A Black Day for Heritage
December 18, 2011 5:01 PM   Subscribe

The Egyptian Scientific Institute which established in 1798 by Napolean Bonaparte has been burned.
posted by kittensofthenight (35 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
You know, that sucks, but the freedom of the Egyptian people is more important.
posted by Stonestock Relentless at 5:06 PM on December 18, 2011


That's an odd perspective. I don't see the either/or choice. If X-number of historical treasures are destroyed, do people become free?
posted by red clover at 5:09 PM on December 18, 2011 [10 favorites]


Yeah, from the 'burned' link: The minister of culture Shaker Abdel Hamid has thanked the protesters and the revolution youth for saving the content of the institute.
posted by kittensofthenight at 5:11 PM on December 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


RTF egyptianchronicles link : ".. You must know that the real protesters plead to ask the security of the cabinet besides the institute to put off the fire but they laughed at the protesters !! .. It was the responsibility of SCAF to protect the building and its content. .. The minister of culture Shaker Abdel Hamid has thanked the protesters and the revolution youth for saving the content of the institute.
posted by jeffburdges at 5:13 PM on December 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yes red clover, my point was that if that enough historical treasures are destroyed, people will become free.
posted by Stonestock Relentless at 5:14 PM on December 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yes red clover, my point was that if that enough historical treasures are destroyed, people will become free.

Sorry stonestock, I'm still not following.

I get that it's a privileged position that I hold, sitting my couch in the middle of a free state and all, but I still consider this an unnecessary tragedy.

I wonder if, culturally, burning this library has any sort of significance to the Egyptians because of that other famous library of theirs that was burnt down some time ago. A pretty good library if I recall.
posted by Think_Long at 5:25 PM on December 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


so it's Reichstag Fire 2011? Wave the false flag high?
posted by oneswellfoop at 5:28 PM on December 18, 2011


I suspect the authorities permitted/caused the destruction specifically to make the protestors look bad internationally. Egyptian authorities have carried out multiple false flag terrorist attacks on Egyptians before.

We've previously observed that the SSIS carried out the Sharm el-Sheikh resort bombings, but they also carried out the New Year's Eve Coptic church bombing, and the Nag Hammadi church attack.
posted by jeffburdges at 5:29 PM on December 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


The last link seems to imply that 2/3 of the institute's collection was removed by protestors before fire gutted the building. But maybe that's just a rumour.
posted by Kevin Street at 5:30 PM on December 18, 2011


But....why?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:36 PM on December 18, 2011


Another egyptianchronicles link excerpt : "Now activists are circulating two photos for who they believe an army conscript participating in setting the institute on fire accusing one of the conscripts who assaulted April 6 activist Ghada Kamel of being one of those vandals !! The photo is not [conclusive] though.
posted by jeffburdges at 5:37 PM on December 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


Luckily all the really important artefacts and documents from Egyptian history are safe in the British Museum.
posted by atrazine at 5:38 PM on December 18, 2011 [20 favorites]


Why did they take out the stuff in the building? Because they wanted to save the books, I guess. Hopefully they're not being sold on the black market right now, but who knows.
posted by Kevin Street at 5:40 PM on December 18, 2011


Yes red clover, my point was that if that enough historical treasures are destroyed, people will become free.

Huh?
posted by New England Cultist at 5:44 PM on December 18, 2011


Yes red clover, my point was that if that enough historical treasures are destroyed, people will become free.

What exactly was your point? How, in your view, does burning down a scientific institute and historical library advance the goals of the protesters?

Noting, of course, that the protesters apparently contend that an army conscript set the fire, and that the other rumour is that the building was accidentially set alight by a wayward molotov.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:44 PM on December 18, 2011


Can't have a revolution without burning a few libraries.
posted by planet at 5:49 PM on December 18, 2011


As an aside, googling false flag terrorist attacks turned up an interesting wariscrime.com article from last January called How Terrorism Scenarios are Being Invented, which basically says DHS gets their terrorist threats from Hollywood. </derail>
posted by jeffburdges at 6:06 PM on December 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


It's 2011. Why the hell do we have priceless manuscripts that exist only in a single copy? We've been able to duplicate stuff easily and cheaply for over a century. There's no excuse whatsoever.
posted by schmod at 6:23 PM on December 18, 2011


Where do you see that there aren't any copies of the lost manuscripts?
posted by Think_Long at 6:25 PM on December 18, 2011


"Yes red clover, my point was that if that enough historical treasures are destroyed, people will become free."

I can't get a serious read off this. Perhaps my brain really wants you to be joking here (not that I think that's appropriate for this thread, but it's better than the alternative).

At any rate, this is a really tragic event in so many ways. I can't really comprehend it all yet, but to say for now,
.
posted by iamkimiam at 6:40 PM on December 18, 2011


.
posted by Foosnark at 6:56 PM on December 18, 2011


My arm chair feels pretty comfortable right about now. But yes, I am sad too

.

Perhaps a little wine and short moment of silence will improve my spirits.
posted by Shit Parade at 7:03 PM on December 18, 2011


But....why?

Because uniformed goons were tossing cinderblocks and rocks onto protesters from the roof. They were doing this to provoke them into attacking the building to defend themselves, since most Egyptians weren't aware it was a library, never mind one of such importance. This was to claim a propaganda victory...

