Conversation on the Omar Ibn Said Collection

>> Mary Jane Deeb: Okay, good morning Good morning, everybody Good morning I’m Mary Jane Deeb, chief of the African/Middle East division which is hosting this event And as the division has acquired the online Omar Said autobiography that we are all gathered here today to discuss These items are now held by the Rare Books division where you will have a chance to view them this afternoon But this morning it is my honor and privilege to introduce to you Dr. Carla Hayden, the 14th Librarian of Congress who will welcome you to the library Before coming to the library, Dr. Hayden served as CEO of the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore and was nominated by President Obama to be a member of the National Museum and Library Services Board She was also president of the American Library Association from 2003 to 2004 Prior to joining the Pratt Library, Dr. Hayden was deputy commissioner and chief librarian of the Chicago Public Library from ’91 to ’93, and assistant professor library and information science at University of Pittsburgh from ’87 to ’91 She was also library services coordinator for the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago from ’82 to ’87 And she began her career with the Chicago Public Library as the young adult services coordinator from ’79 to ’82 and as library associate and children’s librarian from ’73 to ’79 Dr. Hayden received a BA from Roosevelt University and an MA and PhD from the Graduate Library School at the University of Chicago She has received numerous — and you can go online and see numerous awards and honorary doctorates I would be here the whole morning just to say it So let us welcome Dr. Hayden [ Applause ] >> Dr. Carla Hayden: Thank you, thank you, Dr. Deeb Only my mother could do a better job at that And as you went through every year I kept telling the young people, I am getting older and older and older But good morning and Dr Deeb, I just want to start out by thanking you for your perseverance and what you have done And I’m not going to break any news, but we really appreciate your service So thank you And I think we can give her a hand [ Applause ] So good morning and welcome I’m delighted to be here with you as we celebrate African American history month and the launch of the online publication of the Omar Said Collection which was purchased in 2017 And this unique collection consists of documents in both English and Arabic, including an 1831 autobiography, handwritten in Arabic Mr. Said was a west African scholar who at the age of 37 was captured, enslaved and brought to South Carolina in 1804 And this document, the autobiography, is the centerpiece of the collection that includes texts which will be discussed throughout the day by prominent scholars and library experts who acquired, worked on the preservation, cataloged and digitized the collection and then created what I think is a very wonderful website that we are launching for the whole world to see And you can see it takes a village to present a Library of Congress collection to the public And it requires expertise and technological and technical capacities that showcase the expertise of the library’s staff This collection and all of the library’s collections are used by scholars and researchers and anyone and everyone who wants to come in and learn about the items regardless of their age And so what about the Said collection? Who apart from the scholars and the researchers and library staff would be interested? Well, high school students who are here today

And we have a special treat for you today The Richard Wright Public Charter School for Journalism and Media Arts in Washington DC — and I told them to shout out — [ Applause ] And the Montgomery Blaire High School in Silver Spring Maryland [ Applause ] It’s like the Super Bowls again But Super Bowl of research and history, and that’s what’s so exciting Well, both schools and I say young scholars in both schools have been so fascinated by the collection that they have actually come to the library, viewed the collection, did research, met with the specialist and experts and then interviewed and filmed them And like professional journalists and camera people, they have created special videos of the collection and they will be sharing them with you during the lunch hour So I want you to please welcome them and show your appreciation and tell them how proud we are that they are carrying on the tradition of being interested in history and bringing history to life Let’s give them a hand [ Applause ] So, we will now have Marieta Harper to say a few words in memory of Mr. Derrick Beard who was the last owner of the collection, and who wanted so much for it to be at the Library of Congress Marieta is an African and Africa area specialist And she first identified this collection and thanks to her perseverance, the library was able to purchase it So please join me in welcoming her [ Applause ] >> Marieta Harper: Good morning As you just heard, my name is Marieta Harper and I am Africa area specialist in the African and Middle Eastern division at this institution, Library of Congress In January 2002, I met Derrick Beard, the prominent antiquarian book dealer of African American historical collections He was visiting our division while we were organizing a panel on the historical roots of Muslim immigration to the United States The symposium was entitled Islam in America and was sponsored by the African and Middle Eastern Division and the Office of Scholarly Programs I coordinated the first panel of the symposium and Derrick Beard was the first speaker During this visit, Mr. Beard showed me his collection of historic Arabic manuscripts written by Omar Ibn Said, along with other manuscripts written by African Muslims from the 18th and 19th centuries At the end of the symposium, Mr Beard told Dr. Mary Jane Deeb and me that he felt the Library of Congress should purchase his unique collection so the world could see and research Arabic manuscripts written by literate Africans who were enslaved in the early Americas When Derrick Beard finally put his collection of manuscripts on sale, he informed me and I then initiated the recommendation for the Library of Congress to purchase this collection So after much determination, we were able to locate funds to purchase the collection The purchase was completed in early winter of 2017 Regretfully, months after the sale,

Derrick Beard died in July 2018 I am still shocked by his death, even though I knew he was critically ill throughout our negotiations Derrick Beard was a consummate connoisseur of various arts and collectibles and was recognized as one of the world’s preeminent experts in his field, which was the art world He was a collector of American, Islamic and other foreign decorative arts, including photography, paintings, rare books, unique documents and other objects of aesthetic and historical value The Art and Antiques Magazine listed Mr. Beard as one of the top 100 American collectors in 1994 and again in 2005 Prior to his death, Derrick Beard resided in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates His 20-plus years of foreign travels included residencies in Europe, Asia, South America and the Caribbean Asia, sorry Derrick Beard’s broad and extensive academic background included a BS in real estate finance from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champagne And additional advanced studies in interior architecture at the Art Institute of Chicago Studies in photography at Loyola University, studies in mechanical engineering at Tuskegee University, studies in Islamic finance at Harvard University, and studies in earth architecture construction and management at the California Institute of Earth and Architecture In acknowledging these few aspects of Derrick Beard’s background and accomplishment, we bid farewell to one of America’s greatest collectors May his soul rest in peace I will now share the memorial tribute to Derrick Tyreek Beard from the Mashid Asabar Derrick Beard’s mosque in Los Angeles, Nevada “In the name of Allah most gracious, most merciful, it is with deepest regret that you are being advised of the recent death of our dear brother Derrick Beard Brother Derrick Beard was an amazing giant regarding the history, culture and ethnologic research of Islam in America and its reclamation and preservation Among his numerous and most notable contributions was the purchase of the original Arabic handwritten autobiography manuscript of Omar Ibn Said and having it translated and published in the English language For years, Derrick would actually travel with the original manuscript, taking it to various public events and activities and allowing the general public to examine it as well as take photos with it His involvement in the research and acquisition

of rare Islamic historical artifacts relevant to their impact in early America was phenomenal Derrick was always available and approachable by anyone He was an African American giant of Islam who will be dearly missed May Allah grant him paradise.” This is the Islamic funeral prayer sent on Friday, July 27th, 2018 by Masjid As-Sabur 711 Morgan Avenue, Las Vegas, Nevada Thank you [ Applause ] >> Mary Jane Deeb: You can come and move forward There are spaces So I know that many of you are there Please come up Please come in Yes, yes, come up, please Okay, there are seats up here Okay. So thank you, Dr. Hayden and thank you Marieta Harper for your words regarding our program today and Derrick Beard And so now we will move on to our first panel which covers the importance of the autobiography of Omar Said, a west African scholar who was captured in 1807 and sold to South Carolina as a slave He wrote his autobiography in 1831 And this remains the only known one at this time in existence in the US [ Inaudible ] And before joining the library he was director of marketing and communications at PCNG international What I’m going to do now is I’m going to read the biographies of each one of the speakers [ Inaudible ] But I am doing this because this programming is being webcast And as people watching around the world will not have biographies, I’m going to share with them and with you the bios of the panel So Dr. Sylviane Diuof is an award-winning historian and curator of the African diaspora She is the holder of — [ Inaudible ] It’s 15th anniversary edition was released in 2013 Her book Dreams of Africa in Alabama: The Slave Ship Clodilda and the Story of the Last Africans Brought to America, published by Oxford University Press received prizes from the American Historical Association, the Alabama Historical Association and the first Legacy Award Dr. Diuof is the author of Slavery’s Exiles: The Story of the American Maroons, also published by New York University Press She is the editor of Fighting the Slave Trade: West African Strategies, published by Ohio University Press And In Motion: The African American Migration Experience, a National Geographic Book Dr. Diuof received the Rosa Parks Award, the [inaudible] Achievement Award and the Shabazz Achievement Award She was the inaugural director of the Lapidus Center for the Historical Analysis of Transatlantic Slavery

And is history professor at Brown University’s Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice Our second speaker sitting next to Dr. Diuof is Dr. Adam Rothman who is a professor in the history department at Georgetown University where he teaches undergraduate and graduate courses on the history of slavery and Atlantic history Rothman’s first book, Slave Country, American expansion and the origin of the deep south, published by Harvard University Press in 2005, traced the roots of slavery in the early United States His latest book, Beyond Freedom’s Reach: A Kidnapping in the Twilight of Slavery, Harvard 2015, tells the true story of three slave children who were taken from New Orleans to Havana during the Civil War and their mother’s quest to rescue them It won awards from the America Civil War Museum, Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities and the American Librarian Association He has written for The Atlantic, the Daily Beast, Al-Jazeera America and the New York Times Disunion Blog He has been the recipient of an ACLS Oscar Handley Fellowship and is an Organization of American Historians distinguished lecturer He was a member of Georgetown University’s working group on slavery, memory and reconciliation, and is the lead curator of the online Georgetown slavery archive As a distinguished visiting scholar at the Kluge Center last fall, he created a podcast series about the Library of Congress manuscript material on American slavery, including one about Omar Ibn Said’s autobiography And he also transcribed the letters of the documents that we have He has earned his BA from Yale and PhD from Columbia And last but not least, Ala Alryyes who is the author of the book The Translation of Omar Ibn Said, that will be for sale by the way at lunchtime as well So you’ll all be able to acquire a copy if you wish Dr. Ala Alryyes is associate professor of English at Queens College, the City University of New York He was educated at MIT and Harvard University where he received his PhD in comparative literature And is a recipient of a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship and an American Philosophical Society grant He is a scholar of 18th century British and French literature, the European Enlightenment, slavery and the literature of empire Professor Alryyes is a translator as we mentioned of Omar Ibn Said’s autobiography from the original Arabic, and a contributing editor of the Muslim American Slave: The Life of Omar Ibn Said, and so is Dr. Diuof He also wrote Original Subjects: The Child, the Novel and the Nation, published by University Press and numerous journal articles Among other current project Professor Alryyes is completing Between Ordinary Life and War, a book about proximity of war and literature In addition to the City University of New York, Professor Alryyes has also taught at [inaudible] University Now you won’t hear from me anymore And I am passing the baton on to Dr. Flanagan Thank you [ Applause ] >> Dr. Eugene Flanagan: Thank you, Mary Jane So I just want to circle back to a couple of things Dr. Hayden said One I think she referred to us as the Super Bowl of research and history That’s interesting I think there’s probably more people in room today than watched the second half of the game on Sunday More seriously, she said that this program is part of the library’s celebration of Black History Month And what an amazing sort of history we have before us to discuss this morning Some 250 years of politics and geography and religion and literature from sort of 18th-century west Africa to the 19th-century American south, and from the rediscovery of the autobiography in the 20th century to the 21st century when here we are The Library has acquired, preserved and digitized the Omar Ibn Said collection So we have a lot of ground to cover, and so I guess the obvious place to begin is at the beginning And so, Sylviane, you’ve written several award-winning books on the African diaspora and slave trade, one of which, Servants of Allah: African Muslims Enslaved in the Americas, deals with the time and place of Omar’s capture and enslavement That time and place seems

to have been sort of far from simple Maybe you could give us the background to his environment and what he would have experienced in the first 30 years of his life >> Dr. Sylviane Diuof: Thank you So Omar Ibn Said was born in Senegal in 1770 He came from northern Senegal, the region of [inaudible] which is really kind of the cradle of Islam in this area And you know, for about 100 years before he was born, there had been really — the region really felt the impact of the transatlantic slave trade And that had given rise to Islamic reformist movements You know, there were Muslims who were trying to protect themselves from the transatlantic salve trade and from the despotism of some of the local rulers And many of them were actually attacked, deported, were victims of the slave trade And Islam does not allow that Islam does not allow free Muslims to be enslaved So there were those movements that started to protect Muslims, to oppose the transatlantic slave trade, and as I mentioned, despotism as well And we see that not only in Senegal but in several parts of Senegal and in Guinea as well Now when Omar was born in 1770, a few years later when actually around 1776, when he started his studies, there was a real very important movement there For several years before, the British had really taken a lot of Muslims and sent them to the Caribbean There was also a famine The British allied themselves with the Moors and there were really massacres and large taking of people So that gave rise to a new Islamic reformist movement, again to protect the Muslims And their leader Sulaiman Ball was a scholar His view was that it’s not enough to have a Muslim leader, a Muslim king You have to have a scholar And I just want to read very quickly what he envisioned Because I think it’s very relevant to that particular story, but to others as well He said, “Choose an Imam, pious and ascetic who is not interested in the riches of this world And if you see that his possessions increase, depose him and confiscate all his belongings And if he refuses to abdicate, fight him and exile him to make sure he does not establish a tyranny his sons will imitate Replace him with another among the men of knowledge and action Bring to power one who deserves it, one who forbids his soldiers to kill defenseless children and old people and to rape women, let alone kill them.” So that was the basis of those movements And he was killed in battle And the first leader of a new theocracy [inaudible] really forbade trade on the river, forbade the enslavement of Muslims And he was really very strongly opposed to the slave trade, not only of Muslims but also putting an end to the transit of people from the east to Saint-Louis

