United States and Mali Extend Cultural Property Agreement, Include Protection for Manuscripts

September 27, 2017

Close up of a very large and old book being held opened, the pages are wrinkled and tainted yellow U.S. Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation supports preservation of Malian manuscripts in Timbuktu For 20 years, the United States and Mali have worked together to reduce illicit trafficking of Malian archaeological objects and to support sustainable protection of heritage sites and collections.

The United States and Mali extended their Agreement to continue import restrictions on archaeological material from Mali. Originally signed in 1997, the Agreement and associated import restrictions will be extended for an additional five years and will be amended to include Malian manuscripts for the first time as a new category of ethnological material. This extension will allow U.S. law enforcement to continue combatting the trafficking of Malian antiquities. The Agreement will also foster continued relationships between U.S. and Malian scholars and museum professionals through academic research and exhibition loans. One such loan—of ancient terra cotta figurines from the Inner Niger Delta area of Mali—is currently on view in the “African Voices” exhibition at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History.

With the inclusion of ancient manuscripts as ethnological material under the import restrictions, the United States and Mali acknowledge new threats to this unique category of Malian cultural heritage. Manuscripts from Timbuktu and Djenné were produced by scholars in science, education, philosophy, and religion between the 12th and 20th centuries and greatly contribute to the knowledge of the origins, development, and history of the people of Mali.  Recent events in Mali have shown that terrorist groups have targeted heritage in Mali, particularly manuscripts.

Under the latest amended extension, the United States and Mali have agreed to work together on several areas including:

  • To encourage further interchange of Mali’s archaeological and ethnological heritage for cultural, educational, and scientific purposes.
  • For the Government of Mali to encourage neighboring countries to strengthen border controls in order to combat more efficiently pillage and illicit trafficking of cultural property from Mali.
  • For the U.S. government to facilitate the provision of technical assistance in cultural resource management and other programs.

Read more about the history of this Agreement and how the United States and Mali began protecting cultural property in the region here.