The Middle Eastern Film Posters & Lobby Cards Collection is a digital collection launched by Princeton University Library to make available their Arabic Movie Posters and Lobby Cards collection to worldwide scholars. Acquired in Lebanon in 2008, the collection includes 1,748 posters, and 768 lobby cards produced mostly in Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq. At the time of our visit, the digital collection included 1,646 items which represents a large proportion of the overall collection, and newly digitized items keep being added to it.
The digital collection can be navigated in two ways. The left-hand side filters allow visitors to limit their search by place of origin, genre or date of creation. The categories accessible via the vignettes below allow to access the materials sorted by both genre and geographical origin:
Within each category, results can be displayed either in a list or a table form, and sorted by title, author, and date (ascending/descending).
When opening an item, the page will show the high resolution image and a succinct description at the bottom. For more information about the document, visitors can expand the right-hand side panel. Images can be displayed full-screen, enlarged and reduced, downloaded (as jpeg, tiff or pdf) or shared via a link.
Beyond a wide range of artistic objects, their collection includes manuscripts and artwork on paper, as well as books and remarkable pieces of Islamic art. This includes valuable items like miniature paintings, beautifully illuminated Qurans and etc.
Moreover, the Museum is house to” 900 printed manuscripts, 1300 incunabula and 2000 rare books”. Of these, 433 manuscripts and more than 8000 printed papers are digitized and accessible through Walters Ex Libris. These manuscripts cover a variety of periods, including works from the Safavid, Mughal and Ottoman empire.
Moreover, as a museum dedicated to education, storytelling, and fostering community engagement through knowledge and cultural expression, the Walters Art Museum is actively digitizing and making their collection accessible to the public. Some of their digitized exhibitions also serve this purpose. One such exhibition, ‘Poetry and Prayer: Islamic Manuscripts from the Walters Art,’ beautifully showcased a variety of books, manuscripts, and individual art pieces. This collection includes beautifully illuminated manuscripts featuring poetry, prayers, miniature art, the Quran, and more. Each item has been digitized, and an informative description is offered.
While exploring this specific exhibition along with some of their digitized manuscripts, we noticed some similarities or common characteristics between their displayed materials with some of the manuscripts and rare books available at Islamic Studies Library rare book collection. Thus, we decided to highlight some of them as an example.
However, there are many more similar cases to be explored. Some of McGill Islamic Studies Library’s digitized manuscripts and rare books can be found here. The Walters Art Museum manuscripts can be found here.
For example, this Mughal color-wash drawing (portrait of Lal Kunwar) at the Walters Art Museum and this miniature of a princess at McGill Rare book collection, have various elements in common, while created in different time.
……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………Additionally, these two manuscripts seem to share many characteristics. Both are Persian poetry books, featuring similar calligraphy styles and very comparable ornate illuminations. However, one (“Yusuf and Zulaykha” by Jami) is housed at the Walters Art Museum, and the other one (poetry book by Hafiz ) is at McGill Rare Books. Are these two manuscripts made in the same manuscript workshop but, in the course of history, ended up in two different parts of the world?
These two painting share some similarities as well while the miniature of the Mughul Emperor is housed at McGill and the portrait of emperor Jahangir is at The Walters Art Museum.
There are more items at both places that can be compared and explored to find similarities or differences. These two Hafiz poetry books (mentioned above) can be examined from a different perspective. Although they were created around the same time, unlike the previously mentioned example, these two display distinct illustration and calligraphy styles, yet they also share some similarities.
The Walters Art Museum, in line with their commitment to public education and connecting art to people’s lives, publishes the Journal of Walters Art Museum as an open-access resource, providing free access to research about their collection which can be found here and contains valuable information about their collection. While comparing or exploring their collection, this resource can also be used to obtain more background information about their various manuscripts or rare books.