So this is the kind of regime that Omar Ibn Said lived under And it was really a time where Islamic education spread with lots of schools being built Omar continued his studies he said for 25 years He went to other parts of the country and then he came back to Futa, probably around 1801 And that was a period which was crucial The leader of the [inaudible] continued to forbid the transit of slaves, and there were of course strong repercussions The French who had come back to Saint-Louis burned villages, killed people, enslaved 600 people, retaliations from [inaudible] and so on and so forth Until in 1807 internal and external forces coalesced against [inaudible] And as Omar wrote, an army came and invaded Futa And this army actually killed [inaudible] and that’s when Omar was made a prisoner He was worked to Saint-Louis He was 37, very old actually for being part of the slave trade And in three ships left Saint-Louis between October and December 1807 And he was certainly on one of those ships Close to 400 people arrived from Saint-Louis in Charleston And Omar was on one of those last ships that brought legally Africans through the transatlantic slave trade Because on January 1st, 1808, the international slave trade to the United States came to a formal end even though it continued until July 1860 >> Dr. Eugene Flanagan: So given that tumultuous background, it seems to have swung wildly from being turbulent at times to being a safe haven at other times Ala, perhaps you can talk a little bit about the intellectual milieu that he would have experienced during those years before 1807 >> Dr. Ala Alryyes: Uniquely I think, because Omar has left this manuscript, we are accessory to the words of a “slave” who recounts not only his education in his country of origin in Africa, but also who seems to cast sort of a symbolic role for himself as resisting it in certain ways as we will talk about later today, I think But as Sylviane was giving a context of the previous lives of slaves whom we usually think of as, or the standard narrative thinks of them as sort of a blank slate, right? When slavery and the particular kind of slavery that developed in the US turned human beings into chattel, people into real estate, the standard narrative of resistance became one of freedom versus bondage And that narrative, as crucial and fundamental as it is, sometimes short-changes this historicity and the historical forces and context that set those slaves apart or set those human beings, those people, apart as individuals They all had unique stories, but these unique stories like the stories of all, you know, frankly enslaved or poor people all over the world are not known or have been erased from the historical record just because of the fact that they have left no records of their own In the case of Omar, however, his literacy which was a consequence of his faith and his education in Futa in Sene-Gambia, left clues to the mind, to the inner life

as well as to the kind of contexts in which this man when he arrived to the US became involved in >> Dr. Eugene Flanagan: And perhaps we can talk then a little bit about the movement from Africa to the Americas and the slave trade And Adam, this is something you’ve studies particularly on arrival in the Americas But perhaps you can draw some parallels for us in this regard >> Dr. Aldam Rothman: Sure Thanks very much I just want to say before I get into that history that most of what I know about Omar Ibn Said actually comes from the scholarship of the people sitting on either side of me And I want to acknowledge that I’m especially lucky to be here Just picking up on something that Ala said, I think it’s very important to understand that not only had the history of Atlantic slavery been written and understood for a long time in ways that generally ignore, neglect or deny the African historicity of enslaved people and everything they brought into that history But the slave trade itself depended on the denial of that history Just to give you an example, I was with some students this week We’re looking at a letter from a Jesuit priest in the early 1600’s who is explaining to one of his colleagues in Cartagena de Indias about why you shouldn’t ask captive Africans how they were enslaved And he says, “If you ask them, they’ll tell you that they were unjustly and illegally captured.” Because if they were, then they ought to be free He says, “They’re self-interested so they’re lying So don’t ask them.” The whole operation of the slave trade depended upon willfully neglecting the origins of enslavement And that’s one of the reasons why a text like Omar’s is so important, because it recovers that suppressed history Slavery is a silencer It denies the voices of captive Africans and enslaved peoples in the Americas, so recovering this text is so important to getting that history back and understanding the lies and violence that were really at the root of the Atlantic slave trade So that’s one thing The second thing is I think it’s so interesting as Sylviana was talking about the politics and history of northern Senegal and these tensions and in fact wars over slavery that ended up with Omar Ibn Said on a slave ship in Charleston It’s interesting to think about the intersection of this tumultuous politics in West Africa with equally tumultuous politics in North America Omar Ibn Said is a kind of nexus, a connecting point between those two histories Sylviane mentioned that Omar Ibn Said is one of the very last captive Africans to be imported legally into the United States Well, why was that? This gets us into the whole history of the debate over slavery in the New United States You know, while Omar Ibn Said is being born in West Africa, there’s a revolution about to get underway in North American in which the concept of slavery both literally and as a metaphor is central But so is the reality of the slave economy which undergirds the new nation So a whole series of compromises is worked out to try to reconcile the rhetoric of freedom with the reality of slavery And one of those compromises has to do with the Atlantic slave trade So in the Constitution of the United States, one of the compromise clauses is that Congress cannot prohibit the introduction of Africans for 20 years So there’s a 20-year window in which captive Africans continued to be introduced into the United States That 20-year window basically ends in 1808 And right before that window closes, there is a kind of surge

in slaving as planters in the United States try to get one last cargo of Africans in before that window closes So Omar Ibn Said is caught in this kind of trap of politics on one side of the Atlantic and politics on the other side of the Atlantic And I think it’s really important to understand both sides of his story, his story on both sides of the Atlantic together That’s the only way we understand the particularity of his history >> Dr. Ala Alryyes: Just as a footnote to what Adam was saying, if I may, Omar is born in 1770, so that’s six years before the Declaration of Independence, and he dies in 1863-64 And so that’s one year before the end of the American Civil War So his life in a way is an actual one might say record or demonstration of what you were saying about context >> Dr. Aldam Rothman: Yeah His life is a microcosm of the history of slavery in the United States from the Revolution to the Civil War >> Dr. Eugene Flanagan: So we’ve been talking about him as both an individual and sort of a sign for large themes Getting back to 1807, Ala, maybe you can have a go at this one Can you give us sort of a sketch of who he was in 1807? >> Dr. Ala Alryyes: No one individual is one thing for sure And it’s a difficult question, but it’s a crucial question, perhaps the most fundamental question to ask And we know from the manuscript that for example, for those people who captured him at that moment, when he escaped — as we know, he escaped from South Carolina, from Charleston, about two years after he was brought in the big ship to this country To the people he must have seemed like this remarkable phenomenon of someone writing Arabic letters on the walls of his jail cell So that’s one thing that they saw in him, someone who possibly was unusually, perhaps spectacularly educated in a way that they expected no African or no slave to be educated at the time Because of course the common belief was that Africans had no culture or at least no literate culture of that sort or no culture that can be of value On the other hand, he himself from the manuscript, we learn that he was born in 1770 We know from the dates that he was an old man when he — I mean, roughly, right? He was 37 He certainly was not — I know He was not a young, youthful man He refers to himself as a weak man He certainly saw himself as a scholar, did not see himself as someone who is fit to work in the fields or in plantations You know, certainly the plantation regime in Charleston was one of the most difficult and backbreaking in the United States But he refers to his education, he talks about the fact that he spent 25 years seeking knowledge He refers to three teachers, one of whom was his own brother in Putatoro He refers endearingly to his father and mother He refers to clearly both of his parents were married before they had a number of children, and he had a big family So he refers to all sorts of details of that sort, and the manuscript itself also reveals details about his escape, about the number of days he was held in jail in Fayetteville, North Carolina once he escapes from the south All of these various details sketch Omar as a multiple person, like all of us I mean, he was an African He was one might say certainly an insipient American The moment he was captured, he was an extraordinary individual who could write And so that question I think should not be boiled down to one answer, but we should look at the historical record first and foremost the autobiography to open up that question And that question is also intertwined I would say

with a kind of one might say informants or people in the United States, and we have a clue as to who these people were from the title page of the manuscript that was written in English We know a lot about them These were well-known people, scholars and these are all white individuals, including a man by the name of Theodore Dwight, whose uncle was a former president of Yale College, Timothy Dwight And I’m sure Adam will maybe later say a little bit more about Theodore Dwight There were others, Isaac Byrd who was one of the early translators of the manuscript, and who himself was a missionary actually, ended up going to the Middle East He was in Lebanon, working on producing a new Protestant Bible We have a lot of information about that circuit of people who solicited Omar to write his autobiography And certainly the question of who Omar is, is a question about his interiority It’s also a question about his culture back in Africa But it’s also a question about his future collaboration and really incorporation into the circuit of people who had definite goals about one might say the future of enslaved people in the Americas, right? Including the fact that many of them were not comfortable — this particular circuit of people, they were not comfortable with slavery as such They saw in Omar’s culture, his education and his literacy, manifest proofs that Africans were cultured and they should not be subject to this regime But they also were not happy or not comfortable with the idea of freeing those slaves and then having them stay in the United States There’s a particular group of people called the American Colonization Society whose plans were to [inaudible] as many slaves as they can through convincing slave owners to release them and then have them immigrate to Africa, to Liberia or other places And so Omar has a multiple identity and he’s really — as we were saying before, he has a biography but also a historical moment >> Dr. Eugene Flanagan: Sylviane, there’s many ways of looking at Omar There’s a tendency to see him as exceptional Is that the case? >> Dr. Sylviane Diuof: Yes, and he actually was not I mean, we have to understand that the estimate is about 10% of the 12.5 million Africans who were deported through the transatlantic slave trade, 10% were Muslims So we are talking about more than a million people, more than a million Muslims arrived in the Americas and really in every country I mean, I used English, French, Portuguese and Spanish sources and I found them in 20 countries And I didn’t use Dutch because I don’t know Dutch And what I found, you know, again it’s not just what is there There’s many others And you know, we’re talking about people who had been — not all of them, but many of them had been to Koranic schools, could read and write like Omar Of course, you know, when you were taken at 10, you have a little knowledge When you arrived at 20 or 25, you had more Some had been teachers, scholars, judges So we have really a large number of people who like Omar were literate, who like Omar left documents And there are a lot I mean, a lot It’s maybe not exaggerated But in Brazil, for example, there are a lot of documents that have been preserved in Arabic as well as in languages written in Arabic script And we have that even in the United States You know, there’s a 13-page manuscript that was written by a Muslim on the island of Georgia that still exists We have facsimiles of other writings that Muslims left And in Jamaica, in Trinidad And that goes from chapters of the Koran to full Koran

One man here in the United States known as Job ben Solomon from Senegal wrote three copies of the Koran that of course he knew by rote And one copy of the Koran that he wrote was sold at auction in London, I think it was in 2011 So a number of manuscripts still exist And sometimes it’s letters, it’s religious writings It’s also plans for revolt Let’s not forget that in 1807 when Omar Ibn Said arrived in the United States, that was the start also of a series of conspiracies and revolts by Muslims in [inaudible] And those Muslims arrived because of another Islamic reformist movement in Nigeria that started in 1804 And there was also one autobiography that was written by a Muslim in Jamaica And it’s much longer than Omar’s It’s much, much, much more detailed Now the difference though is that Abuba Asidic who wrote it, and I think he wrote three versions of it, wrote it when he was freed in 1834 He wrote one version in 1834 and one in 1835 He was free He actually went back to Mali He was born in Timbuktu And the other thing that is different from Omar, that particular original manuscript doesn’t exist anymore So it had been translated and the idea is probably that he actually took those versions that he wrote with him when he went back home So Omar’s manuscript as far as we know, and maybe something would be discovered, we don’t know But Omar’s manuscript is unique in the sense that it’s the only autobiography of a person who was enslaved and wrote his biography when he was still enslaved >> Dr. Aldam Rothman: Can I just add one thing? I think Sylviane is absolutely right to place Omar and his autobiography in a larger context of enslaved Muslim Africans in the Americas So it’s part of a broader picture, but there’s always this tension between the degree to which somebody like Omar Said is representative of something larger and the extent to which he really is unique sort of in his own experience So when I read the translation of his autobiography and the way he writes about arriving in Charleston, the overwhelming sense that I get is that he is alone and traumatized That there is a shock of arrival in this new very strange and very harsh place He writes in the autobiography of being sold into the hands of Christians and arriving in a Christian country But then his first owner, his first enslaver in Charleston he describes as a wicked infidel, which is strong language And he suffers He’s a scholar but he’s made to do hard labor He’s literate but he doesn’t speak the language of the society that he’s found himself in And it’s hard, but instead of having his spirit broken, which could have been one of the effects of this extraordinary odyssey that he’s been on, he resists He runs away You know, he takes matters into his own hands and he runs away and he wanders for what seems to be weeks And somehow he gets from Charleston, South Carolina to I think it is Fayetteville, North Carolina How does he do that?

And then he ends up you know, and maybe it’s a church where he’s arrested and gets sent to jail He spends time in jail and he’s writing Arabic characters on the wall of his jail cell I mean, you could not write a novel that’s more remarkable than the true story of this man when he arrives in South Carolina So he is part of this broader movement, but he is also so alone when he arrives in the United States And I find that to be one of the most poignant and powerful aspects of his story >> Dr. Eugene Flanagan: And he really is ripped from his world and placed in a very different world >> Dr. Ala Alryyes: May I just follow up on that? >> Dr. Eugene Flanagan: Please >> Dr. Ala Alryyes: It’s no accident that Omar was [inaudible] a life, right? He refers to it a [inaudible], an honorific title that he gives to a clergyman who I think later I traced down to a man called Eli Hunter, a member of the American Colonization Society I am pretty sure about that So this [inaudible] asked him to write a life which Omar actually ended up — in the manuscript it refers to, “You asked me to write hayati,” which is the Arabic word for a life, immediately translating it Now the fascinating thing about it is that the Arabic genre of the life is not called that, but is referred to as sira And so there is something remarkable about the fact that he’s asked to write an autobiography for the simple reason that this particular genre has by now become in the west the kind of genre that speaks to the authenticity of someone’s experiences as well as the development of a person, right? That is you turn yourself into a person, you sort of demonstrate your personhood and consciousness by writing about it, by writing an autobiography And autobiographies remain of course huge bestsellers in the US today, right? They’re seen as in a way a reflection, a mirror of the person And so in a way, Omar’s 1832 manuscript is unique because in it we encounter someone who not only fulfills that premise or that aspect of the genre But he actually opens it by talking about his previous life, by talking about his teachers, by talking about his education by actually drawing on the other Arabic tradition of writing, which is the Arabic tradition of the sira, right? Where you actually don’t begin by talking necessarily about yourself and about your education and about your culture and about your teachers And therefore Omar is able to bring together these two, concatenate as it were these two literary genres in his narrative And that really sets him apart >> Dr. Eugene Flanagan: And in your book, A Muslim American Slave, the Life of Omar Ibn Said, you characterize a three-step process of translating, deciphering and contextualizing And I’m wondering if you can tell us a little bit about the insights that come from that approach >> Dr. Ala Alryyes: Sure So the work that later became this book really was done in two stages One was an encounter with the manuscript itself with the life and autobiography and translating it and trying to in translating it, to interpret it and to think about both the inner life of this man, his suffering as Adam was saying, the fact that at one point he for example responds to an overseer, clearly someone who’s sent by his southern owner to recapture him and take him back or to buy him whatever again, he responds by — I mean, he’s responding in 1831 He’s writing in 1831 Remember, there is a 24-year differential or so between the moment of the escape and the moment of the writing of the manuscript And he’s so traumatized by that moment that he actually records it as having responded to that man by writing seven no’s in Arabic The word for no is lah in Arabic And he writes seven no’s, right, not one but seven And that is really a moment where you could see just by looking at the space of the page, you could gain something into one might say really the mind of someone So there is that aspect of the suffering of the human being that can be given by the work of translation There is also the fact that there is the political agency or the act of resistance itself that the manuscript reveals

where Omar rhetorically casts certain kind of symbolic role for himself The text, as my introduction to the book shows, is full of sort of double hidden utterances in which he often will use koranic suras to cast sort of a role for himself or to deliver a message that is hidden to all except for those who can really decipher what he is writing So that’s one aspect or one big part of the work The other aspect that I refer to as recovering the context of it is something that I have already spoken about briefly, and that’s kind of — thinking about the circuit of people who are mentioned, a few of them are actually mentioned on the manuscript on the title page And these are white men who obviously are related to that [inaudible] who asked him to write his manuscript And you know, you need to ask yourself the question, in a country where — what’s the percentage? 0.0001% of people spoke Arabic I mean, obviously I’m even increasing that percentage I haven’t computed it, but a minute number of people spoke Arabic Why ask this man who speaks Arabic to write a manuscript in Arabic? Who could read it? Who could really be interested in it? And that opens really or has opened a window into the interest of a number of missionary scholars, ethnographers and so on who saw in Omar an opportunity to do something or to kind of prove or make a point or create an anti-slavery argument that was at that point becoming a third way shall we say in the anti-slavery rhetoric Between the northern abolitionists and the southern slave plantation owners, there was a middle way as they called it And that middle way was colonization, namely convincing as many salve owners to release slaves or buying them and then sending them to Liberia And those particular people were not universally it seems interested in all slaves They were particularly drawn to men of culture and education like Omar was and as Sylviane was talking about other people whom they saw as deserving of manumission because of their culture and literacy >> Dr. Eugene Flanagan: Now part of the record assumes that he converted to Christianity, but the autobiography itself starts with a long quotation chapter from the Koran What’s in play there? Can you tell us a little bit about that? >> Dr. Sylviane Diuof: It’s one of the things that a number of Muslims did, you know, that pseudo-conversion In some countries they were forced And they externally if you will conformed to that And then you know, they actually remained Muslims And we have several examples of that in Brazil, in Jamaica, in Trinidad And when you read these particular autobiographies, you see how opaque if you will it is, how contradictory And if he had been truly converted as a Christian, there wouldn’t have been I think this need to kind of say one thing from one side of his mouth and another from the other It’s confusing and Ala, of course, you’re very well placed to dig into that But again, if he had been a true Christian, there wouldn’t have been the need to be that opaque, that complicated, that unclear >> Dr. Eugene Flanagan: And Adam, the autobiography was written in 1831 And I’ll switch us here in other ways Can you speak to the context of that particular year and the years surrounding it and whether there’s a coincidence in play or they’re connected >> Dr. Aldam Rothman: 1831 was an auspicious year in American slavery, the year of Nat Turner’s insurrection and the publication of Nat Turner’s alleged confessions It’s really interesting I think to compare these two biographies, the one ostensibly

