On May 17, 1992 the Oriental Institute (Orijentalni institut) in Sarajevo, home to one of Europe's most important collections of Islamic manuscripts, was attacked by Serb nationalist forces with incendiary grenades. Virtually all of its contents were consumed by the flames.
Losses included 5,263 bound manuscripts in Arabic, Persian, Turkish, Hebrew and local alhamijado---or adzamijski---(Serbo-Croat-Bosnian in Arabic script), as well as tens of thousands of Ottoman-era documents. Other libraries and archives attacked by various nationalist forces include Bosnia's National Library in Sarajevo, which also housed the National Archives; the Library of the Museum of Herzegovina, the Archives of Herzegovina, and the Library of the Roman Catholic Archbishopric in Mostar; the Orthodox Monastery in Zitomislic; and numerous other collections throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Since it opened in 1950, the Oriental Institute in Sarajevo has encouraged the use of its collections by foreign scholars and maintained exchange relations with other institutions throughout Europe and the Middle East. As a result, a substantial part of the collection was sent or taken abroad by scholars in the form of photocopies and survives even though the originals are lost. Several Oriental Institute staff members have traveled abroad, surveying collections for copies of Bosnian material. However, they need help from colleagues worldwide to identify such materials in the hands of foreign individuals and institutions.
A group of concerned scholars and librarians in the United States and Canada founded the Bosnian Manuscript Ingathering Project to assist the librarians of the Oriental Institute and other archives and libraries in Bosnia-Herzegovina, in an innovative effort to reassemble at least part of their destroyed collections. The immediate aim of our project is to identify the present locations of copied materials outside Bosnia. What we need is information that will help track down what remains of the lost collections.
As photocopies of the lost manuscripts are discovered, this public gallery will expand and serve as a tribute to the efforts of our Bosnian colleagues, both past and present. By resurrecting and making widely available collections that would otherwise remain ashes, we are working together to thwart the intentions of those who have sought to destroy them from memory and eliminate them from history.
We urge colleagues, friends and strangers worldwide who possess, or know of the whereabouts of any photocopies (regardless of the quality of their condition) of Bosnian manuscripts to contact us.