“The Walters Art Museum’s Mission has been to bring art and people together and to create a place where people of every background can be moved by art”
In addition to aiming at identifying and locating archival materials indispensable to scholarship, the project also explored faster and more appropriate ways to describe and catalogue archival collections “from an African perspective”. To do so, they reflected on traditional Western archival practices, and worked towards adapting them and/or creating new practice better suited for archival materials in non-European languages. They worked closely with partners at SCOLMA, a “forum for librarians, archivists and others concerned with African studies materials in libraries and archives in the United Kingdom”.
The rationale behind the project is thoroughly explained in this video posted on the ‘About‘ page:
The ‘Archives Africa Catalogues‘ section is the heart of the website as it includes the records of archival collections. Catalogues can be discovered browsing a number of categories:
At the time of our visit, the total number of collections cataloguing records in the database was close to 900, identifying and locating a much larger number of documents in Malagasy, French, and English.
The News section, despite not having been updated since 2018, makes available interesting and insightful information about the project.
Those interested in learning more about African archives further should consult the International African Institute‘s website, in particular the African digital repositories page. Based in the United Kingdom (at the School for African and Oriental Studies, SOAS), the IAI “promotes the scholarly study of Africa’s history, societies and cultures” for which archival sources are essential.
An Exhibition curated jointly curated by the Islamic Studies Library and the Osler Library of the History of Medicine running from September 11th to December 22nd, 2023.
The practice of medicine in the region sometimes referred to as the Islamic World predates the revelation of Islam: therapeutic practices before Islam relied heavily on Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Persian, Indian, and Greek medical knowledge. During the early and medieval periods of the Islamic era, physicians in the region achieved advancements and innovations that have had a lasting and significant impact on the evolution of medical practices around the world. This exhibition aims to show how medical knowledge first came to the Islamic World (pre-Islam until the 10th cent. AD/4th cent. AH), then circulated and developed within the region (between the 11th and 16th cent. AD/5th-10th cent. AH), before being exported to Europe (during the 17th and 18th centuries. AD/11th-12th cent. AH). Visitors will learn how the translations of foreign medical texts (from Greek, Sanskrit, Syriac, etc.) into Arabic and Persian eventually led to the need to codify such a large body of knowledge for the purpose of dissemination. Visitors will also gain an appreciation for the wealth and depth of knowledge produced by physicians who practiced in Islamic lands, especially in fields like ophthalmology, pharmacology and surgery. Finally, visitors will understand the lasting and significant impact that medical knowledge produced in the Islamic World has had on modern Western medicine. Through the display of original manuscripts, books, and antique artefacts from the Islamic Studies Library (ISL), and the Osler Library of the History of Medicine, The rise and influence of Medicine in the Islamic World will take visitors on a fascinating journey into the world of Islamic medicine.
Comprising two complementary displays -one at the Islamic Studies Library and other at the Osler Library-, the exhibition will be accessible during libraries opening hours from September 11th to December 22nd, 2023.
 For geographical location, contemporary denominations of countries have been used even if the national entities known today did not exist in their current frontiers at the time. The geography of the region was in constant flux during the long period covered by the exhibition and referring to today’s place-names appeared like the easiest way to situate individuals and events.
 For dating, both the Gregorian calendar (AD) and the Hijri calendar (AH) have been used most of the times. An exception was made for Greek and European physicians for whom only Gregorian dates are given.
The rise and influence of Medicine in the Islamic World was jointly curated by Anaïs Salamon and Ghazaleh Ghanavizchian from the ISL, and Dr. Mary Hague-Yearl from the Osler Library.
Pre- & early Islamic Medicine
Medical practices before Islam came from Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Persian, Indian, and Greek physicians. After the rise of Islam (7th cent. AD/1st cent. AH), pre-Islamic medicine remained in use until the beginning of the Umayyad Caliphate (660-750 AD/40-132 AH). From the 9th cent. AD/3rd cent. AH onwards, a new type of medicine emerged by adopting Greco-Islamic medical knowledge and recorded as Ḥadīth [Reports from the Prophet Muḥammad]: This Prophetic medicine drawn from Ḥadīth co-existed with other types of medical care – like Greek humoral medicine – and kept developing until the 14th cent. AD/9th cent. AH.
