sad, almost reverential ... and also furious at those
<br>
who have burned both books and human beings in Bosnia, in Kosovo, and
<br>
in too many other places in recent years.<br>
In my office, I keep a copy of a poem, an elegy for the burned Sarajevo
<br>
library by a Bosnian poet, which talks about the removal of tons of such
<br>
clinkers from the ruins of the burned out National Library.<br>
It brings home the vulnerability of the human knowledge that institutions
<br>
such as universities and libraries are established to cultivate and
<br>
preserve. We like to believe that we can be keepers of the records <br>
of civilization and we do our best to preserve them from fires and floods
<br>
and other natural calamities. But what can one do to keep books and
<br>
human beings safe from the barbarians?<br>
Andras Riedlmayer <br>
Harvard University<br>
<br>
<br>
</html>

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