TEFAF MAASTRICHT AND THE PRINCE CLAUS FUND: 10 YEARS OF SUPPORT FOR CONSERVATION AND HERITAGE
(Helvoirt, 15 January 2018). This year marks the tenth anniversary of the partnership between TEFAF and the Prince Claus Fund. For the past decade TEFAF has supported the Cultural Emergency Response (CER) programme run by the Prince Claus Fund, which seeks to preserve cultural heritage and rescue collections in need. From earthquake-proofing an important shrine in Nepal to conserving an ancient watch tower in Sichuan, China, TEFAF and the Prince Claus Fund have worked together to save cultural heritage that would otherwise be lost. Most recently, TEFAF and the Prince Claus Fund supported the protection and conservation of the Library of the San Augustin Monastery in Quito, Ecuador.
SAVING HERITAGE TOGETHER: A PRICELESS LIBRARY IN ECUADOR
The Library of the San Augustin Monastery in Quito, Ecuador, holds over 20,000 priceless rare books, illuminated manuscripts, first prints and publications, some dating back to the 15th century, many written in ancient or lost languages. It houses the archive of the San Augustin order and important documentation of the colonisation of the Americas as well as religious and cultural practices prior to the Spanish conquest. The collection is the only library in the Americas housed in its original building and was declared a ‘memory of the world’ by the National Institute of Patrimony (NIPC).
The building and its contents were in poor shape when a major earthquake struck in April 2016. The powerful quake left 661 people dead and more than 27,000 injured. Although Quito was not significantly affected, years of neglect made the Library of San Augustin and its contents especially vulnerable. The earthquake caused major damage to the ceilings, walls and shelves, leading to severe leaks and high levels of humidity. The building and its collection were at great risk of being lost forever.
Time was the Library’s biggest enemy. The region is earthquake sensitive and another shock would be a fatal blow to the collection. Meanwhile, humidity accelerated the deterioration process, making the books and manuscripts more and more fragile.
Kick-starting the rehabilitation of the Library of the San Augustin Monastery has already had several very important results: not only is it ensuring that an irreplaceable record of culture and history is preserved, it has also begun to raise local and international awareness about the Library, which had remained little known for years. The international involvement of the Prince Claus Fund and TEFAF has added to the prestige of the project, attracting local funders to contribute to longer-term improvements. As a result, local pride is helping to ensure the sustainability of the collection, further anchoring it in Ecuador and making it accessible for generations to come.