The Translation of Foreign Texts
During the Abbasid Caliphate (750-1258 AD/132-651 AH), significant effort went toward translating medical and scientific works from other cultures and languages. Established in the 9th cent. AD/3rd cent. AH in Baghdad (Iraq), Bayt al-Ḥikmah / بيت الحكمة [The house of wisdom] supported the translation of foreign texts into Arabic. Many Arab physicians started as translators before composing their own works. Two examples are the Arab Nestorian Christian Ḥunayn ibn Isḥāq, the author of a fundamental ophthalmological treatise, and the Syriac Christian Ibn Māsawayh, the author of many works on fevers, leprosy, melancholy, and other topics. The most commonly translated texts at the time were the Compendium on materia medica by Dioscorides as well as the works of Hippocrates and Galen in humoral medicine.
By the end of the 9th cent. AD/3rd cent. AH, Hellenistic humoral medicine – based on the balance between four humors: blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile – had become prominent in the region. However, prophetic medicine was still very popular, and physicians often blended the two approaches together when curing patients until the 14th cent. AD/9th cent. AH.
In the late 9th – early 10th cent. AD/3rd – 4th cent. AH, the first hospitals appeared in Iraq and Egypt and then started spreading throughout the Islamic World. For sovereigns, such institutions were part of charitable endeavors and cam to symbolize political power. For physicians, hospitals were a place where they not only cured patients, but also taught and trained aspiring physicians.
Ḥunayn ibn Isḥāq al-ʿIbādī. حنين بن إسحاق العبادي (Iraq, 808–873 AD/192-259 AH) was the most famous translator of Greek texts into Syriac and Arabic. His translations formed a foundation for the continuation of Galenic medicine amongst Muslim physicians and, through their mediation, in the mediaeval West.
Ibn Māsawayh. ابن ماسويه (Iraq, died 857 AD/243 AH) began his career translating Greek scientific works for the famous Bayt al-ḥikmah, but became a court physician, attending the high society around the caliph.
Dioscorides (Greece, active in the first century C.E.) is Pedanius Dioscorides of Anazarbos, Greek physician and herbalist, and author of De materia medica that formed the basis of the pharmacological tradition of the classical Islamic world.
Hippocrates (Greece, born after 460, died circa 379 B.C.E.) is considered in both the Muslim world and the West as “the father of medicine.” The Corpus Hippocraticum -writings attributed to him- comprises about seventy titles. However, the authorship of many of them has been a matter of dispute since antiquity. Hippocrates nevertheless drew the first outlines of humoral medicine.
Galen (Turkey, 129-circa 216 C.E.) was a Greek-speaking physician born in Pergamum. His vast work (more than 20,000 pages in a standard 1821 edition) deals with all fields of medical science (anatomy, physiology, therapy, pharmacology, surgery), but also extends to philosophy, logic, ethics, etc.
The Organization & Dissemination of Knowledge
In the 10th and 11th cent. AD/4th – 5th cent. AH, compiling and organizing what had become a large body of knowledge became the priority. Thus, comprehensive influential encyclopaedias were composed: examples include/ كتاب المنصوري في الطبKitāb al-Manṣurī fī al-ṭibb [The book on medicine dedicated to al-Mansur] and كتاب الحاوي في الطب / Kitāb al-Ḥāwī fī al-ṭibb [The Comprehensive Book on Medicine] both by Abū Bakr al-Rāzī, and/ كتاب القانون في الطبKitāb al-Qānun fī al-ṭibb [The canon of medicine] by Avicenna. If such encyclopaedic works were not always well received by the medical community at the time of composition, they served as the foundation of later important works like those of Averroes, Ibn al-Nafīs, and many others.
Abū Bakr al-Rāzī -or Rhazes-. أبو بكر محمد بن زكريا الرازي(Iran, 854-925 or 935 AD/240-313 or 323 AH), known to the Latins as Rhazes, was a physician, philosopher and alchemist. His medical handbook (Mansuri) and other writings were translated over a dozen times into Latin and other European languages.