of Turner written by a white lawyer who had interviewed him in jail which represents Turner as a kind of prophet or religious fanatic, depending on your perspective So that’s one thing that’s happening in 1831 And on one hand Turner’s insurrection of course causes widespread panic across the south about the possibility of slave insurrection and provokes a kind of backlash, a crackdown against slaves and free people of color across the south So you have that going on At the same time you have Omar Ibn Said writing his own autobiography which represents a totally different kind of textual presence or representation of the life of an enslaved person And I think there’s no direct connection between those two events, but I do think that by the time that Omar writes this autobiography, he’s already become a kind of minor celebrity Especially in the colonization circles that Ala mentioned So the colonizationists do represent this kind of middle ground or third way between abolitionism and pro-slavery And they’re trying to cultivate a different way of thinking about slavery and its demise and also a different relationship between the United States and Africa So there’s a kind of broad pivot between Africa as a reservoir of labor through the slave trade And in the 19th century, Africa as kind of an object of salvation and civilization This is what the missionaries are up to And they see Omar Ibn Said as this cultured, literate African who in their minds had converted to Christianity And they see in him a model for all of Africa And I think that’s one of the reasons why they illicit this autobiography and he’s described in various colonization — there are articles about him in colonizationist publications where he really represents this possibility of civilizing Africa So I think to put Omar Ibn Said’s autobiography in conversation with Turner’s confessions is to show a wide range of both the positions of enslaved people in America in the early 1830’s, but also the variety of white responses to the problem of slavery >> Dr. Eugene Flanagan: And we should encourage everybody, if they’re going to read one autobiography this year, it should be his, right? Because it’s actually quite short as well, which is handy So do we know details of his life between 1831 and his death in 1863? Perhaps we could sort of sketch that out briefly? >> Dr. Sylviane Diuof: Well, after he was bought by Owen who was a brother of the governor of North Carolina, he was said to have been put to kind of light work regime, gardening and that kind of things The thing also is that there’s no good slavery And the fact also is that he died enslaved And there was no good reason for that I mean, no good reason He could have been freed, he could have stayed where he was and continued working or drawing an income He died enslaved So you know, even though by some measure his enslavement was lighter if you will in the sense that he was not punished, he did not have this horrible workload, he was not abused — and that’s what he says But at the same time, in his autobiography he denounces slavery in the way that he says that you know, “I eat what they eat.” I mean, it’s not his exact words, but “I have clothes, I am not naked

I’m not abused.” Meaning that the others are, right? And so in that way he is also denouncing slavery, even as he contrasts the normal lot of enslaved people to his own >> Dr. Ala Alryyes: So regarding his life, there are fascinating contexts that you find when you dig into the research and when you look at known facts and context at an angle So for example, one of my favorite 19th-century African American texts is David Walker’s 1829 Appeal for the Colored Citizens of the World which he modelled on the US Constitution, right, with a preamble and everything It is a really remarkable document inasmuch as he creates a document that is modeled on the supposedly universal Constitution But it speaks to black experience And the appeal by the [inaudible] made him really a hated man in the south They were like Turner of course after the rebellion two years later And I found a letter which was written to precisely Owen, John Owen who was then the governor of South Carolina, the brother of the man in whose house Omar resided for so many years And that letter alerts the governor to the fact that there have been attempts to translate or to actually read that book to the illiterate slaves, right? To the illiterate slaves around where you live And so be on the lookout for that And certainly Omar who never learned English could not have read the appeal in English, but he could have listened to someone reading it, right? Clearly that letter makes the case that there are people going around reading that appeal as Walker himself said when he offered the pamphlet for no cost to people who would read it to your brethren who were illiterate, right, could not read it for themselves So there are these fascinating intersections that remind us again of, as Adam was saying, the historicity of Omar not only in Africa which is to be emphasized but also in America That history speaks broadly and it’s wider and full context are his words placed in the context of his intentions as well as in the other texts that were circulating at that time and the other political acts that were being played The full history of that reprehensible institution >> Dr. Eugene Flanagan: As you said, that full history has sort of a deep fascination but also a deep sadness running through the whole thing Omar dies in 1863 and Adam, I believe you discovered his obituary Is that correct, while you were researching? >> Dr. Aldam Rothman: Yeah Just to add to this connotation about Omar’s life after 1831, I do think bits and pieces of this have come up already But I think it’s important to understand that 1831 autobiography is not the only thing that Omar wrote and that still exists in the archives There’s actually quite an extensive set of — he left a paper trail, is what I’m saying here, in Arabic That extends to the 1850’s So his story archivally speaking is even richer than just his extraordinary 1831 autobiography It’s one of the things that makes him so, so deeply fascinating But I do think that the main fact is that he remains enslaved Unlike so many other African Americans who made their way — not so many, but some other African Americans who made their way from slavery to freedom and then wrote their stories, like Frederick Douglass for instance Omar is unusual because he never made it to freedom Yet we have this archival record of him as a person held in bondage And just the point — I mean, he lived a long life, a really long life More than 90 years But just not quite long enough to make it back to freedom I mean, if he lasts just two more years,

he sees emancipation in North Carolina And then how would the story be different? If he had lived just those two more years and been able to tell us stories of a free person, what would he have said? That’s to me one of the things that’s so sad about this >> Dr. Eugene Flanagan: Ala, did you want to add to that? >> Dr. Ala Alryyes: Maybe later >> Dr. Eugene Flanagan: You each have — I mentioned the obituary You each have sort of a close connection to Omar and to the collection or the autobiography or the more extensive collection Perhaps we can touch on those intersections, each of you in turn Ala, perhaps you can start in terms of what drew you to translating the autobiography, which had been done, what, two or three times and it’s been sort of lost and rediscovered What drew you to it? >> Dr. Ala Alryyes: At first it began at that time to resurrect the words, thinking about the words of someone who is so distinctive and in many ways unique to think about what his words mean to us today, to think about the fuller debate on slavery that those words can entail And that as I said before kind of morphed into — connected with the story of the bigger historical work So there was — I mean, I’m a professor of comparative literature in English and I spend my days thinking about the way in which you interpret words and sentences put together And there is a fascinating sentence by W. E. B. Dubois that as I recall it, “The expression in words of the tragic experience of the negro race is to be found in various places.” And it was fascinating that in addition to the well-known places of the Negro Spirituals or the Slave Narratives, wills in which certainly slaves were left as property from someone I mean, that kind of expression of how they were treated or seen as slaves But their own expressions we see in this autobiography by someone that in a way reorients I think the debates about slave narratives themselves So in a way I was drawn to it first through the words of the man, then trying to think about his agency The fact that he was — that the opacity of his narrative when he opens it for example by a particular surah from the Koran, that seemed to me to be included as kind of a message, a hidden message that his owners had no right over him That the possession and power are all in the hands of God This seemed to kind of go against the narrative of his conversion, right, or his slavery itself And to go back to your question about earlier moments of translation, I mean what is different is that certainly before the overarching assumption about this man and this narrative was that he is essentially a convert to Christianity, right? His culture vindicates the missionary converting, evangelizing aspect of the people who were circulating his work And not necessarily or not at all that it proves the universal or near-universal obviously education of people back in Africa, right? So in a way I began my translation and I began thinking about his words and interpreting them with different assumptions which I think make a difference >> Dr. Eugene Flanagan: Thank you And Adam, in your most recent book, Beyond Freedom’s Reach: A Kidnapping in the Twilight of Slavery — and this is while you were a visiting Kluge scholar here at the Library of Congress carrying out research on African American voices from slavery to freedom during which time you graciously helped us out with some translations in the collections of Omar Can you tell us a little bit more about that?

If you can give a plug to Chronicling America, that would be okay >> Dr. Aldam Rothman: Yeah, like I said at the beginning, I’m really a latecomer to Omar Ibn Said compared to the other scholars sitting up here But I just happened to be sort of in the right place at the right time I was here at the library Kluge Center last semester working on a project of trying to find material in the Manuscript Collections written by African Americans, especially enslaved African Americans in the 19th century I mean, the Manuscript Collections are vast Millions of pages of material But only here and there do you find anything actually written by a person who was enslaved And I wanted to highlight that material So of course, the news that the Omar Ibn Said autobiography had come into the library and that the library was doing a whole project around it was incredibly exciting And then I was doing a series of podcasts about the material that I found in the manuscript division, so we decided to do one on Omar Ibn Said So that should be coming out pretty soon Sylviane is on it and Mary Jane as well And for those of you who like podcasts, be on the lookout for that But that’s also part of a broader I think goal which is to find new ways of telling stories about history Finding new ways to bring manuscript materials and archival materials to light You know, as scholars we sort of seem to have a special and privileged access to these materials But something like Omar Ibn Said’s autobiography really ought to be accessible to everyone It’s that important And part of that is digitizing these materials Part of it is translating and transcribing the original documents So my role was really just to take some of the English language documents in the collection, which are really remarkable, and just transcribe them Now many of you in this audience look like you’re of a generation that probably knows how to read cursive [ Laughter ] But some of you may not Reading cursive is actually a dying art And it’s not just reading cursive, but going through some of these 19th century manuscripts, the handwriting is actually difficult to read I happen to have decades now of experience reading 19th century handwriting, so I thought, let’s put those skills to good use I transcribed some of these materials to make them more accessible in the overall digital platform of the project But actually transcribing 19th-century and archival materials, it’s much like how Ala described translating materials from Arabic from English You just get a closer bond to the language and to the artifacts It just stays with you better You sit with it You just ruminate about it And so doing these transcriptions led me to do some of my own research I started noodling around on the Library of Congress’s Chronicling America website which is an incredible database of historical newspapers And doing that led me to this 1863 obituary of Omar Ibn Said in a North Carolina newspaper So how many enslaved people got their obituary written in a newspaper in the 19th century? That’s just a testament of the kind of celebrity of Omar But that was my connection to this project, and it was really — I’ll tell you all a tremendous thrill to get to the library and have an opportunity to work on something as important, significant and tremendous as this >> Dr. Eugene Flanagan: Terrific And Sylviane, your engagement with Omar might be the longest, certainly over 20 years or so >> Dr. Sylviane Diuof: Yes >> Dr. Eugene Flanagan: And you’ve intersected with the collection and the Library of Congress on a couple of occasions over those couple of decades Could you tell us about that and what it all means to you today? >> Dr. Sylviane Diuof: Yeah My encounter with Omar probably started when I decided to write this book on Muslims enslaved in the Americas And I don’t remember exactly when I got this idea I think it was probably ’93, ’94 So I encountered Omar then But at kind of two encounters, if you will, with him I mentioned earlier that he was taken a prisoner of war in 1807

and during this entire [inaudible] coalition And I mean, to me there’s a family connection there Sulaiman Ball whose text I read earlier, and [inaudible] as well as many of the Islamist reformists studied at [inaudible] in Senegal which is a very renowned school which was founded by my ancestor Hami Amachfal in 1603 So I had this particular connection Then while I was writing, I was almost finished When I was writing Servants of Allah, I learned in ’96 that there was this auction in New York of the manuscript plus others So I went there not exactly to buy it, even though I tried to interest somebody who had more money that I did to buy it So I got there and I was looking at the document And you know, this young man came and very affable and sociable, and it’s only that he wanted to buy it and introduce himself, Derrick Beard, Muslim And you know, we started to talk And you know, the price was not that expensive at all And I thought, “Well, he’s there all alone I’m sure a lot of other people are interested as well.” And I was kind of appalled by the fact that nobody bid for that collection He was the only one And I was happy for him, but I thought, “Okay, there’s no museum, there’s no archive, library, university, collectors who are interested in this unique” — because it was not only the manuscript It was other things as well And I thought, “Okay, nobody is interested?” And I was surprised and I was disappointed as well You know, fortunately the interest came after But at least the good thing about the fact that Derrick bought it is that he really exposed it in the sense that he was always willing to lend it to scholars and others To have it read, translated, written about He did something that was in my view very moving As I mentioned, he bought it in 1996 In 1998, he took it to Senegal in order to share it with the people of Senegal, with the scholars and others there And Omar never made it back, but his manuscript did And I thought that was you know, moving and that’s who Derrick was >> Dr. Eugene Flanagan: Thank you I will be opening it up to questions in a minute Any sort of final thoughts before we open it up to questions, Ala? >> Dr. Ala Alryyes: Since there is a large number of young people here, I think one important thing to say, one important advice is learn foreign languages, right? That method of multiculturism in the US, as positive as it is, short-changes the fact that people come with their own culture to this country, and those cultures are encoded in their own languages And often the only access you’ll have to other people’s cultures is

if you take the time to learn languages Not everything comes in English >> Dr. Eugene Flanagan: So before I open it up to questions, please join me in saying thank you to our terrific panel [ Applause ] So questions Yes, sir? >> Hi, Ishmael Royer from the Religious Freedom Institute Thank you This is a fascinating and overlooked topic, all of you And I was wondering if anyone who wanted to could say something about what this collection or more broadly what the collection of materials that’s available from Muslim slaves says about the ability to practice Islam as slaves We know that there was originally under slavery, slaves were not permitted even to be Christians So what did the slave owners and so on, how did they handle their slaves that were Muslims? What did they do to either allow or oppress that? >> Dr. Sylviane Diuof: I can address that You know, there were two different kinds of things, of attitude You had really — I mean, as Muslims were known in the sense that people knew that they were And that’s why you have all these testimonies of journalists and travelers and slaveholders, et cetera Mentioning my so and so is So it was known So you had this attitude, especially in Catholic countries, where they had to convert So the idea was you know, you have to be Christian And so you have all these crypto-Muslims You know, in an overt manner, say that they are Christian or go through the motions and actually remain Muslims Then you also have people who know that the people who are enslaved can read and write And it was mentioned by a number of American scholars at the time, that that created jealousy in slaveholders because they themselves were illiterate So that was kind of an impediment also to learn more about the people they had enslaved You also had in the United States this idea that the Muslims were not Africans, that they were Arabs who had been taken kind of by mistake And that those Muslims, those Arabs, despised the rest of the Africans And you know, so there were sometimes these attempts at putting people one against the other So you had kind of a multiplicity of attitudes concerning them But we also find for example in the islands of Georgia, people who had been enslaved and had been freed were interviewed in the 1930’s and who described their parents and their grandparents praying several times a day, having prayer beads, having turbans So we know that they continued on the plantations to actually pray So you know, again we have all those different attitudes The thing is that Islam did not — I mean, Islam as brought by the West Africans did not really continue even in countries like Brazil where you had really established communities So that’s what I — >> Dr. Eugene Flanagan: Thank you for the question Any other questions? Here >> This side, please Just a couple questions One is, what do you know about Omar Ibn Said’s descendants

and relatives in Senegal? And for that matter, what do you know about his family in North Carolina? Does he have descendants that we know about? And two, what do you know about the provenance of the documents from Omar Ibn Said to Derrick Beard? How did Derrick Beard acquire the documents? >> Dr. Ala Alryyes: The provenance of the sale? How it came to Mr. Beard? >> How it came to Mr. Beard, yeah >> Dr. Ala Alryyes: There is a well-documented provenance because the title page as I was mentioning, which is written in English, describes exactly the way — it says written by Omar and then given by another slave and then translated ultimately by a man called Theodore Dwight Dwight was a member of the American Ethnological Society And he sends the manuscript to another man, Isaac Byrd who then has another — there’s a letter actually in the Theodore Dwight collection that has been acquired by the Library of Congress as well within that rich collection, in which you see Isaac Byrd responding to Theodore Dwight There is a conversation between them about a number of manuscripts that have been sent to Isaac Byrd for translating Isaac Byrd in later life goes to Hartford, Connecticut and opens a school, right, a private school I mean, he has been a linguist in the Middle East for many years and he ends his life as a principle in Hartford But he is well-known and that manuscript gets sent to him And he has it, and then it ends up with I think the secretary of the American Numismatic Society or something We know that as well And then the manuscript I think ends up in his family kind of hidden in an attic And then finally it comes out and ends up at the gallery at that auction that Slyviane has introduced So there’s actually a well-known record of it, quite a remarkable one As to your first question, Omar never married or sired children in the US I mean, he remained a lonely man, a lonely presence for whatever reason I mean, maybe he didn’t want his children to be sold into slavery, right? I mean, maybe he saw what happened in Charleston where he spent two years and saw the way families were treated, that they were not respected as families at all And so in a sense, I think that he never had children He never had a progeny in the US >> Dr. Aldam Rothman: I just want to add one thing to the question of the provenance of the autobiography One of the moments where the autobiography reappears is in the early 20th century when a scholar named J. Franklin Jameson somehow gets his hand on it and actually translates it and publishes it in the American Historical Review Which is the leading journal for American historians So this is a document that’s been discussed by historians for 100 years and then has a much longer history than that But Jameson, the man who translated and published this, then went on to become the chief of the Manuscripts Division here at the Library of Congress So there is a long Library of Congress connection to this document >> Dr. Eugene Flanagan: So we have a question over here >> Yes. I’m Angela Pashane I’m a PhD student at Howard University Thank you so much for your contributions It’s just beyond beyond Two questions One, will the manuscript ever be printed and bound for students to be able to read and to be able to have a course with the book? And two, I’m thinking about the writings of Charles Meals in The Racial Contract And I’m wondering how you posit the importance of both of those writings together And I know they’re completely different I know they’re from completely different eras But if you’re familiar with The Racial Contract and the importance of that piece as compared to Omar Ibn Said >> Dr. Ala Alryyes: So I’ll speak to the first question which is the manuscript is now available on the website of the Library of Congress itself of course in its full glory But it’s also available in translation in my book I hate to — since you were asking that question, I can take this occasion to disavow plugging my book, right? >> Dr. Aldam Rothman: I’ll plug it for you >> Dr. Eugene Flanagan: Yeah Is this the book that’s for sale outside at the break? Is that the book we’re talking about? >> Dr. Ala Alryyes: Did I say that? But yes, available online We also have facsimile editions for on-site research

