Preservation and Conservation of the Collection 

 

In the eighteenth and nineteenth century great quantity of Deir al-Surian manuscripts were taken to Europe and are in several important collections including the British Library and the Vatican.  The large number of manuscripts and fragments that remain in the monastery represent an inheritance of inestimable scholarly value and an essential part of the heritage of the entire Christian world.

 

However after 1500 years in the environment of a living community many of the manuscripts are in a parlous state and continuing to deteriorate, putting them at serious risk.

 

In recent times there has been a revival of the Coptic monasteries in Egypt.  The Deir al-Surian community now numbers over 200, and a new generation of committed and educated monks is determined to preserve their unique inheritance in situ for future generations.  To achieve this much has already been done but this work must continue:

 

A new library has been built with modern facilities for storage, up-to-date technology and reading rooms for scholars and lay visitors.

A new conservation center has been opened in the new library 

A digital photographic record of the collection needs to be made to ensure its continuous survival and to facilitate access for scholars, thus avoiding continual handling.

Education of monks and other local people has commenced and needs to continue. 

 

In 2002, Elizabeth Sobczynski, a conservation consultant working with major museums in London, set up The Levantine Foundation to preserve cultural heritage on paper and related media.  The Foundation’s most important project is to secure the future of the manuscripts in the Deir al-Surian Library.

Excellent progress has been made on the Coptic, Arabic and Syriac manuscripts. During ongoing conservation field campaigns to the monastery, the collection has been surveyed and conservation of over one hundred codices and three hundred fragments and singular manuscripts completed in collaboration with conservation experts from Europe and USA.  Working with the Foundation, two leading Syriac scholars, Dr Sebastian Brock of the University of Oxford and Professor Lucas van Rompay of Duke University, have catalogued the Syriac collection. This major work of scholarship was published in 2014 accompanied by a launch at The British Library.

Cataloguing of Coptic, Copto-Arabic, Christian Arabic and Ethiopic collection is currently taking place under directorship of Professor Stephen Davis, Yale University, USA. 

 
The Levantine Foundation registered in England 4506398, in The Arab Republic of Egypt under Law No 84 (2002). Registered charity number 1094436.