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Toward a Euro-Mediterranean Memory: Expert Workshop on Information Systems for Arab Manuscripts

Final Report Summary - INFOMAN (Toward a Euro-Mediterranean Memory: Expert Workshop on Information Systems for Arab Manuscripts)

INFOMAN was a single partner project coordinated by the Center for Documentation of Cultural and Natural History, Egypt. A centre that is affiliated to Bibliotheca Alexandrina, and supported by the Ministry of Information Technology in Egypt, thus has access to manuscript experts, library specialists and information technology experts. This was certainly an advantage, which guided the deliverables of the project.

The INFOMAN project produced a proto portal for Arabic manuscripts, and created a multi-disciplinary database, that can serve different professions related to the Arabic manuscript world with understanding their needs, requirements, obstacles and liabilities, thus encouraging new legislations, affecting social behaviour towards manuscripts within the MPC, surfacing the uncovered collections and contributing in more knowledge democratisation. Having started from scratch, this gave us the opportunity to address and discuss standards of international level rather than a provincial approach to codifying the Arabic manuscripts; such framework took us to the UNESCO's Memory of the World program as set standards.

The culmination of the project was the Euro Mediterranean Expert Roundtable Meeting which gathered experts from different areas of specialisation yet practice and / or study Arabic manuscript collections so that they enrich the meeting with diverse approaches to different problems related to manuscripts and their database. This multidisciplinary approach to cover all the issues pertaining to manuscript preservation and management took place on 26-29 January 2008. The experts critiqued a pilot manuscript information system presented during the meetings. They also discussed the importance of the unification of cataloguing and indexing standards for documentation of private and public manuscript collections. But above all, they discussed the status of laws, rules and regulations of manuscript collections in EU and MPC countries, particularly those related to the ownership of private collections and copy right on the internet, and Egypt was a case study. Finally, the experts sanctioned recommendations and policy directions.

The specific results achieved include:
- The extensive research performed on the Arabic manuscript collections, identifying and categorising them into type, and analysing their codicology requirements, understanding the terminology and the MARC fields.
- Compiling an expert list of professionals from different work professions that are stake holders in identifying, understanding and regulating the use of Arabic manuscripts within the MPC.
- Producing a well organised SQL database for the documentation of Arabic manuscript that satisfies all the multi-disciplinary professionals.
- Involved the national staff and trained them on the database and identified their potential concerns, as part of the disseminating and community benefit target.
- Developed a proto-portal for Arabic manuscripts, after analysing all potential portals and understanding their drawback, thus developing new standards with the guidance of the EU-MINERVA project guidelines, and developing a management methodology to manage such proto-portal, http://infoman.cultnat.org/heba.

INFOMAN facilitated the establishment of a nation-wide awareness of the pros and cons of current laws and regulations regarding Arabic manuscript collections, and how they affect the surfacing of private collections, thus leading to a loss in available knowledge and historical amnesia. %:
A successful expert round table meeting was conducted and a total of 35 national, Middle Eastern, Arab and European scientists were hosted in Cairo.

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