Sharjah Book Fair: US Library of Congress brings cultural treasures to Arab world

Locals and visitors will get a chance to see Thomas Jefferson’s draft of the Declaration of Independence with footnotes from Benjamin Franklin and John Adams


Afkar Ali Ahmed

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Published: Wed 10 Nov 2021, 6:16 PM

The largest library in the world is building bridges of cultural understanding between Arabs and Americans — and the Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF), as well as Expo 2020 Dubai, is serving as a key platform for this goal, a top US official said.

The US Library of Congress is taking part in the SIBF, aiming to enhance its cooperation with the Sharjah Book Authority (SBA) and bring its unique cultural gems to the region.

“We want to open our treasures to the Arab countries and the world, as we like to say, because this is the largest library in the world and contains many unique items,” said Dr Carla Hayden, the US Librarian of Congress, who recently visited the SIBF.

As part of these efforts, the Congress worked on flying in the Holy Quran copy that was once owned by the third US president, Thomas Jefferson. The rare copy is currently on display at the USA Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai.

“He used this Holy Quran copy in 1765 to emphasise freedom of religion in the new country,” Hayden told Khaleej Times.

“(Besides bringing the Holy Quran to the Expo), we also widened our participation in the SIBF to make the knowledge of American culture and history accessible to people in this region and the rest of the world,” she added.

“The two major events in the UAE will give locals and visitors from around the globe a chance to see our manuscript section and see Thomas Jefferson’s draft of the Declaration of Independence with footnotes or small side notes from Benjamin Franklin and John Adams.”

Hayden said the efforts of the Library of Congress in extending cultural bridges with the Arab world have been established a long time ago, since it opened its office in Cairo, Egypt.

The library — which is home to more than 170 million items — is continuously working on digitising its manuscripts and historical documents. Around 64 million have already been converted so they may reach people from around the world, Hayden said.

“Libraries give leaders the ability to obtain and expand their global vision about variables in the world,” she said, adding that around 600 law books that were stored in the Library of Congress when it was founded in 1800 were used as primary reference for America’s first legislators.

Hayden praised Sharjah’s unwavering commitment to supporting the library and moving the global industry forward.

“The emergence of the SIBF as the world’s largest book fair this year confirms the emirate’s tireless efforts and leadership vision to enrich knowledge and connect with cultures around the world,” she added.

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