So that’s one of the exciting things about this theme throughout It’s been available, studied on and off for quite a long time And now it’s readily available to schools everywhere, high schools to colleges, to book clubs, to churches You just go on, as long as you have a computer and an internet connection, it’s there for you So that’s a very exciting aspect of all of this Did we answer this? Was there a second part to the question? [ Inaudible ] >> Dr. Aldam Rothman: So I actually cannot answer that question >> That’s fine >> Dr. Aldam Rothman: But I do think that it is an exciting opportunity to have this source available to enter into all sorts of scholarly conversations about race and slavery in American history, about archival power, about religion and power There are so many conversations that this particular document and set of documents speaks to And that’s one of the reasons why it’s so exciting to have this material so readily and generally available up on the website So scholars can talk about it, students can talk about it on every level Just to give you one example, I’m teaching an Atlantic history class this semester at Georgetown And every week students have to post an artifact to a map about Atlantic history And then completely unprovoked by me, two weeks ago one of the students used the Omar Ibn Said autobiography for the map Like the day after I think it came online So it’s out there, it’s being used and it can enter into every conversation that we can have about these issues >> Dr. Eugene Flanagan: Terrific I believe we have a question over here >> [Inaudible] I am a [inaudible] I am from the Muslim Institute I am in the process of writing a history of Muslims of America going back to Dr. Leo Winer My question is this Arabic manuscript of our elder Omar Said Is it in the Fusa Arabic or local Arabic? And do we find the names of his teachers? >> Dr. Ala Alryyes: He does mention the name of his teachers and he actually refers to their names and he refers to one of them as his own brother One thing that we need to remember about Omar, and this is really critically important about him and about someone else who was also a friend of his and someone whose title on the title page is that these men’s native languages were not Arabic, right? These men were Africans and they spoke — that’s right, they spoke local languages So they have their own obviously mother tongue Arabic was the language of scholarship and literacy in the same way shall we say that Latin was the language of scholarship in Europe for a very long time, right? And so that’s one thing that needs to be I think mentioned at this time and I think fits into your question The other thing is about the level of the register of Arabic And yes, the register is [inaudible], right? The register is Ahi It’s not a demotic It’s not a local dialect It’s really a Fusa, formal Arabic >> Dr. Eugene Flanagan: Thanks Oh, sorry, Adam Please >> Dr. Aldam Rothman: At the beginning of the autobiography, Omar Said apologizes for the quality of the writing because he says he’s basically forgotten Arabic and his own language So there’s just this hint of loss there He may be being overly modest >> 24 years >> Dr. Aldam Rothman: There is that >> Dr. Sylviane Diuof: I would just add that for example in the other autobiography that I mentioned from [inaudible] who said actually that he was a descendant of the prophet He also gives a long list of his teachers And there are documents in other parts of the Americas written in different types of Arabic, in Ajami as well And you know, it’s interesting I think that to translate is one thing To interpret is another

And there’s really a lot of work that needs to be done on all those documents that exist because sometimes they’ve been translated years ago, decades ago, by people who spoke Arabic but not necessarily the Arabic that was used in West Africa And also the interpretation of those Because you know, there are quite a few old documents and those need to be interpreted by people who can do that And it’s not necessarily scholars who can do that, but [inaudible], Imams, et cetera >> Dr. Eugene Flanagan: This is great I saw three hands We’re going to start here >> Dr. Sylviane Diuof: Yeah I think here, this gentleman has been — >> First of all, thank you to all three of you >> Dr. Eugene Flanagan: Hold on, we actually haven’t teed up yet Yeah >> Okay. Thank you Maybe this question requires a little bit of speculation but I would pose it to Dr. Diuof In these days where people are doing things like Finding Your Roots which is one of my favorite programs, have you found in your research that there are any families that have returned to their practice of Islam after discovering that their predecessor was a Muslim? Or that were actually practicing Islam without the knowledge that their predecessor was a Muslim? >> Dr. Sylviane Diuof: I think there are probably both of those The thing is that what we’ve seen a few years ago is that people whose DNA was for example said to be — because I have my reservation about that — said to be Fulbe or Olsa So people who are mostly Muslims, then you know, some of the people actually became Muslims, or Muslims today have their DNA traced to check if their ancestors were Muslims as well So it’s kind of — now you know, again this is kind of — those are situations that are a little iffy if you will And religion, I don’t know if biology can give you any kind of way of becoming Muslims I mean, to me it’s all complicated >> Dr. Eugene Flanagan: So we have a question over here >> Dr. Sylviane Diuof: Yes To the distinguished panel and to the distinguished people here My name is B. M. Shakeer I’m from Fayetteville, North Carolina There in Fayetteville, North Carolina when Omar Ibn Said came there and went to the jail, he wrote the Arabic on the wall We have the church there, the First Presbyterian Church Where in the history of the First Presbyterian Church, they have Omar annotated, but they refer to him as Uncle Moran And as to the question that was earlier discussed, whether he accepted Christianity or not, we find that he did not convert to Christianity As one of the scholars said, based on the circumstances and the situation he found himself in, he did many things in order to adapt The same way that from our ancestors when they went down by the river, maybe they sung a song, it was coded language in order to adapt Now I just want to mention one thing The young lady was asking a question about if any of the predecessors converted or accepted Al Islam or became Muslims You know, the late Dr. Sierra Lincoln who was a theologian there at the Duke University, he said there is something in the African American make up, he called it the Islamic genetic memory The Islamic genetic memory, that somewhere in some place and time in our families, that gene or that genetic memory is going to awaken in us Now in my family, I’m the only one that accepted I heard the call and I accepted Al Islam in 1973 Now we also have built two edifices in Fayetteville, North Carolina honoring our great ancestor Omar Ibn Said

We built two masjids or houses of worship This gentleman here, under his leadership we built the first one as indigenous Muslims in North Carolina We structured Omar Ibn Said Then when the highway department came through and declared imminent domain, well, we took that money and we built another masjid Plus we have a marker in North Carolina that recognized Omar Ibn Said that was issued by the state of North Carolina And these are very important things because Omar Ibn Said is all of us Everyone sitting in this room is Omar Ibn Said What I like about your presentation is first you talked about him as a human being He was a human being You talked about his identity Then you also emphasized his intellectual enlightenment If you don’t know, Omar was very influential in bringing public education to North Carolina through his legislation And we thank you very much for allowing us to be here at this great, great program honoring a great, great human being, Omar Ibn Said [ Applause ] >> Dr. Eugene Flanagan: Thank you for that We might have time for one, maybe two more questions We have one here >> I’ll be very quick Thank you, everyone for a wonderful talk The question is linguistics-related I’m curious, what forms of material potentially are lest in the various forms of Arabic? The Ajami was brought up just a second ago and Fusa, what have you As well as languages written in Arabic script or just other African languages I’m curious what all we have regardless of religion So I would be curious to see what’s there Thank you >> Dr. Sylviane Diuof: I think that in the United States, I mean, there are not many manuscripts that have been found But in other countries you have Ousa written in Arabic script I think it’s in Trinidad, there’s Uroba, written in Arabic script You know, and again, the [inaudible] is not enormous and other things may be found But you know, you also have people really who actually from — I mean it’s not me who said that, because I’m not capable of knowing that But people whose knowledge of Arabic was actually much better than Omar’s And who also quote a number of books that they had read before they were enslaved And so you see really kind of an elite of scholars, people who have attained a high level of scholarship And we find that in Brazil and in some other countries as well Now when there was just very briefly this mention of conversion in Jamaica, there is a case for example of a man, a Muslim, who converted And what that gave him was access to paper, to notebooks And in one of them he wrote a 50-page treatise on how to remain a good Muslim, these kind of things, and how to preserve the community You has missionaries also who gave Bibles in Arabic to Muslims And that was for them — you know, that was great because you could read Omar also had — some also received Korans And in Brazil actually the Muslims organized themselves to have Korans in Arabic imported from France And people who were enslaved bought the Korans by installments, taking years sometimes to actually buy them And then the organized networks from Rio to Bia

to send those Korans to other Muslims >> Dr. Eugene Flanagan: So I see more hands up, but unfortunately we’ve come to the end of our time And I’ve been handed a note that appears to be in Arabic itself, Mary Jane But I will — so a couple of things One, we’ll be taking a break in a minute There will be lunch at the back And also then at 12:30 we’ll be showing a couple of videos I believe, one from the Library of Congress itself and one from our high school participants that are here today with us So before we reconvene, again I want to — I would appreciate you joining me in thanking our terrific panel and a wonderful conversation [ Applause ] >> Leanne Potter: I’m Leanne Potter and I direct the new Office of Learning and Engagement in the Library’s new Center for Learning, Literacy and Engagement here at the Library of Congress A bit of background I want to talk with you a little bit about how students got involved with the Omar Ibn Said collection and how these students got involved with creating the documentary films that you’re going to have a chance to see in just a minute So this past fall, colleagues from around the library gathered to talk about this acquisition And in the course of those conversations, we spoke about how the library would not only make the collection available, but also provide opportunities for lots of promotion We talked about articles that would be written We talked about the texts that would appear on the website We talked about tweets and so on And in the course of that conversation, we also talked about how might we get young student voices involved in the conversation? And I was really thrilled that my colleagues were as energetic at the possibility of introducing students to the collection even before it became available online This is very new for us The library hasn’t done anything quite like this before, and so in just a minute, you guys are going to see the results of us trying something new And I hope you’ll be as excited about it as we are We reached out to two local teachers, George Mayo who’s over there getting his lunch, who is at Montgomery Blaire High School in Silver Spring Maryland And we reached out to Michelle Santos who’s over here eating her lunch, who roped in her colleague John Simms at Richard Wright Public Charter School for Journalism and Media Arts here in the District I like that you guys have moved because now we’re getting voices around the room This is good And I sent them an email And in this initial email that I wrote to them, I shared some information about the Omar Ibn Said collection and the library’s plan for it And asked if they thought that they had some students who might be interested in working with us to create some related documentaries I am very happy to report that they said yes and we’re very intrigued with possibilities So thank you George and Michelle and John for that Since that initial email at the very end of October, 13 students from the two schools have been conducting original research In fact, I just told both groups that they probably — no offense, folks — know more about Omar Ibn Said and his collection than at least half the people in this room These kids have been doing their homework Not only have they been doing research They have also been collecting footage here at the library They have been learning more about copyright They have been conducting interviews They have been drafting narratives and more in order to create the two documentary films that we’re excited to share with you momentarily I really need to emphasize that this was a pilot effort on our side, but absolutely not a pilot effort on their side This one required buy-in here at the library and support from extraordinary colleagues across the Library of Congress So I really want to send a little shout-out and thank you to my colleagues in the Africa and Middle East division as well as the Communications Office, my colleagues in our digitization lab, my colleagues in the conservation lab Our colleagues in the acquisitions division as well as my team in the Learning and Innovation Office

A project like this does not just happen It happens when folks are willing and able to work together and make it happen So thank you all for that It also required amazing coordination and thank goodness for Colina Black who’s right there pretending to be mild-mannered She did an exceptional job serving as this pilot project’s manager Her enthusiasm and her organizational skills coupled with her graciousness and tact were absolutely vital to pull this one off So thank you, Colina Now on with our show [ Music ] >> You asked me to write my life I cannot write my life, for I have forgotten much of my talk as well as the talk of the Arabs Oh, brother, in the name of Allah, I ask you not to blame me, for my eye is weak as well as my body >> Omar Ibn Said was a famous and scholarly African American Muslim who came here in the early 1800s Omar Ibn Said’s manuscript shows that he was a scholar, he was a world’s traveler before he was even captured and enslaved >> It is the only known, existing manuscript in Arabic written by a slave And it’s written by a man who is still a slave He arrived when he was 37 He died when he was over 80 Over a period of 40 years, he knew English In Arabic he knew that nobody could understand what he said, and therefore he could be more truthful if he wanted, less fearful >> That fact that these materials are written in Arabic sort of changes what we believe we know about American slavery and about those individuals who were enslaved in America In a typical classroom, when students are introduced to American slavery, there is a section in their textbook And that section in their textbook may or may not introduce many details about specific individuals So I think part of what this collection does is it lends an original voice that we’ve never heard before to a story that we thought we knew >> It opens a window into 200 years ago What was West Africa like? Who were the people who were on that continent? So we begin asking new questions The questions about the lives of those slaves before they became slaves [ Music ] >> My name is Omar Ibn Said, my birthplace Futa between the two rivers >> He was born in an area which was between two rivers, probably what is Senegal today And there he grows up and he studies So he says, “I spent 26 years studying.” And you say, “Okay, what was he studying?” He doesn’t elaborate One has to assume that he went beyond reading and writing to doing much more >> Then there came to our country a big army It killed many people It took me and brought me to the big sea and sold me in the hand of a Christian man >> There was tribal warfare in the region And he is caught And then he is sold into slavery He is sold to merchants who were buying slaves And he is then put on a ship and he sails for six weeks [ Music ] >> He also talked about his experience when he was riding to, making it into a place he called Charles-Town, and being badgered and misused and abused To the point that he had to escape >> So they captured him and they put him in jail And so he stays there and he is alone and in a room and he begins writing on the wall He begins writing And he writes in Arabic because that’s the language he knew He could not understand what people were saying around him >> And they were curious about this guy that wrote this writing They thought that Africans had no culture nor history, couldn’t read and write Omar Ibn Said dispels that He could read, he could write and he was very scholarly

