The Sharjah Book Authority (SBA) and Milan-based Veneranda Biblioteca Ambrosiana (VBA) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in Milan, Italy, to further cooperation and boost access for researchers and academics to greater sources of knowledge. Under the newly inked MoU, an agreement was signed to digitise more than 2,500 rare Arabic manuscripts dating back to more than 450 years, and made available for the first time ever globally at the digital repository of SBA’s Sharjah Public Library (SPL).

The MoU and agreement was signed by HE Ahmed bin Rakkad Al Ameri, Chairman of SBA, and Prof. Lorenzo Ornaghi, President of the Congregazione dei Conservatori, VBA, in the presence of HE Omar Obaid Alshamsi, UAE Ambassador to The Republic of Italy; Federico Gallo, Director of VBA; Mario Gatti, Director of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, Milan; Eman Bushlaibi, Director of Sharjah Public Libraries (SPL); Marco Ballarini, Prefect of VBA; Mansour Al Hassani, Head of Sales Department at SBA; and Dr. Wael Farouq, Associate Professor of Arabic language and literature at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, Milan.

In recognition of Sharjah’s cultural projects worldwide, the signing ceremony took place at the famed La Rosa Hall, which opens its doors only for special occasions and prominent events. Housing thousands of rare books and manuscripts, La Rosa Hall is one of the most prestigious cultural halls in the world. Some of the foremost Italian writers, thinkers, and artists, most notably Leonardo da Vinci, regularly visited and spent time in.

VBA’s Arabic manuscripts collection is one of the finest and most important in Italy. Among its collection of Islamic and Arabic manuscripts are treatises on history, language, medicine, astronomy, geographical maps, and manuscripts of the sayings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), known as the Hadith.

Following the signing ceremony, HE Ahmed Al Ameri, said: “The MoU translates the vision of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, who firmly believes that books are sources of knowledge that bring cultures of the world together and strengthen cross-cultural communication, dialogue and collaboration. In Sharjah, we believe that all peoples and civilisations are bound by the shared human experience and knowledge, and that our role is to nurture it with new literature and arts. To achieve this objective, we are working closely with our partners, world capitals and cities, to facilitate wider access to books and sources of information.”

The SBA Chairman added: “The digitisation of this historic collection is invaluable not only for Arab academics and researchers, but also for readers around the world. We are certain that it will boost exchange of knowledge, fuel innovative projects across various fields, and play a key role in bringing Arab and Italian cultures together.” 

For his part, HE Omar Obaid Alshamsi, UAE Ambassador to The Republic of Italy, emphasised that the MoU bolsters cultural ties with Italy and is a valuable opportunity to explore new partnerships with more Italian cultural institutions. He underlined that SBA’s efforts to promote the exchange of knowledge across boundaries are in line with the UAE’s strategy to enhance cooperation with countries worldwide.

The Ambassador lauded the continuous support extended by His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah to enhance Emirati and Arab cultural movements and hailed the ongoing efforts of Sharjah in building bridges with various cities and capitals of the world. Alshamsi also pointed out that the UAE’s hosting of major international events including Expo 2020 Dubai and Sharjah International Book Fair, align with the country’s cultural objectives and vision.

Speaking at the event, Prof. Lorenzo Ornaghi said: “This MoU embodies the goals of the Ambrosiana Library, that include building bridges between cultures and peoples to exchange knowledge and forge friendships. This resonates with the cultural vision of the emirate of Sharjah and aligns with the Ruler of Sharjah’s goals to further such collaboration. Thus, we are excited about this new cooperation that we hope to advance further to serve researchers and intellectuals around the world.”

Al Ameri also met with Emmanuele Forlani, Chairman of ‘Rimini Meeting’, a key cultural event held in the Italian city of Rimini. For 40 years now, the event, which is held on 120,000 sq m with the help of more than 8,000 volunteers, brings together leaders, intellectuals, literati, and thinkers from around the world and is attended by around 2.5 million people.

The two parties explored opportunities to jointly host events between the Rimini Meeting and SIBF and discussed the impact of such cooperation on the global cultural movement.

VBA was established in Milan in 1609 by Cardinal Federico Borromeo as an open library for scholars, and now houses more than 15,000 manuscripts and 30,000 printed books. The library’s corpus includes some of the most prized historical works including the Codex Atlanticus, a collection of 12 manuscripts by Leonardo da Vinci, and other contributions from a wide range of patrons, artists, academicians, collectors, art dealers, and architects worldwide. VBA’s collection of Arabic manuscripts is among the finest in the world and the most important one in Italy.

Source: National Network Communications – NNC

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