Abstract: The past two decades have brought about the looting and destruction of libraries, extending from Baghdad to Mazhar-e Sharif and Kabul to Sarajevo.
But such events are not limited to the modern period. History is replete with them, and one can cite numerous examples from the past, such as the burning of the famous library at Alexandria and the destruction in Florence of the Medici collections with the conquest of the city by the French king Charles VIII.
The destruction of the libraries in Fatimid Egypt during the 11th century and the burning of the Alamut library by the Mongols in 1256 CE are two examples within the specific context of Ismaili history.
It takes only a few seconds to undo years of collecting, collating, classification, cataloguing and conservation. One has to engage with these moments of sadness and loss, without becoming despondent. One must derive inspiration from those who continue to struggle against the odds, spending endless hours salvaging materials that have been damaged by water or fire, scouring the world for microfilms and copies that may have been made years before, cataloguing and classifying material all over again, with a new vigour.