>> One Friday, a man came and opened the door of the jail and I saw many men The language was Christian They called to me “Is your name not Omar? Is it not Said?” I did not understand the Christian language >> He refers to them as the Owens, and they are — one of them turns out to be the governor of North Carolina And he takes him in and then he says that they were good men who believed in God, who had a Bible and who read to him the Bible >> Anywhere from 25-28% of the population that was brought here were Muslims The same prophets that we find in the Koran we find in the Bible So they were able to intertwine, interrelate those experiences >> But when he writes his biography, he begins with a verse from the Koran And the verse from the Koran is again a very interesting choice It is the verse which refers to domination, which refers to ownership And in Islam, all ownership belongs to God God is the only owner It can be understood as a criticism of the whole institution of slavery He does this in a subtle way of saying, “You really have no right to own another human being.” >> They robbed the culture They robbed the identity They disconnected them from family There was no connection >> I reside in a country because of the great harm The infidels took me unjustly and sold me >> It’s one of those stories that will always be relevant Today around the world there are tens of millions of people who are enslaved So Omar Ibn Said humanizes the experience of a person in his own words [ Music ] >> This is a voice we had never heard before And these materials have been out there What other materials exist? What other stories can we help uncover? And how can those stories together help us better understand an episode of our nation’s past that maybe we don’t understand as thoroughly as we ought to? >> There’s a lot of insight that can be pulled out of it if people take it not with bigotry in their heart or arrogance in their heart, but to look for the insight You see concrete, grass come up out of concrete or trees grow by the concrete So out of the concrete of enslavement we found positive Muslim personalities rising up Things will get better, things will be better And that’s what he represents: hope, that things will get better [ Music ] >> The manuscript of Omar Ibn Said signifies the spread of knowledge about the African Muslim community, specifically as it relates to the American slave trade, religion and race relations The other aspect of the library’s collection is the African Islamic Manuscript Collection, a series containing such documents as the visionary religious Arabic manuscripts of Sheik Son-Asi, a mystical account of the creation of the world and of mankind by Mohammed Dakar And various translations of the Omar Ibn Said narrative The attainment and dissemination of all of these required years of correspondence between significant missionaries, ethnographers, historians and scholarly specialists At the core of this company was Theodore Dwight, a New Yorker, abolitionist and founding member of the American Ethnological Society who campaigned for a better understanding and appreciation of African Islamic culture >> He was interested in introducing African culture to this country so people will understand better you know, the backgrounds of the African people and not just seeing them as slaves So he collected a number of important manuscripts written by the slaves of his time And through the help of various people including two presidents of Liberia So you know, therefore we have now a collection of 42 items And each one is unique in its own way >> Long before each of Dwight’s pieces could find a permanent place in the archives, the individual documents passed

through dozens of hands An extensive and interconnected chain of acquisition brought the collection to its current home Beginning with Theodore Dwight, the manuscripts first went to David Bliss, a noted missionary, founder of the prestigious American University of Beirut and fellow founding member of AES Shortly after the documents were returned to Dwight, they passed through the offices of the first and second presidents of Liberia, Joseph Jenkins Roberts and Stephen Allen Benson, respectively After the documents were given back once again, they were studied by numismatist Helen Wood, likely from his home state of Massachusetts The collection was then given to Dr. F. M. Musa and Isaac Byrd in order to be translated from Arabic into English After quite a number of years with them, the papers went to accomplished historian John Franklin Jameson in Washington, DC The last known individual to have the Omar Ibn Said manuscript was Derrick Beard, a philanthropist and art collector based in California This process of analyzing, translating and simply appreciating the collection created a comprehensive web of people all dedicated to scholarly integrity and sharing knowledge Finally, in 2002 the full collection began its journey to the library >> The original owner Derrick Beard was an art collector And he first displayed the Omar Ibn Said manuscript here at the library in 2002 at a symposium So when the materials were made available at Sotheby’s, the library decided to acquire them and use library funding to acquire those manuscripts in 2017 [ Music ] >> When broken down, the library’s basic acquisition process is really only five steps Identification, approval and funding, exchange in partnerships, copyright deposit and purchase But it’s not actually so straightforward >> It sounds like a very simple thing to say, but this is actually a very, pretty big project involving a lot of different offices collaborating together over a period of time in order to achieve that goal of eventually presenting the collection online to the general public, to anyone who is interested in looking at it >> While, the mechanism and infrastructure for how we make it happen may have changed, the purpose behind it is the same Building the collection, building up a relationship, and you do that through communication And that communication improves with each generation and technology improvements >> The library is a research institution, meaning like we have you know, millions and millions of materials that are available for scholars But we also have these materials for education purposes So teachers will be able to come in and use the Omar Ibn Said collection for their classroom They can use this collection, design a history class Scholars can come in, look at these materials from a different perspective and write their scholarly papers or publications And the general public can come and just look at the collection and just simply learn more about the history of this country, about slavery Yeah, so you know, definitely the collection is of great value to our people, not just now It’s also important for generations to come >> So what has happened is this is just one set of documents that’s added to that rich research field we wanted to explore And it also helps establish boundaries, or it helps break down boundaries among those disciplines to say that they really are not that separate They all begin to meld And the beauty of having access to a broad array of content is that it allows the research of a scholar, the student, to be able to pull these pieces together, see how they do over them, how they intertwine, how they meld and how there is likely no real strong demarcation among all of these disciplines >> You have to think about it Theodore Dwight did not put an emphasis on this manuscript If he did not correspond with others,

this manuscript may not have survived It was his effort to retain, to keep this manuscript, to bring in other scholars to write about, to translate, to communicate and to retain this collection That made it possible for the manuscript in a way to survive And so as you see there are the creators, the one who has actually written the manuscript, Omar Ibn Said And then there are the enablers who enable those materials to be made public And the Library of Congress is doing the same thing by creating a website making these materials available We enable the learning process about the society, about Omar Ibn Said [ Music ] >> Before an artifact can go on display, it must go through a lengthy conservation process that ensures the artifacts can be enjoyed for generations to come Before anything can happen, the departments involved in preservation and presentation get together and decide which artifacts are the top of their priorities and how feasible each project is After an artifact is given the green light, it heads to conservation where it undergoes intense inspection and repair Shelly Smith, head of book conservation at the Library of Congress, and Sylvia Albro, senior paper conservator, talk to us about the conservation process >> Broadly, we treat the collections of the Library of Congress We make sure that they are well cared for, that they are stored and housed properly, that they can be accessed and used by researchers and scholars and visitors >> The conservators told us about how they get to interact with artifacts in unique ways in order to learn more about the historical context of the documents >> Well, I think that items have layers and stories to tell And there’s their immediate appearance, there’s what’s written in the text in the case of a manuscript But there’s also what it’s composed of, how it was designed, how it was put together It all means something And so you can tell a different story with the technical information than necessarily what’s written in the text >> Looking at the Omar Ibn Said documents, the conservators were able to analyze the paper that allowed them to make predictions about the origins of the document The original autobiography was written with iron gall ink This ink is known for its rich color and durability It’s created by a chemical reaction between tanic acid and iron sulfate This causes the tanic acid to produce a dark color when exposed to oxygen Tanic acid is found in galls which are growths on an oak tree in response to parasites To extract the acid, the galls are crushed, boiled or chemically fermented using mold The fermentation method will result in the blackest ink but takes the longest Because of the acidic nature, the ink is known to be fairly corrosive over time and prone to color changes The conservators found the ink had not corroded much of the paper so it was likely of a very high quality >> We try as much as possible in conservation to be sure that what we do doesn’t unalterably change something But sometimes it is necessary to attempt a treatment procedure that has the potential — there’s always a chance that something unexpected could happen And it involves affair amount of guts to be able to go through and say test and test and test but then put a piece of paper in a bath of water You just have to jump in >> The conservators have to be very careful when interacting with the documents They made it clear that their purpose is to make the documents as accessible as possible while maintaining its integrity After conservation has finished their work on the artifacts, they are sent to the digitization lab where they are photographed and prepared to be put online >> We are responsible for digitizing items from the Cultural Heritage Collections to make them available online so that people around the world can see them >> The lab has a variety of equipment in order to present the artifacts with the best lighting and most accurate quality available Their equipment ensures that the files accessible online are accurate in replicating what the documents may be like in person >> New color checker, because our job is to capture items at true to color form Color accuracy is very important So each color swatch here has an end point which is a number value that we try to set up the camera toward

>> Similar to conservation, the lab has to be very careful not to damage any documents, so they use special machinery to handle them and get the best picture possible This is the rare book modulator that has a scanner which holds pages flat, pressed against the glass But the table underneath the glass moves in such a precise manner that the glass is able to apply little to no pressure on the book itself, reducing any damage >> The Omar Ibn Said documents were so old that the digitization process had to take place inside the conservation lab to avoid any damage The library works to ensure that all artifacts remain intact so that they’re accessible to scholars and the general public >> A lot of scholars and researchers, a lot can’t come here to the library And we have a lot of things here, one of a kind things that given — sometimes the fragility of an item determines whether it can be served to the public or not >> After digitization, the artifacts are posted online for scholars and the general public to view The library uses a technique called metadata to attach keywords to various artifacts so that anyone can search for a topic on the library’s website >> Some of the things that we’ve handled in the past are top treasure items here at the library, such as documents like in the US, for example Which would entail the rough draft of the Declaration of Independence, Gettysburg address and so on >> To bring out something that’s so iconic and see people’s reaction to it and see them interact with history And there’s something that’s so immediate and intimate about a person seeing a document that is so much a part of our American life >> No matter whether it’s the Declaration of Independence or the Omar Ibn Said manuscripts, the Library of Congress is filled with artifacts which are each a piece in the puzzle of America’s rich history Today you saw an inside look at the process through which these artifacts are preserved for scholars, researchers and the general public for generations to come [ Music ] [ Music ] >> Omar Ibn Said was a wealthy Islamic scholar who was born and educated in an African region then called Utatolo He was born in the late 1700’s and received 25 years of schooling in Africa He studied in Bundu under his brother Sheik Mohammed Said Said was mostly known for his Arabic autobiography Despite his inability to speak English, his autobiography describes how he was captured by a great army and placed on a great ship headed to Charleston, South Carolina Almost half of all enslaved Africans were brought to Charleston before being sold Said managed to escape his cruel master and fled to Fayetteville, North Carolina where he was recaptured and sent to a prison camp Omar Ibn Said was discovered and eventually taken into the household of Jim Owen and John Owen who was the governor of North Carolina at that time He remained with the Owens until his death in 1854 He became the first known slave to write an autobiography in Arabic in the US His manuscripts show a long tradition of written culture in Africa at that time They also provide a tremendous tool for research on Africa

in the 18th and 19th century >> We wanted to know what the process was coming from Muslim countries to America When did it start? And the earliest we could trace it back to was from Africa It was Muslims from Africa who came who were the first Muslims in America And so we invited different professors to cover this conference on Muslims in America And so we had Sylviane Diuof from Senegal who came She’s actually one of the writers in this book We had Derrick Beard who came and say a few words, and I love him And then we had professors from Asia, Pakistan, who talked about the Asian migration We had professors from the Middle East We spoke about Muslims from the Middle East coming But the earliest were from Africa and Derrick Beard was a collector He was not a scholar, but a collector And he owned the manuscript of Omar Ibn Said He was the owner And he said he had found it, he had purchased it and it was in his collection, his family’s collection And that was 2002 And when he talked about it and he displayed it for all the people who had come to the conference, he said, “It should be here at the Library of Congress It should be part of the library’s collections.” And we all said, “Yes, of course it should be.” But at that point he was not selling and we were not buying But that’s how we found out it existed >> It provided historical information and cultural information about the existence of Africans who came here enslaved And they were Muslims You don’t really hear much, at least I didn’t when I was growing up, about the Muslim contributions in the United States We’re still learning more about Omar Ibn Said because he wrote his own autobiography And when we talk about enslaved Africans here and what they contributed to the United States, you don’t really realize who individuals were And we learned a lot just from this one man, and a little bit about his life in the past But we have other histories that are being researched and found and we get more information And I thought that was very important >> In 2017, Derrick Beard, the previous owner of the manuscripts, reached out to the Library of Congress to inform them of his declining health He also informed them of his willingness to sell his Oma Ibn Collection to the well-known auction house Sotheby’s located in London, England >> All these materials were in fact in England And so they were then shipped to us here in a big, big crate I mean, it was a huge crate of wood with metal all wrapped up And we had screws on the box And it arrived to great fanfare to Washington and we took one of the major rooms here next to us in Rare Books which is a beautiful room And everybody gathered, 25 chiefs, directors, important people from around the library Everybody came and we started unscrewing the box And people were taking turns and they were taking photographs and so on And this is how it arrived >> Before the library acquired these manuscripts, Derrick Beard traveled to many places granting various academic institutions, art galleries, museums and even historians an opportunity to examine the documents >> We are called the Library of Congress and of course this is how it started But we are also the National Library of the United States So to have this here means that A, it was purchased

with taxpayers’ dollars It was purchased by Americans It is America money It is not a private collector’s money It is the money coming from our tax dollars that purchased this manuscript And it is available for every American to come and see and to use and to do research >> Mr. Beard granted a Yale professor the permission to make copies of the autobiography and publish a book titled, A Muslim American Slave, the Life of Omar Ibn Said >> In Islam, all ownership belongs to God Only God is an owner No one owns anything We come, we live and then we die We really are not owners But why does he start his biography with [inaudible]? Really, he is telling the people that ownership is God’s It’s not yours You have no right to own and certainly not to own another human being So what I am simply saying here is that Omar Ibn Said’s autobiography opens up a world A world we are looking at, a history which has really not been written yet There is so much that can be discovered from existing manuscripts in Africa, okay? This one was written here However, he comes from a long tradition of those who wrote manuscripts there See? So Senegal has a large collection of manuscripts Mali has a wonderful collection of manuscripts Nigeria is enormously rich with manuscripts And those manuscripts are about everything from medicine to the stars, astronomy and cosmology, to culture, traditions, food, anything you want They need to be preserved So in a way Omar Ibn Said is leading the way and taking us back to West Africa and saying, “I’m bringing you this, but look at what my ancestors did and what they wrote and what they contributed.” And those things need to be preserved as well We need to go back and we need to go to Nigeria, we need to go to Mali, we need to go everywhere And we need to digitize these manuscripts >> You know, it reveals a lot about, like we said earlier, the history and the culture of the two continents which are so far apart and yet they are being brought together by this man And so when we’re looking at history, studying history, American history, we actually also have to look at the rest of the world because we’re all connected So to me that’s the importance of this collection And so I’m very excited to be able to work with all the items and make sure they are properly digitized and make sure they are presented on our website so more people will be able to access them >> In July of 2018, Derrick Beard sadly passed away But with the help of the Library of Congress, they’ve continued to preserve the story of Omar Ibn Said with the help of their conservation team Since the acquisition of these manuscripts, they’ve made a replica of these documents which maintains its authentic texture and appearance >> So we use a device similar to these, but we hand carry a camera to the conservation division and that’s what we have done to do the Omar Said papers They were done on-site in conservation because they couldn’t travel to this building given their fragility and conditions that they were in So as conservation was treating those, they would quickly call us and say, “Hey, we have 10 ready.” We’d go over and shoot them and create the files The handling was done by them on-site and we would set up our camera and shoot right there on the premises So as we had ten documents or maybe 20 ready to go, I’d say within an hour to two hours we were able to capture all of them from front to back And so you have the digitization side, because it’s all instant capture, our newest technology is very, very fast now So the handling of the item could take a lot longer than the actual capturing process [ Inaudible ] And it does in this case What we tried to do is salvage it by getting really good digital files, and later historians or whoever can take those images and work with them on their end using Photoshop to reestablish what the colors might have been So there’s a lot of that that goes on outside of our realm

