Women’s Worlds in Qajar Iran Digital Archives

Women’s Worlds in Qajar Iran (WWQI) is a digital archive of materials related to the lives of women during the Qajar era, inclusive of the period immediately preceding and following the dynastic period (1786 -1925). The goal of WWQI is to address a gap in scholarship and understanding of the lives of women during the Qajar era.

“Given the dearth of available primary-source materials related to women in the Qajar era, it is not surprising that, to date, the vast majority of Qajar social histories have focused almost exclusively on the struggles, achievements, and day-to-day realities of the men of that period. This is in part a matter of expediency; while men’s writing have been easily accessible in various national archives for decades (and many have in more recent years been published in edited volumes), most women’s writings, photographs, and other personal papers have to date remained sequestered in private family hands.”

WWQI aims to open up the documented social and cultural histories of Qajar women, thus allowing for the examinations of broader patterns of life during this era.

The materials included in the archive are not only those contained in private archives and manuscripts but also published materials from the Middle Eastern Collection in Widener Library and other institutions. They consist of:

  • Writings: letters, prose, poetry, travel writings, essays, periodicals, and diaries
  • Legal documents: wedding contracts, dowry documents, settlements, endowments, powers of attorney, wills, sales, and other financial contracts
  • Artworks: calligraphy, painting, embroidery, weaving, other handicrafts, music, and film
  • Photographs
  • Everyday objects
  • Oral histories

You could begin your search either by clicking on “Collections” or on “Browse”. All roads tend to lead to the search engine, where you can refine your search with keywords and filter selection.

The website uses Elastic Search full text search engine which supports both English and Persian language-specific searches. While the results should be consistent, the results may vary slightly in terms of relevancy ranking.

The website also includes a research platform which put students and scholars in collaborative conversations, and generate innovative scholarship on the cultural history of the Qajar period focused on lives of women and issues of gender and sexuality.

To learn more about how the Archive generates the digital holdings, see the documentary essay by Nicole Legnani, Commissioned by the Office of the Digital Arts and Humanities at Harvard University.

The Harvard University Library (HUL) central infrastructure accommodates all image, text, and audio materials collected for this archive. All WWQI materials can be accessed through the following Harvard University Library catalogues as well: Visual Information Access (VIA) system and HOLLIS Catalog.

Fihrist: Union Catalogue of Manuscripts from the Islamicate World

FIHRIST is an evolving union catalogue, for 11,015 Islamic and other Middle Eastern manuscripts.

The collective holdings of the contributing Libraries of the UK are of substantial intellectual and cultural significance. All contributing libraries have been selectively collecting manuscripts from all subject areas, and of various geographical origins, dating from the 7th to the 19th century CE.

“FIHRIST is a free on-line catalogue for manuscript descriptions.

FIHRIST is not a digital Library”

FIHRIST developed from a pilot-project between Oxford & Cambridge to become               a UK-wide union catalogue. The catalogue is constantly growing in volume, as libraries and research projects are contributing manuscripts descriptions.

The union catalogue provides basic and advanced search options. One can search in English, Arabic or Hebrew by using the additional Keyboard in the search box. When using advanced search, more search options and a list of tips are made available to improve the search results.

In terms of manuscript availability, “if a digital copy of a works exists on-line, a link is provided and maintained by the institution holding the manuscript. To request digital copies, or contact the institution directly, you may use the field Comment on this record at the bottom of every description.” The level of details provided in each entry varies and are changing over time as research progresses.

Sample of an Entry

The user can browse the catalogue by:

  • Classmarks (also called shelfmarks, classification number, etc.)
  • Works
  • People (personal names)
  • Subjects (basic LC subject headings)

While browsing, limiters will varies to best suit each category. For instance, if the user chooses to browse the catalog by classmark, limiters such as language, century, physical form, materials, decoration, institution or collection are made available. Whereas if the user chooses to browse by works, institution & language are the available limiters.