Ibn Sīnā -or Avicenna-.أبو علي حسين بن عبد الله بن سينا (Iran, 980-1037 AD/370-428 AH) was known primarily as a philosopher and physician, but he contributed to the advancement of many more sciences accessible in his day: astronomy, music, politics, religion, poetry, etc. Divided in five books (1. Generalities, 2. Pharmacology, 3. Special pathology, 4. Treatises, 5. Pharmacopeia), his Qanun is the clear and ordered sum of all the medical knowledge available at the time, augmented from his own observations. The Qanun served as a reference for seven centuries of medical teaching and practice.
Ibn Rushd -or Averroes-. محمد إبن احمد إبن رشد(Spain, 1126-1198 AD/520-594 AH) was known primarily as a philosopher and theologian, but also specialized in the natural sciences (physics, medicine, biology, astronomy). He wrote several treatises about stroke, a neurological disease similar to Parkinson, and the anatomy of the eye. The encyclopaedia co-authored with Avenzoar – or Ibn Zuhr – (Spain, died 1162) entitled Al-Kulliyat fi al-Tibb was translated into Latin in the 14th century A.D. and became a textbook in Europe for centuries (known as the Colliget).
Ibn al-Nafīs. ابن النفيس (Syria, 1210-1288 AD/607-687 AH) is the author of one of the most widely read commentaries on Avicenna’s Qānūn fī l-ṭibb in the pre-modern Islamic world. He was also the first physician to propose that blood travels from the right side of the heart to the left through the lungs (pulmonary transit).
The Emergence of Specialties
Ophthalmology, pharmacology and surgery quickly emerged as medical specialties in the Islamic World as demonstrated by the number of dedicated monographs. Other topics such as anatomy, bloodletting or embryology were also sometimes the subject of monographs, but these did not become as influential as encyclopaedias chapters on the same topics.
Ophthalmological works composed as early as in the 9th cent. AD/3rd cent. AH already show very advanced knowledge: grounded in theories inherited from the Hellenic World, they included intricate surgical procedures to treat common eye diseases like cataracts. One of the most renowned works from the early period is تذكرة الكحالين /Tadhkirat al-Kaḥḥālīn [Memorandum of the oculists] by ʿAlī ibn ʿĪsá (11th cent. AD/5th cent. AH). A few centuries later, in the 14th cent. AD/9th cent. AH, Ibn al-Nafīs compiled in a systematic way the ophthalmological knowledge of the time in/ كتاب المهذب في طب العينKitāb al-Muhadhdhab fī ṭibb al-ʿayn [Ophthalmology manual].
Physicians in the Islamic Era commonly used the 500 substances described in Dioscorides’ Compendium in addition to drugs used in Indian and Persian medicine. The 10th cent. AD/4th cent. AH writings of Qustā ibn Lūqā included drugs such as camphor or ammoniac that were unknown at the time to Greek and European physicians. In the 12th cent. AD/6th cent. AH, al-Ghafīqī compiled a list of medicinal substances ordered alphabetically entitled كتاب الأدوية المفردة / Kitāb al-adwiyāʾ al-mufradah [The book of simple drugs].
This work served as a basis for a later manual authored by Ibn al-Baytar (13th cent. AD/7th cent. AH) that presented a total of 1,400 medicaments and became a reference for many subsequent guides in the Islamic World and beyond.
Many physicians in the medieval Islamic medical tradition were interested in surgery. One of the most famous surgeons was al-Zahrāwī (11th cent. AD/5th cent. AH) whose thirty-volume encyclopaedia entitled/ كتاب التصريف لمن عجز عن التأليفKitāb al-Taṣrīf li-man ʿajiza ʿan al-taʾlīf [The arrangement of medical knowledge for one who is not able to compile a book himself] was quoted over 200 times by 14th cent. AD/9th cent. AH French surgeon Guy de Chauliac.
Another important contributor to surgical knowledge was Abū al-Faraj ibn al-Quff (13th cent. AD/7th cent. AH) who composed a substantial monograph on surgery, كتاب العمدة في صناعة الجراحة / Kitāb al-ʿUmdah fī ṣināʿat al-jirāḥah [The mainstay in the art of surgery], which comprised twenty chapters covering anatomy, physiology, general surgical principles, and a pharmacopoeia (recipes for compound drugs used in surgery).
