History of the KMP
The first official meeting of the KMP was a video conference call on February 19, 2018. Attendees were Jonathan Brockopp, Asma Hilali, Walid Saleh, Wes Theissen, and Khaoula Trad, and the agenda was planning for a workshop to be held at the Centre for the Study of Manuscript Cultures (CSMC) in Hamburg that April. But much of the foundation for the KMP had already been laid years before.
On the one hand, Asma Hilali had become concerned about the state of the Kairouan manuscripts and wrote to The Islamic Manuscript Association in October of 2015 to help organize an emergency response grant. Separately, Jonathan Brockopp and Wes Thiessen visited the National Laboratory for the Preservation and Conservation of Parchment and Manuscripts (NLPCPM) in December of 2015 and began to discuss a project in support of the Laboratory with then-director Jelal Alibi.
Brockopp also reached out to The Islamic Manuscript Association late in 2016, and Executive Director Davidson MacLaren encouraged Brockopp and Hilali to work together. On July 13, 2017, Hilali invited Brockopp to join her in Tunisia for a meeting with Faouzi Mahfoudh, general director of the Tunisian National Heritage Institute (INP). Later that month, the CSMC agreed to fund an initial phase of the project.
The Hamburg workshop of April 16-17, 2018, included academic presentations by Brockopp, Hilali, and Saleh and a video conference with CSMC director Michael Friedrich and INP director Mahfoudh at which principles for a first Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the INP and the CSMC were laid out. That MOU was finalized and signed in December of 2018.
From April 14-21, 2019, Asma Hilali, Davidson MacLaren, and conservator Ana Beny performed an initial collection needs assessment of the NLPCPM that was funded by the CSMC and The Islamic Manuscript Association. They met with key persons, such as Mahfoudh and former NLPCPM director Mourad Rammah, and their assessment provided a blueprint for future actions of the KMP.
Between December 9-13, 2019, four members of the NLPCPM (Saleh al-Mehdi ben Hammouda, director, Samir Gdeh, Afef Hannachi, and Ayman Mejbri) traveled to Hamburg for a week of meetings with local conservators, librarians and museum curators in Hamburg and Berlin, funded by the CSMC. Brockopp, MacLaren, Thiessen and Trad also attended.
Brockopp also began a year-long fellowship at the CSMC in January, 2020 (currently suspended due to the SARS-CoV-2 epidemic). A second MOU was signed in March, 2020, to provide emergency preparedness and response training for staff at the NLPCPM and some essential repairs to the building; also, a successful application to the Barakat Trust will support the work of four Tunisian conservation student interns at the Laboratory. Academic workshops on the Kairouan manuscripts are currently being planned for 2021 at Hamburg and Lille universities (funded by the CSMC and Penn State University).
Text by Jonathan Brockopp