This is why it’s very important to send them up to a color checker like I showed you Because that ensures that you’re getting the color accuracy in today’s color But it can be recreated based on those numbers that we achieve on those targets The life cycle of our technology runs about ten years So up until ten years ago we were using old limier technology, which doing a newspaper like you just saw would be a pass of about 5-7 minutes per sheet Today it’s two seconds >> Right >> With no compromising quality or anything of that nature >> It can cause endless discussion amongst researchers when someone says, “I think this is in this person’s hand.” And someone may disagree and think that it looks more like another person But when you’ve got a manuscript like this that has the main body of the manuscript but then it clearly has marginality that has been written by someone else, it has pagination that may have been written by someone else, it has a cover that’s been added that has yet another style of hand on it It’s educated guesses based on evidence And the more data points you have, the better So the more examples that you have, the better But mostly it is just a good — absolutely >> In addition to — you see a lot of microscope difference between inks >> Right >> And you can see a lot of UV And we also have infrared photography that we can apply, and that’s very useful if somebody’s tried to make a correction in the script >> Right >> You can usually see a difference in one of those kinds of lighting conditions [ Music ] >> Abolitionist people, they were studying these cultures in West Africa because they became convinced that the only way of stopping the slave trade was having the Muslim cultures intervene So this book is his writing of his meeting of a lot of different people’s journeys into West Africa Think how large that could be So all these different people’s journeys and what they discovered And he comes to a conclusion at the end of his book: the only way that we’re going to be able to really say something meaningful about these cultures is if we learn the language and live there for a substantial period of time >> So my background is in literature and language So I was very interested in the African story about how this is the only known slave narrative that was written by a slave who was in captivity in Arabic So I was very interested in that aspect and the kind of authenticity that went to the manuscript and also the kinds of questions that that raised about others like him, about Arabic speakers who were slave sand their stories So that was one of my access points And I think also just the nuance that it added to my understanding or my learning about American slavery, I think that was also interesting Because I had not heard about him I didn’t know a lot about the history of Muslim slaves in America So I think you know, for me it was good to be exposed to something that I didn’t know anything about And frankly now I really feel like I should learn more And like I said, I’m going back to kind of being proud of the institution, being proud to work here Because I think that it’s wonderful to present another voice and present another example And to really show diverse voices, even diversity within diversity, so to speak So my hope is that bringing this collection forward, that many people who perhaps had never heard of the Library of Congress or had never been to the Library of Congress or had never used it for research will be able to in some ways see themselves here and be able to see that there is a value in history, in their history And will be encouraged to come here or go online

and further their own research, whether that’s, like I said, for their academic projects or even for their personal research So I really hope that they can also see the value in their own stories >> Throughout the process of creating this film, my peers and I gained a wealth of knowledge concerning the Islamic background of many Africans enslaved in America These were human beings who were treated as animals Human beings with their own rich culture, set of beliefs, way of life and families It is our hope that the publishing of this document will help change the perception of Islam’s history in America [ Music ] >> Leanne Potter: All right, so we actually — look at this, we’ve got 15 minutes We can ask questions, you can go to the bathroom You can do whatever you need to do We’re going to get the other panel started in about 15 minutes But I really would love it if you’d stick around, and if you have some questions for our young documentary filmmakers, I hope you’ll take advantage of this chance to talk to them And I really need to give a shout-out to all of my colleagues I had no idea you were extraordinary film talents That was great fun Those of you who were not pictured in the film, look around, chances are good you’re sitting next to somebody who was Really awesome All right So questions? Yeah? Here’s a question, two things >> My question is, have any of your ideas about history changed in the process of doing your work? >> Student: So I can answer that At least for me, I really was able to look at history in a different way You know, usually we learn history through textbook pages, maybe through some films in class, a lot of lectures I would say this is the first time I was able to learn history in this kind of way and really feel like connected to Omar It wasn’t just reading pages I was so passionate about it and it was really interesting to be kind of so involved with the history itself And I feel like we should try to incorporate that more in our classrooms today >> Student: Also, learning such a personal story, it added another layer of depth to what my prior knowledge was about slavery in America Before it was more like you kind of get a list of facts, like various aspects of slavery But rarely did we ever hear a personal story besides maybe Frederick Douglas And so being able to learn and experience hands-on the life of Omar Ibn Said was really impactful >> Leanne Potter: Other questions? Yeah, Jane And actually, Davon, you guys, come on up as well We’ll pull up chairs and pass the mics That was a good question, by the way, wasn’t it? All right Jane >> A practical question which is, are you going to post your videos online so that we can watch them again? >> Student: Yes Yes >> Is that coming up soon or are they already online? >> Student: So our video is on YouTube, correct? >> Student: Yeah >> Okay >> Student: It’s on YouTube under the Blair Network Communications Channel >> All right >> Student: And that’s where our full video is >> Wonderful >> Leanne Potter: We will share that link, definitely >> Student: Yeah And also ours is on Richard Wright PCS on YouTube also >> Leanne Potter: Yes, and we will share those Awesome. All right, another question? >> We have one over here >> Leanne Potter: Oh good Okay >> Yeah >> I just want to give you all a shout-out for a job well done I wanted to ask, what was like the most difficult part in terms of like the production? I know the research was like really, really extensive But in terms of like just putting together the whole entire thing, what was like the most detailed part or the most difficult part for you? >> Student: So filmmaking is an incredibly complicated process So I want to give a shout-out to my sister school too You guys were also incredible >> Student: Thank you >> Student: We know how hard it is to put together a really good film, especially of this length

For us it was just a whole journey of learning about something we had no background knowledge about, Omar Ibn Said I was really surprised to hear a lot of the things I heard, including how there was such a large population of Muslims that were brought to this country I had never heard a voice from that population before And so the hardest part was definitely taking this vast amount of information that we had Thank you so much to everyone at the Library that gave us the opportunity to be exposed to all of that information And to put it together into something that made sense and something that really communicated what we were trying to communicate, and going deeper than just the facts to the message So I don’t know if that’s a specific thing, but that’s kind of my favorite part of filmmaking and the most difficult part >> Leanne Potter: Another question, great >> What was it that initially enticed you all to get involved in this project? >> Student: Oh, well I knew for one that I had never worked on a project almost with an institution rather than about an institution In the past, most of my filmmaking has been about emailing like 20-30 people, hoping that maybe two get back to me And with this it was just given to me I was like, “Oh, we have all these researchers, all these experts here for you to answer your questions.” And I was given the opportunity to explore things Normally I would never think I would have access to the conservation lab, to the digitization lab So I think what really interested me was the ability to have a hands-on experience >> Student: Yeah, same We had the same experience We walked in, they asked us to do a film It was like, “Wow, let’s do it.” Because it was about literally someone that none of us really knew about I had never heard of Omar Ibn Said I had never even heard of him before And just to be at the Library of Congress, the biggest library to learn about Omar Ibn Said was amazing This is the most fun film I’ll be in in my life Because I’m not really a history person, just to dig into the history and make it a film, this is the first time I’ve did it before This is amazing It was a very great experience, definitely for all of us, I can say, we at Richard Wright >> Student: And also to hear an institution like the Library of Congress come to us students and say, “We want you to do something for us,” was kind of like, “Wow What?” We’ve never had someone so prestigious and well-known ask us young people to do something so incredible And we’re not used to that I think a lot of people kind of overlook young people, think that we can’t do amazing things So I like really appreciate that the Library of Congress kind of thought about us and really put their faith in us to make a good product >> Student: Definitely Sorry, go ahead Go ahead >> Student: You go first, go first >> Student: Really? >> Student: Yeah, you’re good >> Student: Is this on? Okay. One thing for me that definitely inspired me to do it — okay, so one, my stepdad is actually Muslim So he teaches me a lot about it, so that made me interested And then with the help of my school I’ll actually be travelling to Africa this summer I’m going to Egypt and Ethiopia And so beyond that and just learning Arabic and going to Africa and having a Muslim stepdad, that was so much around my life that just dealt with that And I was like, “I need to get on this project.” So that’s definitely one of the major things that made me want to get on it So go ahead >> Student: I wanted to add on to what Chauncey said Someone else who had a ton of faith in us was our teacher, Mr. Mayo [ Applause ] I know that I definitely — this was a huge undertaking, very daunting for sure And Mr. Mayo from the beginning has had so much faith in us and has been such an amazing and encouraging teacher That when this opportunity presented itself, we weren’t like scared or nervous We were so incredibly excited So thank you, Mr. Mayo [ Applause ] >> Leanne Potter: Okay, any other questions? >> Just a quick one I’m wondering if you all are familiar with Yaro Mamou who was enslaved in Montgomery County a few years before Omar Ibn Said achieved his freedom and was pretty much an Islamic scholar in the same mold as Omar Ibn Said It might be interesting to do a comparison study >> Student: We’re not familiar with that story, but that sounds really interesting

>> Student: Yeah >> Student: No, I haven’t heard of it either I’ve never heard of this person You know, every day we find out new not only African American but black Africans that pretty much have contributed to history and general black history So there’s a lot of people I’ve never heard about, so I’m willing to do more research on a lot of people But there’s a lot that we don’t know other than Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and the regular normal people We still have a lot more research to do on black history in general So this month at my school we’re working on doing something different than Malcolm X and Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks We’ll do something bigger than that because we need to go deeper There’s more people that actually live in the DNV area, that contributed to black history >> Leanne Potter: Outstanding You guys are just terrific And I need to say first of all, a huge thank you for making this pilot successful from our vantage point Thank you again to all my colleagues who participated in making this work And really you guys need to know that the impact you had on us was really significant because it is so reaffirming when young people see the work that happens here as something that is valuable and important and interesting and exciting I have had more colleagues who have gotten to know you guys in the last few weeks stopping me in the tunnels talking about how great you are And how much fun it’s been for them to work with you, because we need to know that the next generation cares as deeply about this kind of work as we do And so we just feel really good around you So come back any time We have little certificates for you We have them for your teachers too And we decided to call this the Pilot Student Documentary Project celebrating the Omar Ibn Said collection >> Student: Oh, thank you so much [ Applause ] >> Dr. Anchi Hoh: I am Anchi Hoh, program specialist at the African and Middle Eastern Division and also project manager for the Omar Ibn Said collection project I’m delighted to introduce this afternoon’s panel titled The Role of the Library in Acquiring, Preserving, Digitizing, Cataloging and Making Accessible the Omar Ibn Said Collection This morning you have learned about the story of Omar Ibn Said and his biography Now our afternoon panel will tell you part two of the story from the library’s perspective As project manager, in the past nine months I was very excited to work with a group of specialists from the Library’s several offices to preserve, catalog and digitize the Omar Ibn Said collection and to see it eventually mounted to the library’s website for public access Under a very tight deadline, our team was able to work seamlessly and complete the project ahead of schedule So this afternoon you will hear, you have the opportunity to learn firsthand from the library’s conservation, cataloging and digitization specialists who will share their experience working with this amazing Omar Ibn Said collection We have six specialists participating in this panel discussion And I will introduce them briefly They are Sylvia Albro, conservation curator Shelly Smith, head of book conservation section Sam Manivong, digital library specialist Domenico Sergi, supervisory digital imaging specialist Christa Maher, digital project coordinator And Dave Reser, metadata librarian You’ll find the panelists’ bios in the program handouts This panel will be moderated by Beacher Wiggins, director for acquisitions and bibliographic access at the Library Beacher has a long and glorious career at the library Over the past four and a half decades he has been serving in a number of important leadership positions at the library and in professional organizations including the American Library Association, ALA, and the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions, IFLAI He leads major projects such as Leap Frame, an initiative on track to transform the future of librarianship in the digital world He is a recipient of the 2013 ALA Melville-Dewey Medal

for distinguished contribution to library technical services It would be very remissive of me not to point out Beacher’s role in the Omar Ibn Said collection project You learned this morning that Marieta Harper our area specialist in the African section first identified the collection Then it was due to Beacher’s remarkable leadership and great support that enabled the library to acquire the Omar Ibn Said manuscript collection The result is that today his manuscript becomes a part of the library’s permanent collection preserved and made accessible to not only us today, but also to generations to come So before the panel discussions begin, I wanted to just briefly let you know that following this panel discussion we invite you to view the sampling display of the Omar Ibn Said collection in the Rosenwald Room on the second floor of this building across from the Rare Book Reading Room We will guide you there, so not to worry So we will begin the panel with a brief video titled Preserving Omar Ibn Said’s Words: A Slave’s Narrative Produced by Sean Miller, Library of Congress photographer So where’s Sean? Sean is right there Panel discussion will follow Thank you [ Music ] >> Because it speaks of a specific individual His thoughts, his feelings, his story Omar Ibn Said is a scholar in what is today Senegal And he was sold into slavery He ran away and was caught as a runaway slave And in jail he began writing on the walls And that’s when people began wondering who he was, what he was writing This autobiography is the only known autobiography as a slave in Arabic in the United States When he was writing, he knew that his owners could not read it So Arabic is in a way a language in which he could be more truthful, more candid about his real feelings Using the original of course is what every researcher would like to do However, the paper is very brittle, very delicate So it was important to make facsimiles so that people would get a sense of the item and yet not damage it by looking at it And preservation did a fantastic job trying to preserve it and to maintain it so that it can continue existing for generations to come >> So what we’re really hoping to achieve with this documentary that we’re doing, Richard Wright, we hope to really appeal to the younger audience Because we want them to know more about their black history For me it’s amazing because I had never heard of Omar Ibn Said at all So to me it’s just like an amazing experience >> A collection such as this one questions the very principle of enslaving another human being Hopefully it will be a tool of education, of learning, of better understanding others, of understanding the history of Africa as well It is this very personal way of writing and of talking that reaches us It reaches everyone across the 200 years And speaks to people today [ Music ] [ Applause ] >> Beacher Wiggins: Good afternoon, everyone It takes hearing how long — I have one somewhere, don’t I? How long one has been around to hear it voiced openly like that, four and a half decades sounds like a lot And I guess it is But I’ve enjoyed every minute of it I did play a role as the manager for the acquisition process, and most of you have seen and heard about that this morning But I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the division that played the role Usually I manage the division and the division, the chief

and the specialists then do the acquisitions work So I wanted to acknowledge the Alaway Division, the Africa, Latin American and Western European division and in particular one of the acquisitions librarians, Aaron Friet Smith who worked to make this happen Because we get what the library wants and what the specialists tell us is important for filling voids And yes, Marieta did every time she saw me in the hall for the past five years or so, “I’ve got this thing that we have to get.” I’d say, “Okay, let me know and we’ll see if we can find something.” So we’re so happy to be a part of that on the AVA side of the house So now let’s turn to Shelly and Sylvia, and why don’t you tell us some of what you did? And I think you might have something to share with us as you talk >> Shelly Smith: We do Conservation is pretty visual, so we included some photographs to kind of illustrate some of our processes So first of all, I would like to say that this really was just such a big team effort This fabulous team up here and many other team members that are here in the audience Way to go team Good job. So I am the head of the Book Conservation Section and I was asked to oversee and coordinate the preservation and conservation activities that would be required to make the Omar Ibn Said collection available for whatever use, whether that be research or exhibition or other Now luckily, before the collection even arrived, we were able to see a few images of several items in the collection that were from the auction catalog that was produced by Southaby’s, and that’s what you see on the screen right now, are these couple of images that were from Southaby’s This was really helpful to get a very basic understanding of what the scope of this project was We knew it was 42 items, but not having seen any of them, we didn’t know what that would really entail And that’s because conservation can take quite some time from start to finish Especially so many of the activities that we do ideally should happen in sequence and can’t really happen concurrently So to be able to know up front if this was a six-month project or a multi-year project, which is not inconceivable, was of course very helpful So this initial brief view of the collection at least gave us the confidence that the schedule that the library was hoping for, to get this done in approximately 18 months, was possible And if 18 months seems like a long time, just the conservation and preservation parts of this included detailed assessment, documentation, and that includes written and photographic documentation which is a very important part of the conservation process Treatment of course and housing, making the facsimiles, assisting with digitization and being a part of the multiplicity that would all be happening around this project as well So as I mentioned, in an ideal world, a lot of these activities would happen in sequence But because of the timeline, because the library wanted these materials to be available as soon as possible, it meant that a lot of this had to happen concurrently There were a lot of things happening all at the same time So by far I think the most meaningful thing that I did to contribute to the success of this project was that I asked Sylvia Albro, this really talented and qualified conservator, to take care of the assessment and the treatment and the documentation So I’m going to hand it over to Sylvia to talk about those things >> Sylvia Albro: Thank you, Shelly We were definitely a duo And I want to reiterate our thanks to the African and Middle Eastern Division for managing this project and for really the joy of participating in it Because we know that his voice, the voice of Omar Ibn Said, spoke for a lot of people And we all felt very privileged to be part of trying to get that voice out Now I cannot see the screens as well as you can But I will just point out that — I will talk to this screen but I’ll try to say left and right so that people who are watching that screen will know what I’m talking about If we go back to the slide that was right before Shelly, that one, we can see on the right-hand side that was the condition of the manuscript when it came to the conservation lab And after it arrived, of course the African and Middle Eastern Division made sure that all