ʿAlī ibn ʿIsá al-Kaḥḥāl. علي بن عيسى الكحال (Iraq, died 1038 or 1039 AD/429 or 430 AH) was the best known oculist (kaḥḥāl) of the Arabs. His work, the Tad̲h̲kirat al-Kaḥḥālīn , is the oldest Arabic work on ophthalmology that survived in the original. This comprehensive treatise was translated into Hebrew and Latin in the 15th century A.D.
Qustā ibn Lūqā. قسطا ابن لوقا (Syria, died 912 or 913 AD/299 or 300 AH) worked as a physician and translator -he was fluent in Greek, Syriac and Arabic-. His medical works include treatises on gout, infectious diseases, insomnia, fevers, types of crises in illnesses, the pulse, paralysis-types, causes and treatment, the four “humours”, and phlebotomy.
 Al-Ghāfiqi. أبو جعفر أحمد بن محمد الغافقي (Spain, 12th cent. AD/6th cent. AH) was regarded as the best expert on drugs of his time.
Ibn al-Bayṭār. ابن البيطار (Spain, died 1248 AD/646 AH) was a botanist and pharmacologist. Some historians consider he plagiarized al-Ghafiqi’s Kitāb fī l-adwiya al-mufrada to compose his al-Jāmiʿ li-mufradāt al-adwiya wa-al-ag̲h̲d̲h̲iya.
Abū al-Qāsim al-Zahrāwī-or Abulcassis-.أبو القاسم الزهراوي (Spain, 936-1013 AD/ 324-404 AH) was an innovative physician, surgeon and chemist whose influence continued for centuries and extended far beyond the frontiers of the Muslim Worlds.
Guy de Chauliac (France, 1300-1368 AD) was a physician and surgeon famous for his treatise Chirurgia Magna that was translated in numerous languages and served as a reference until the 16th century.
Abū al-Faraj ibn al-Quff. أبو الفرج بن يعقوب بن إسحاق ابن القف (Jordan, 1233-1286 AD/630-685 AH) was a Christian physician and surgeon better known as a writer and educator than as a doctor.
The medical community in the Islamic World remained quite productive through the 14th cent. AD/9th cent. AH, especially in Syria and Egypt. In the latter half of the 16th cent. AD/10th cent. AH, early modern European medical ideas, techniques, and drug therapies started filtering into the Islamic World. Dāʾūd al-Antakī included 1,712 mineral, animal and plant substances from Egypt, Europe, India, China, the Levant, North Africa, and Asia Minor. In hisتذكرة أولي الألباب والجامع للعجب العجاب / Tadhkirat ulī al-albāb wa al-jāmiʿ li al-ʿajab al-ʿujāb [Memorandum book for those who have understanding and collection of wondrous marvels] (1568 AD/975 AH), followed the European practice of using China Root (Chub-chini) to cure syphilis. In a treatise dedicated to syphilis written in 1569 AD/ 977 AH, ʿImād al-Dīn Masʿūd Shīrāzī also prescribed China Root as a cure.
In the 17th cent. AD/11th cent. AH, Ibn Sallūm’s treatise entitled غاية الاتقان في تبدير بدان الانسان/ Ghāyat al-itqān fī tadbīr badān al-insān [The culmination of perfection in the treatment of the human body] originally composed in Arabic and later translated into Ottoman Turkish, included translations of several Latin writings by Paracelsus. But knowledge also circulated in the other direction: Europeans became interested in learning of the medical practices then current in the Islamic World. In 1681 AD/1092 AH, Joseph Labrosse published Pharmacopoea Persica ex idiomate Persica in Latinum conversa which consisted of the Latin translation of a Persian book on compound remedies with personal notes and comments.
Daʾūd al-Antakī. داؤود الأنطاكي (Egypt, 16th cent. AD/10th cent. AH) was a blind physician and pharmacist who authored a three-part medical encyclopedia that included descriptions of over 3,000 medicinal and aromatic plants.