...except there are videos of uniformed thugs trying to kill people by throwing cinderblocks onto them from the roof.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:39 PM on December 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


Video Shows Egyptian Soldiers Beating and Shooting at Protesters

A Photo That Encapsulates the Horror of Egypt's Crackdown
posted by homunculus at 8:01 PM on December 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


Armies in conflict never prioritize cultural preservation. Instead, the looting carried out by the victors after the sacking of an enemy asset is actually viewed as a feature instead of bug by the lucky participants. I am therefore completely unsurprised that Egypt's military would use priceless artifacts as leverage in their attempts to seize power.

As an example, let us not forget that when U.S. troops invaded Iraq and subsequently occupied Baghdad they committed ample resources to protect the pipeline and refinery infrastructure, and the Ministry Of Oil building; yet when it came to preserving the unique artifacts of civilization housed in The National Museum of Iraq , there was neither a mission, nor a plan.

While the mopping up of Baghdad went on, and the U.S. assumed military control of the city, the Museum was left completely undefended. Spun later as an attempt to "preserve the artifacts", U.S. troops stood idly by, while looters with heavy equipment systematically dismantled and carted off the irreplaceable touchstones of Western Civilization. A cynic might opine that instead of this just being the usual innate incompetence of humans in groups, an agenda might have been being served. Let's not forget that one man's complete social collapse is another man's business opportunity.

Irrespective of the process, so egregious was this wanton disregard for the predictable consequences of any military occupation that the Chairman of the President's Advisory Committee on Cultural Property resigned, along with 2 other colleagues.

Luckily, for Hollywood's sake, one U.S. Marine took exception to this idiocy, otherwise there might be nothing to left exploit on some future widescreen epic designed to reach audiences and maximize shareholder value for the stockholders.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 8:51 PM on December 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


.
posted by gingerest at 9:52 PM on December 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I guess I'm surprised the curators did not proactively find a safer place for the most valuable artifacts given the ongoing conflict outside their windows.

Not to apply cultural math, but many important things in the White House were saved before the British -- already in the process of ransacking the Capitol -- could burn it, and the French undertook exceptional efforts to preserve what they saw as their "cultural patrimony" in the face of certain German invasion.
posted by dhartung at 11:25 PM on December 18, 2011


For those interested in the archaeologist/historian side of things, this facebook group, Restore + Save the Egyptian Museum!, has a number of on the ground respondents and pleas for supplies. One of the comments notes that some of the books have been digitized and can be accessed through the Digital Arts Repository, here. (Look under Contributors for the Institut.)

While the act of digitization is much cheaper than it used to be, it in no way is an easy thing for all facilities. You need reliable workers, huge amounts of time-- not just for digitizing but also for processing, cleaning it up, and saving it-- and reliable equipment, along with the money for servers and off-site backups and what have you. Oh, and then there's the whole copyright issue. The college I work for, safe in the United States, has only a small percentage of our archives and collections digitized, and we have a pretty decent staff of people working on it.

I have no idea what the situation is like on the ground in Cairo, nor what their policies and collection plans are, and it's clear some works in fact have been digitized. I have the utmost respect for the institution, and I'm just trying to provide a different perspective on the cost of digitization. And if the library-- the library!-- wasn't safe, I'm not sure where exactly they could have taken their books, if that were even logistically possible.
posted by jetlagaddict at 6:58 AM on December 19, 2011


Oh, and if anyone is in Cairo, the Al RAWI - Egypt's Heritage Review facebook group has posted this message:

"Anyone in Kasr el Aini st. or Tahrir who finds scattered pieces of paper, please take them to Qasr el Doubara Church in Garden City. We are coordinating with the ministry of culture to have them picked up from there. Please spread the word."
posted by jetlagaddict at 7:17 AM on December 19, 2011


Yes red clover, my point was that if that enough historical treasures are destroyed, people will become free.
posted by Stonestock Relentless at 2:14 AM

Guys I think he was being sarcastic.

if only because there's no other way for me to read that sentence
posted by omnikron at 7:56 AM on December 19, 2011


It's 2011. Why the hell do we have priceless manuscripts that exist only in a single copy? We've been able to duplicate stuff easily and cheaply for over a century. There's no excuse whatsoever.

There is an excuse, schmod: money. Museums are trying, to be sure, but it's not instantaneous, and in the case of extremely fragile antiquities, it can even risk the artifact to attempt.

You're probably thinking, "Just snap a picture!". But the reality is: open the book, turn the page, flatten the page carefully to best capture the image, take the photo in high resolution and low light, turn the page... It takes a careful setup, and potentially several minutes of labor per page, whereas modern docs can be fed into a copier.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:26 AM on December 19, 2011


You know, that sucks, but the freedom of the Egyptian people is more important.

Stonestock Relentless, my best guess is that you started out with a false dichotomy: we can only care about either the library or the people's liberation, and we are focusing in this FPP about the less important of those two possibilities.

You proceeded from there to defend yourself with a snark that was even more confusing. Today is not your day.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:31 AM on December 19, 2011


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posted by rodgerd at 10:28 AM on December 19, 2011


Al-Arabiya suggests that the fire was set by Zionists in order to disguise evidence of the border between Egypt and Israel.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:13 PM on December 19, 2011


Mass March by Cairo Women in Protest Over Abuse by Soldiers(nytimes)
posted by Shit Parade at 9:16 PM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


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