of the objects arrived from Southaby’s and they also went through them all and labeled them and numbered them So for the whole project we had their titles and their numbers And I also had the opportunity to read the translation and it was so wonderful to meet the author today of the translation And so because before attempting work on any object at the Library of this value, you want to know what you have and what you’re working with And it was important to know what was said I don’t read Arabic But the materials of this project also speak their language And a conservator has to become kind of very familiar with them, sort of intimate with the materials So at the beginning, you can see that there were some damages visible The way that the cover which was put on 20 years after Omar had written the script — 20 years later it was stab-sewn on the side And all of the original paper was breaking where those stitches were And so together with the curators, we looked at the item and we made a plan It was a joint decision that we would take it apart so that it would eventually open fully With the stitching on the side added later like that, the manuscript did not open safely and it cracked all along that fold So Shelly, the book conservator, we moved the stitching And one of the things that we found when we removed the stitching is that actually there was another layer of stitching that held the manuscript through the fold that had been invisible And that was much closer to the execution of the manuscript So we had to take both threads out They both were made of cotton, but they were very different And we saved them of course And later in the project we found that this thread that had been used to sew the cover to the manuscript was the same thread that was found on the translations by Isaac Byrd So it was important to save that and make that connection Whereas the thread that was used to sew through the fold of the manuscript was the same as one that was found on the manuscripts that had been commissioned from Arabic scribes in West Africa So there was a connection with that thread and those manuscripts So let’s go to the next slide And you can see on one of the pages part of the page was missing So we were looking at the ink and the paper We have actually done a lot of work on iron gall ink preservation here at the Library of Congress Some of my colleagues are very expert in this We were beneficiaries of their research And so we looked at the document using ultraviolet light which is a tool You can see what the manuscript looked like on the right under ultraviolet light And that shows us what the deterioration process of the ink is This ink was actually in very good condition And as the students so amply talked about — I won’t go into iron gall ink again, because they gave a very good explanation It turned out to be in really reasonably good condition And the paper was of good quality It’s made of rag which is a cotton-linen mixture It’s a wove paper without a watermark And it’s a machine-made paper We think that it was made in America but we can’t prove that because there’s no watermark or blind stamp on it So it did not require any kind of chemical treatment It simply required repair of the pages We did take extensive photographs so that we can use them to monitor whether the ink deteriorates further in the future There were a few areas in the script that were heavily applied and there it was breaking through the paper So here you see the different steps, the different tools and the different papers used to mend the manuscript There were at least six different kinds I primarily used lightweight Japanese papers that were toned to match the different colors of the paper And two different adhesives Reed starch paste which is a traditional conservation adhesive was used in areas with no ink But where there was mending that was required in inked areas, we used a non-aqueous adhesive applied that all mends are reversible in the future But that will not cause any kind of reaction with the ink And here I’d like to make a comment about a couple of graduate students that helped me on this project

They worked on some of the other items that were in the collection in addition to the Omar Ibn Said And here we see Marie Keita Mora who’s repairing some of the publisher’s scripts that were part of the 41 other items in the collection We also had Mary Elizabeth Watson who’s here, and Grace Walters who also assisted The cover did require a chemical treatment The paper was very different than the text paper It actually had a lot of straw threads in it It was kind of the equivalent of sort of a paper bag quality and it actually had discolored Omar’s text at the front and back pages And it had a very low pH, under four We tried to aim for a neutral pH with paper to be stable for the future The ink was tested thoroughly and it was able to undergo aqueous treatment And we did that with an alkaline water bath, mixed with alcohol And you can see there it’s being immersed And after it came out and it was dried, it was resized with gelatin to help with the future handling stability of this paper Let’s see Oh. Okay, here you can see a picture of before treatment on the left where you can see that some of the pages had separated, and you can see where mending was required And then after treatment on the right And I thought I would show page one of Omar’s script because of course the cover is put on in the English orientation, but the text opens in the opposite direction So that is actually the first page The cover required a little bit of mending on the spine and on the corners and that was also done with a tinted Japanese paper And as I said, we try to do repairs that don’t look like they’re repairs We try to keep the manuscript looking as authentic and original as possible We don’t want our thumbprint to be on there So we hope that it just enables handling without making any alterations to the authenticity And one last thing, imaging can tell you material things about the manuscript that you don’t immediately see in visible light And some of the other manuscripts in this collection are very interesting in terms of what their paper has to say For instance, on the right you can see a blind stamp in one of the papers that was used by the commissioned West African scribes to write their documents, that Theodore Dwight collected And it shows that the paper that he used actually came from Massachusetts So it’s a whole collection of very interesting blind stamps in these 41 documents that are going to make an excellent research project for someone And then what you see on the lower left is another one of the 41 documents in the collection It’s a travel payer, a very beautiful document with Arabic writing in a circle that is a talisman that a traveler would take And that paper happened to have an Italian watermark in it, which is very interesting It’s known that the paper trade was wide from Europe to Africa But here’s an example of the watermark that proves that >> Shelly Smith: And then I’m just going to say a last couple of words about creating the facsimiles for this which was another part of our responsibilities So one of the things that we were doing as the project was going on, as Sylvia was doing the treatment on all the items, as items were finishing treatment, we then worked with our colleagues from the digitization services to in several batches start to digitize those things So that those files could be created so that they could go on to the next step in the process, so that we didn’t wait until the very end for all this to happen So I helped with the safe handling of the material to get them under the camera They resulted in these really fantastic high-resolution images that you can see of course on the library’s webpage But I was able to then manipulate them a little bit into some slightly different images I had to change things a little bit in order to produce the facsimile

Now as far as the facsimile, this isn’t something that we normally do We just in talking with our colleagues in the custodial divisions, we knew that there would be a lot of interest and that people would really want to handle the original manuscript And that it was fragile It had been well handled over its lifetime and we wanted to try to minimize that as much as possible But to make a facsimile to allow researchers to really get the sense of the artifact itself, we thought would be really important And so I had never done this before, but I was optimistic that I could do this And in finding different kinds of handmade paper that were very similar to the original and experimenting with printing methods, I was able to make several copies that will be available both for use in the Africa and Middle Eastern Division and in the Rare Books and Special Collections Division And then finally we house the items and most of those were in — oh sorry, yes Oh, so before and afters, right? So on the left is the original and on the right is the facsimile And on the next one is an opening And then again on the left is the original and on the right is the facsimile Trying to keep the sense of the original with the facsimile as much as possible We housed all 42 of the items Most of them were in acid-free paper folders that our conservation staff member Mary Elizabeth Watson constructed two fantastic custom-made cloth-covered clamshell boxes for both the main manuscript and for one of the facsimiles There, finally [ Laughter ] >> Beacher Wiggins: All right You may have covered some of this, but as all of us know, the reason that we collect any of this content is to share it and have researchers have access to it So a couple of questions, and you hit on some of this The first one is, are there any observations that either of you have in terms of how what you did affect a researcher in looking at and accessing this? I picked up some of that as you were talking But in case you wanted to highlight any of that? >> Sylvia Albro: Well, as I said, there is material evidence that can contribute to the story And if we in any way can document that and include that with the collection so that when scholars come to look at it, they have also that evidence, I think it can contribute to their appreciation or to their investigations And some of that includes information about the paper, information about these sewing threads and sewing construction Origins of some of the paper when we know and any kind of alterations that have been made We save everything, we document everything And we’re always available for consultation >> Beacher Wiggins: And where do you store this? How will anyone know? Has this been passed on? >> Sylvia Albro: Well, we write an extensive treatment report and that will accompany the item In some cases it’s also kept in our files We have a lot of digital photographs of before and after treatment Those are also available if necessary And we printed out a lot of our information and included it in the files with the conserved documents when it went to the Rare Book Division >> Beacher Wiggins: And is there a methodology that you use when you get something like the Omar Ibn Said documents to determine how you want to do your conservation? Do you get a team to pull that together? >> Shelly Smith: Usually it’s a balance You did the treatment >> Sylvia Albro: We definitely consult with the curatorial department that’s associated with the item In this case it was the AMA team And we write a proposal We look at it together We think of three things in particular: the value of the item of course, the condition the item and how the item is going to be used So those are three factors that we discuss and we look at the item together, and we come up with a plan And we write up our proposal It gets signed off on if it’s approved And as we’re going through the treatment, we often have questions and we regularly consult It’s the richness of the library that we have so many specialists in so many areas that can really inform what we do

>> Beacher Wiggins: Great Thank you Now we’ll move on Those of us at the library know that one of Dr. Hayden’s goals is to have the library’s content digitized and made accessible to the world She doesn’t want it just to be here on Capital Hill So now we turn to the digitization aspect of it And we’ll ask Domenic to give us a background run through what happened to get us to this point for the digitization Domenic? >> Domenico Sergi: Okay, thank you, Beacher My name is Domenic and I am head of the digital scan center here at the library And this project came up rather suddenly, I think I certainly wasn’t prepared for it But working with conservation and Sam here with the digital conversion team Yes. I’m sorry, is that better? Should I start over? So we were working closely with the conservation staff and Sam here to my right who coordinated all the digital ID’s for the items So that way we keep all the pagination correctly because some of the items were backwards in how they were paginated The orientation being a foreign language, it has to be presented correctly So with their guidance we were able to do all of that in one sweep Shelly and company made our end really easy So we showed up at their lab with our equipment set up on site and they did all of the handling as these items were treated They’d call us over, we’d come over, image them, and take the images and then put them into our post-processing effort Which entails the cropping, rotating and pagination And the setting up of the camera is unique in that we have to shoot color checkers for color accuracy It’s important when you’re doing facsimiles or if these are used in publications that the colors are correct We shoot — in this particular case we did these at 600 PPI so that we could get down to the grain of the paper It’s also for scholars to have the ability of studying them for the inks that were used or have had Our goal is always to keep the images true to the authenticity of the object So we show all edges, gathers, how they’re sewn, it’s all in the image And that’s it >> Beacher Wiggins: Did a particular set of documents present any particular challenges you thought about, the digitization process? >> Domenico Sergi: Well, some of the challenges were you have to make sure the lighting was set up correctly for contrast, for example, so that there are minimal shadows Some of the items may have had a little bit of lifting or they were dog-eared in one corner which may cause a shadow So we correct for all of that The images online look really nice The website is beautiful and we’ve really enjoyed working on this whole effort with everybody involved >> Beacher Wiggins: No new equipment or machinery was needed to pull this off? >> Domenico Sergi: No, no new In 2009 we did a pretty big acquisition of new equipment We’ve moved to new technology which is instant capture now And we’re using cameras that range from 70 megapixels, 80 on up to 100 megapixels For this particular project we used the 80 megapixel and shot these items at a 1-to-1 of their original size at 600 PPI >> Beacher Wiggins: Thank you Now, moving on to Sam, tell us a bit about what you did And I’ll have a couple of questions for you as well >> Sam Manivong: Okay, good afternoon My name is Sam Manivong Anchi mentioned that I am the digital library specialist I’m also [inaudible] I was kind of late to come on board And thanks to my supervisor, Mike [inaudible] who assigned me to this project And one of my colleagues who left for a new position — that’s why I am here So my role basically, essentially involved interacting with all of you guys And thank you for making my job easier For my role, basically I assign the collection ID I think it’s kind of catchy I put Omar Said 1831 as the collection ID And I assigned the digital ID and work pretty closely with Dominic’s team And also my role is to make sure that we have service space

to house these digital files for public access as well as long-term storage in case anything happens We have plan B to back it up In addition, I also work with Dominic’s staff, Ronnie Hawkins, Michelle Miner as well as Andrew Cook This staff, they have really good experience and make sure that all the images follow FADGI So FADGI stand for Federal Agency Digital Guideline Initiative So all the images are met for the future longevity of the collections In addition I also developed the permanent URL and I worked with Dave Reser to update the IRS record for 856 and 985 and for each item that has a permanent URL And I think that’s about it, right? >> Beacher Wiggins: Okay Did you do anything particularly new from this experience in working with a selection that you hadn’t encountered before? >> Sam Manivong: Well, before I didn’t know who Omar Said was And with that I learned just the name itself I Googled it and learned from the project And I think it’s really, really important that we talk As you can see, the young high school students coming to talk to us this afternoon about his journey And this is his permanent home at the Library of Congress >> Beacher Wiggins: And what was a typical day like for you working on this project? >> Sam Manivong: For this project we have a hard deadline So I am amazed that we met the deadline And basically Anchi kept us intact and made sure that we followed the target deadline And we all met that >> Beacher Wiggins: Okay, very good Thank you Christa, why don’t you give us a brief overview of your role in helping the library to present the collection? >> Christa Maher: Sure My name is Christa Maher I’m a digital media project coordinator here at the library And what I do generally is help different groups that work to get these collections online, talking to each other So I come in usually at the tail end after all these folks have done their work and Dave and the catalogers have done their work And I make sure that what we’re sending over to our colleagues in the Office of the Chief Information Officer in OCIO, that they have what they need to build the online presentation That the content files that Dominic created and Sam put in the presentation space are where they need to be, that they’re named according to the metadata that we have in the catalog records And basically put in a lot of tickets And I make sure that kind of the timing is working out As others have alluded to, there was a kind of tight deadline for getting this collection online, partly because of the wonderful program we’ve had today But also just because of the work needed on the conservation side which was impacting when things could go to be digitized, which was impacting when Sam could QA the materials and put them on the website So I’m really happy that it came out so beautifully It’s such a wonderful collection >> Beacher Wiggins: Okay How would you say users can access site to find related materials to this based on what you did? >> Christa Maher: Sure So this is a wonderful collection, but it’s one of many, many, many wonderful digital collections that the library has been putting online for at least the past 20-25 years We have other collections that have recently gone up that are in Arabic We have other collections that — actually we have some WPA collections created in the 1930’s They’re interviews both audio and written with formerly enslaved people And really using the rich catalog record data, users can use interface to find more

like this suggestion at the bottom of every page Faceted subject terms like you’d find in an online shopping site And the full-text transcriptions that we have I mean, I think it’s wonderful that we have this collection, but it’s even better that we have it online >> Beacher Wiggins: Okay, very good And was there anything particularly striking about your working with this particular collection? You’ve been speaking my language so far [ Laughter ] >> Christa Maher: I haven’t mentioned any mark field numbers I could do that >> Beacher Wiggins: We’d say that for days >> Christa Maher: For days I think this was a really good example of how well our colleagues worked together across the institution And that’s always fun to be part of >> Beacher Wiggins: Very good, thank you And now we will wrap up our discussion portion with Dave Reser who I think at the time that he was doing this was a part of our operation But he’s since moved on But he will always be ours And so now he will talk about the other aspect of the cataloging and metadata of that side So Dave, fill us in on your role in making this >>David Reser: My metadata history here is only three decades, not four and a half decades >> Beacher Wiggins: Hey, everybody can’t have four and a half decades >> David Reser: So the role that I bring to this along with some catalogers is to take obviously the images that have been made that Sam has carefully stored away And Christa is telling us what we need to have in those records in order to get them up on the website So it’s basically traditional cataloging So we had two spectacular senior catalogers who helped us out with this One is here today So Debra Wynn might want to raise her hand She’s in the rare materials section, actually reports to Beacher And one of the things that she divided this work with another cataloger who’s not here today, Alan Mayberry And the way we split the content was the Arabic stuff was done by Alan who is a specialist in Near East materials and has done all kinds of Arabic script manuscripts and all kinds of things for the African and Middle Eastern Division And so Debra focused on the English things which were not only the typed script published materials but the handwritten holograph, the content that was there The real challenge of course was that, as Shelly mentioned, this project required a lot of things to be done concurrently that really have to be don sequentially And so I had some catalogers raring and ready to go, but nothing for them to catalog Because it was undergoing a very important work in the conservation and then the scanning So that typically is done at the very front of the process and then we come back after all that information is available to us on the digital images and we update the records with that content So at this time we have to kind of turn that on its ear, catalog as best we could with the information we had in order for Christa to test development of the website itself Actually Alan did a few records that were just not even halfway done, which was fine Because it was all that was needed to pull it in to make sure that we could display the content and then he could come back as Debra did to finish of those records when it was actually possible to see some of that material I think one of the real interesting things for me in this — I’ve been involved in a lot of projects that were digital content before But because of the backward nature of this one, I got to see more up front I was telling Shelly and Sylvia this morning, I had no idea all this stuff that actually happened at their stage And it was the project meetings that Anchi was having with us monthly that it actually allowed us to get clued in a little bit that we’re still waiting months to be able to have the thing to catalog But they took pictures of the things And so those conservation images that they had to document the before and after process was something we were able to give to the catalogers They didn’t need to see Dominic’s spectacular images The photographs that were taken in conservation were really great for us And although I can’t read my own handwriting, Debra is quite expert at looking at 17th-

and 18th-century handwriting But we actually got to supplement that as Dr. Rothman said this morning, he actually did transcribe all of the handwritten English things So we were able to get those to Debra even before she was able to see the images as well So some of those things that initially make this kind of hard from a workflow perspective There were a million things that could happen along the way It all actually got completed before we had to >> Beacher Wiggins: It sounds like things got tossed on their heads but you stepped in as catalogers are able to do and make it happen Was there a reason for choosing the level of cataloging that was applied to the collection? >> David Reser: I think this is a big discussion we have with Christa every time we talk about a new digital collection We have to have the metadata for the items in the collection We have choices on how we can do that in order to feed our website There are some that are better than others in certain cases that we can make finding aids that just document or list the items and we can make kind of non-mark stub records that can feed that online presentation But usually the best method if we have the resources is to actually do traditional library cataloging in our online catalog And because this was — even though the timeframe was short, it was only 42 items so it was the kind of thing we were able to get to very good catalogers who knew what they were really up against So it was almost a no-brainer to decide that we would stick with regular mark records in our catalog And it’s also I think from my perspective, in thinking about this as a digital collection, obviously these are materials that are going to end up as physical items in our Rare Book and Special Collections division So putting them in our library catalog where we can then record the inventory that we have for each of these items as well is a very critical piece And so that kind of helps drive that decision as well >> Beacher Wiggins: Okay, well my second question was going to be along the lines of what are some of the challenges you faced, but I think you hit on those Are there any others that you didn’t bring because you were going back and forth in a nontraditional workflow? >> 1y: It’s kind of related The catalogers who worked with us in this one, the challenge became with Alan Mayberry got assigned to work on the Arabic materials but he had retired a few weeks before When your expert retires, but again we’re incredibly fortunate that Alan and Debra are a couple And so it just turned out that he was staying here for a while after retirement to volunteer So he was able to do some of the cataloging after he retired and do some volunteer work for us They are also bicoastal So Alan’s living part-time in Portland, Oregon And so we had to schedule the work that he was doing on the cataloging on his trips back here as well So it was always good that Debra and Alan could be in communication as couples are And help us with solving that problem And Alan’s come back at least twice to volunteer since then and he was able to complete the records after the conservation and scanning and actually got to look at the materials as well So that wrapped things up nicely >> Beacher Wiggins: Very good Thank you, Dave Are there any more comments before we open it for questions, based on anything anybody else said after you spoke? Okay, with that then we open the floor for any questions from the attendees I see a hand there >> Thank you Thank you very much I just bought the book now and I noticed on page 60 — on page 58, the Arabic pagination is numbered five And then on the following page the Arabic pagination is 14 So nine pages are missing Were they found missing or is that intentional? And correction, when I looked at the Library of Congress film video, it says that he wrote a 15-page autobiography

when that’s not true if some pages are missing >> Shelly Smith: I think you’re referring to the images that you can see here where there’s five on one page and on the other page So the manuscript is constructed of numerous pages that are nested within each other So as you turn the pages, you have say five and six, and then you would have the next page in the sequence would be six and seven But the conjugate to that is far later in the section, so the conjugate to page five would be page 20-something Does that make sense? [ Laughter ] [ Inaudible ] >> Sylvia Albro: There are not any missing pages There are not any missing pages That’s important to note And since that second sewing structure sewed through the fold, we knew that the entire manuscript was just one section It was numbered in pencil and the name of the first translator whose name was Alexander Costhial was written in the same pencil inside the front cover So I would suspect that he numbered the pages And there weren’t any missing pages >> Shelly Smith: There is one page in the center that’s torn and so there is a portion of that page that’s missing But that was a blank page [ Inaudible ] Well, you’re talking about the front and the back Some people call that a page Some people call that a leaf It’s terminology >> Beacher Wiggins: Yes, ma’am? >> Yes, I have two questions Number one, do you have any links with the webpage back to Omar’s origination in Senegal? And does the library have any working relationships with libraries and universities in Senegal in terms of his passage back and forth? >> Beacher Wiggins: I’ll let Mary Jane respond to that I do not know of any >> Mary Jane Deeb: Thank you No, we do not have any specific relationship with the University of Senegal However, we did go to Senegal to brief West Africa Research Center for our acquisitions And so in fact in Dakar we are working cooperatively with the West Africa Research Center that actually collects and purchases books for the African collections here So there are 11 countries in West Africa who are participants in a project to purchase for the Library of Congress as well as for other institutions publications from countries such as Mali, Gambia, Togo and other countries, Guinea And to catalog them in Dakar and then to send them to us So this is a collaborative agreement that we have with Ala Alryye and Angela Kinney who’s working with Ala Alryye, is very much involved in this And I went to Dakar to brief the bibliographic representative there, to give them the guidelines to purchase our materials >> Beacher Wiggins: Yes, that is true And I guess I view these as part of our acquisitions relationships And the way we acquire materials is through vendor agreements and what not But I don’t consider that agreement with a standing institution in the sense of what we did to get the Said collection So my fault for not answering your questions along the acquisitions line, which I certainly could have And did we answer both your questions? >> Yes >> Beacher Wiggins: Okay, thank you And this gentleman >> Yeah, thank you so much for the presentation It was really a wonderful job that you have done We are working on — what you have done is very professional

We have collections that date back maybe 800 years in a town in Ethiopia And most of those books are left in nature Some of them are intact We were wondering, like you’ve mentioned that you have acquired new machines We don’t have the budget Is there any like way that it could be done on a normal budget with volunteers so that we can expose this to the rest of the world? And some of those scripts were written by African Ethiopian women which were very rare at that time So it would definitely present a very good history which is not known up to this moment So what do you advise and what do you think can be done not through like the Library of Congress in style and profession, but by a community who wants to preserve that part of history and bring it to the rest of the world? Thank you >> David Reser: I guess I’ll take that question So the technology that you were speaking of, what do you have available? >> We have this like — we only have one machine and it is just like pictures, the document And some of them are in binders and some of them are in loose pages But we don’t have much and we have like, cameras, but it’s not like an organized like technology setup that we have in place now >> David Reser: Well, aside from the really high-end equipment that we use here, there are several other cameras on the market that are more affordable and do a good enough job to document Especially if you’re going for the content which is on these documents Using a flatbed scanner may not be the best approach because of the bound ones you’re mentioning It just applies too much pressure and stress on the documents, especially with the lid coming down over it But I would research other cameras Canon, Sony, they make many, many makes and models that can give you a high enough resolution to be able to document these things and keep them and share them with the right people >> Beacher Wiggins: And I guess he has contact information, you can email him and get more information following this >>David Reser: Right Like he’s saying, you can stay in touch with us and we can make recommendations for you as well >> Beacher Wiggins: Marieta? [ Inaudible ] >> Marieta Harper: There’s another agency that you can get in touch with The AU, African Union, has a program to assist different countries in Africa in actually making copies of materials and help with that And there’s another library association, African Librarians Association, which they have ways to connect other African countries with cataloging projects So they are the organizations that actually do it >> Hello. I’d just like to know if I can ask the lady from Senegal how much did the gentleman acquire it for, the one who was the only man bidding on it? And then how much did the Library of Congress acquire it for at Sotheby’s? >> Beacher Wiggins: Well, we’re not likely to share that information? But just know that we worked hard to get it I don’t think this is the forum for that You’re welcome Mary Jane, then Jane >> Mary Jane Deeb: Okay First of all I want to thank you, not only for this wonderful panel but for all the incredible work that you’ve been doing for the past six months, one year And I’m going to put you on the spot now

I’m going to ask you, I know you enjoyed working with each other Would you do it again? And would you do it let’s say for a smaller project? Do you think this is something that works, working together the way you have? And would it be different if it was thousands and thousands of documents that needed to be processed? And so, the question is to all of you >> Beacher Wiggins: I can’t imagine who’s going to say no >> Shelly Smith: Exactly We’d do it again I think we’ve already started Absolutely I mean, I think that every project is slightly different and yes, we all talked about how the timeline was difficult because so many things ideally should have happened and then moved on to the next thing And there wasn’t time to do that in this case But doesn’t that happen all the time? I mean, I feel like even — there is no perfect project And what makes it worthwhile and a good experience is the quality and the expertise and the joy of working with our excellent colleagues >>David Reser: I think the other thing that’s quite different about this one, so I did face this in just any other digital project when we first started And it wasn’t until you get into it more that — I didn’t realize that you were going to do the work with the high school students that made it just that much more spectacular I didn’t know that Shelly was going to do a PR campaign, that you couldn’t turn around in Washington without knowing about this collection and this program today So the type of emphasis that went into this particular collection just really made it special >> Beacher Wiggins: Anybody? >> Christa Maher: I guess I’ll just echo what Dave said I was approaching this very much like one of the four dozen new collections we tend to put on every year So I think coming into it I thought, “Well, this was a lot of overhead for 42 items.” We’re putting up Woodrow Wilson’s papers and that’s 400 reels of microfilm But I think having the opportunity to really do this deep dive I think did make an impact >> Beacher Wiggins: Very good Thank you >> Sam Manivong: I’d like to add one more point >> Beacher Wiggins: Sorry >> Sam Manivong: To answer the question, I’d say yes, definitely I’d do it again I felt that as of today our presentation as we all know as P1, at this point, this system being quite mature And as Christa put in the tickets, I felt things were moving faster than the last couple of years This would be my first project for 2019 this year, and it went really well >> Beacher Wiggins: Jane? Jane? >> Thank you Just a quick question to Sylvia I’m sorry to ask you to repeat yourself, but your story about the threads was absolutely fascinating And you mentioned that the cover stitching is the same thread as that used in other Isaac Bird translations But I didn’t catch what you said about the earlier threading that you had found underneath that and what that connected to in your research >> Sylvia Albro: Okay, thank you The earlier thread which is very different from the thread used to attach the cover, was used to sew through the fold of Omar Ibn Said’s manuscript But we noticed since we were working on all 42 objects in the same spate of time, that the same thread had been used to sew the solicited manuscripts that were from West Africa that were primarily — the calligraphy was by an individual identified as Mohammed Decker And so we’ll have to have the historians explain more about who he was But Theodore Dwight wrote to the president of Liberia asking if he could procure some manuscripts from the part of West Africa that Omar Ibn Said was from in an attempt to understand more about what the culture of the people

who lived in that area were And so those manuscripts are also multi-page manuscripts and they’re in this collection and they also required some conservation Because pages were falling out But they were sewn with the same thread So to me that means that the person that collected these in the US probably sewed all of those But we have photographs before the treatment and we’ve saved the threads, and some that didn’t have to be disbound were not disbound We only took out the thread if it was preventing the manuscript from opening or if pages were falling out and broken So we would not typically remove a thread unless it has to in order to facilitate the use of the manuscript >> Beacher Wiggins: It just seemed to me one of the things, just to underscore, you describing that again just shows you cannot minutely plan for how long it will take you to do your work, no matter what it looks like initially I’m not sure we picked up on that, but the more we discuss it, that’s just critical to know with all the things that we get for the library >> Marieta Harper: My guess may be Derrick Beard, because of his ability and experience with collecting various artifacts, rare books, items, he may be the person that did that But this is my wild guess Because of his rich background in collecting antiques and so forth And someone like that from his background — I didn’t read everything that this man had the ability or knowledge of to do that Because he did a lot of sharing of the manuscripts, not only Omar Ibn Said but the others in the group And that’s a guess But I think that’s an educated guess >> Sylvia Albro: Well, these things are always puzzles >> Marieta Harper: Yeah >> Domenico Sergi: I don’t think it could be Beard, Marieta, and the reason why is because we know that the cover was sewed on by Cothiel 20 years after the manuscript was made And so that would have been in the mid-19th century So that thread that was hidden inside couldn’t have been put on after the cover It had to go on before So it does tell you perhaps the time that those other manuscripts were collected But there’s also documentation about those that’s in writing So it’s just a material clue But I think material clues have their own contribution [ Inaudible ] >> Beacher Wiggins: Deb? >> Hi. I’m usually in the back room I don’t use these things Just one thing that reminded me about this, because being a cataloger and being able to go through these things item by item, I had to do a lot of research because all these names, this Cothiel and Isaac Byrd and Mohammed Decker — I had to make name authorities for every one of these people too And I had to go back to do that To do my job correctly, I’m looking for authoritative sources So I was reading a lot of the literature just to be able to catalog the materials So in the process of doing that — that’s what I love about this job at the library, is that for everything that comes across my desk, if my supervisor lets me, I can really dig in deep and learn a lot and take a lot of time But with this one there was a deadline, but fortunately — and that’s what was really interesting about this collection, is that this item has been known This manuscript has been out there There’s a lot that’s been written about it So it was really fun to see the panelists this morning go, “Oh, I read your book Oh, I saw that.” So it was a really nice forum that you guys planned today

I mean, it really helped put things in perspective And I was really happy to see so many people here and involved and interested in this collection So thanks for making my day >> Beacher Wiggins: And there’s a colleague that I never see at the library >> That’s a joke >> I have found this day to be fascinating And I think our colleagues in Africa, in African libraries, will also find it fascinating Quite often people want to know what happens here at the Library of Congress They want to know how collections are done, what the cataloging process is There are these details that they want to know And with the webcasts that are going to be available, this is our opportunity to show them It’s been fascinating to hear the scholarship in the morning and to hear these details this afternoon And to hear the experts and to see the experts explaining this It’s wonderful that it’s all tied in And I don’t think that we often have an opportunity to see that So thank you so much And I just want to say that we are really appreciative in the African and Middle Eastern Division for the vision, the diplomacy and all of those great words that you could say about Mary Jane Deeb [ Applause ] >> Beacher Wiggins: Are there any others? Well, if not, as my staff always do, they keep me honest So I omitted a few people who were involved in the front end of making this happen So the ones I didn’t mention I’ll just mention now So for the Southeby’s London and the seller negotiations there was Daisy Taggy and Iliona Mitchell-Podicky, and Jen Boncevik who I’m looking directly in the face now And the rest of the team we have acknowledged But it takes a team to make this work So we want to make sure we acknowledge everyone So this is to me a fitting note to be ended on We’ve had two complementary statements Is there anything else pressing that anybody else wants to say or question? If not, I’ll let Anchi tell us how to get to see the real objects >> Dr. Anchi Hoh: Thank you, Beacher And thank you to our wonderful panelists for enlightening us how you make the magic [ Applause ]