ʿImād al-Dīn Masʿūd Shīrāzī.عماد الدین مسعود شیرازی (Iran, mid-16th cent. AD/ mid. 10th cent. AH) was a physician who composed a number of treatises in Persian and Arabic on the therapeutic values of Opium and China root (species of smilax). European influence is visible in his works.
 Ṣāliḥ b. Naṣrullāh Ibn Sallūm al-Ḥalabī. صالح بن نصر الله بن سلوم الحلبي (Syria, died 1670 AD/1081 AH) was the head physician of the Ottoman Empire whose writings are often seen as instrumental in the introduction of European Renaissance medicine to the Middle East.
Paracelsus (Switzerland, 1493-1541 AD) was a physician, alchemist, theologian, and philosopher. He is one of the first scientists to introduce chemistry to medicine advocating for the use of inorganic salts, minerals, and metals for medicinal purposes. Instead of the four humour of Hellenistic medicine, he believed there were three humours: salt, sulphur, and mercury respectively representing stability, combustibility, and liquidity.
Joseph Labrosse (France, 1636-1697 AD), also known as Father Angelus of St. Joseph, was a French Carmelite missionary and writer. He played a role in transmitting Persian medical terminology to Europe, and was the first European to make a serious study of Iranian medicine. He also compiled a Persian dictionary with translations into Latin, French, and Italian.
The Rise of European Medicine as the Reference
In the middle of the 18th cent. AD/12th cent. AH, traditional Islamic medicine seemed unable to combat the plague epidemic in Istanbul. The Ottoman sultan Mustafa III ordered a Turkish translation of two treatises by Hermann Boerhaave. These translations, soughing to reconcile and harmonize Boerhaave’s ideas with traditional Islamic medicine, were completed in 1768 AD/1182 AH.
The 19th cent. AD/13th cent. AH witnessed profound changes in the teaching of medicine in the Islamic World as European medical expertise became the reference point. In 1825 AD/ 1240 AH, the Egyptian army hired French physician Antoine-Barthélémy Clot as surgeon-in-chief. A few years later, Clot established a medical school near Cairo which French, Italian and German professors. Similarly, a military medical school, دار الفنون / Dār al-Funūn [The house of arts] founded in Tehran (Iran) in 1850 AD/ 1266 AH offered instruction in French based on European medical texts translated into Persian.
Nevertheless, aspects of medieval Islamic traditional medicine continued to coexist alongside modern European medicine. In the late 19th cent. AD/13th cent. AH, treatises of Ibn Sīnā and Ibn al-Bayṭār, among others, were still printed at the بلاق / Būlaq Press ( / المطبعة الأميريةal-maṭbaʿah al-amīrīyah) in Cairo because they continued to represent a vital tradition.
Hermann Boerhaave (Netherlands, 1668-1738 AD) was a Dutch botanist, chemist and physician considered to be the founder of clinical teaching and of the modern academic hospital, and sometimes referred to as “the father of physiology”. He is best known for demonstrating the relation of symptoms to lesions.
Antoine-Barthelemy Clot (France, 1793-1868 AD) also known as Clot Bey is a French physician and medicine professor who spent most of his life working in Egypt.
Abel-Halim, R. E. (2018). Surgery. In Pormann, P. E. (Ed.), 1001 Cures: Contributions in Medicine & Healthcare from Muslim Civilisation. London: Foundation for Science, Technology and Civilisation. https://www.1001cures.net
Shahpesandy, H., Al-Kubaisy, T., Mohammed-Ali, R., Oladosu, A., Middleton, R., and Saleh, N. (2022) A Concise History of Islamic Medicine: An Introduction to the Origins of Medicine in Islamic Civilization, Its Impact on the Evolution of Global Medicine, and Its Place in the Medical World Today. International Journal of Clinical Medicine, 13, 180-197. https://doi.org.10.4236/ijcm.2022.134015
Launched in 2002, the Nakba Archive is an oral history collective based in Lebanon aiming to document the social and cultural lives in Palestine before 1948. