Cultural experts call for uniform standards in indexing manuscripts

 Cultural experts call for uniform standards in indexing manuscripts; hail Sharjah as a cultural leader

Sharjah Book Authority hosts panel discussion on ‘Manuscripts in the Age of Digital Transformation’ at the ‘Tales from the East’ exhibition

At a panel discussion organised by the Sharjah Book Authority at the ‘Tales from the East’ exhibition, cultural experts called for the introduction of a unified indexing system to help enumerate the manuscripts in existence with the tools of the digital age, and to bring its inherent wealth of knowledge in sciences, humanities, and other disciplines, for the benefit of humanity.

Speakers at the session titled, ‘Manuscripts in the Age of Digital Transformation’, included HE Dr. Abdulwahid Al Nabawi, former Egyptian Minister of Culture and Professor of History at the Al Azhar University in Cairo; and Dr. Mohammed Kamel, General Manager of Juma Al Majid Centre for Culture and Heritage in Dubai.

Hailing Sharjah’s commitment to preserving the culture and heritage of the region and describing His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, as “a leader who understands the importance of culture”, Dr. Al Nabawai emphasised that manuscripts are a prime legacy of the Arab and Islamic world, and an integral part of the identity of its people.

He said: “There are more than five million Arabic manuscripts in existence, and with advanced technology and through digitisation, we can now protect and document this textual heritage and enhance opportunities for exchange of knowledge and resources between research centres, universities and libraries. The process of digitisation has also brought to light the existence of previously unknown Arabic manuscripts in Latin America and China, amongst others. Collective efforts in this direction will enable us to piece together all the manuscripts – currently scattered in various parts of the world.”

This endeavour would lead to discovery of new knowledge and further reinforce the invaluable contributions of Arab scholars and scientists to humanity, he added. “I urge all institutions that work in this field to do so with open minds and new vision to bring to light the value of this unique heritage.”

Calling for setting uniform standards and guidelines in digitisation and indexing, Dr. Mohammed Kamel, said: “Manuscripts must not be viewed merely as documents from the past; manuscripts are the launching point of our present and the future.”  He said the creation of standards and procedures for digitisation of manuscripts would serve as an excellent resource base for the valuable collections while also limiting the scope for copying and forgery.

The advancement of information technology, he added, is facilitating greater access for scholars and researchers, and enabling relevant entities to digitise more copies than ever before in a safe and secure manner. “The need of the hour,” he added, “is to design and implement a uniform indexing system that enables it to become easily searchable online.”

Dr. Mohammed Kamel also emphasised that with the benefit of professional archival care, it was possible to reduce the possibility of documents being lost forever. “The digitisation of such documents has become an absolute necessity for saving and preserving them for future generations.”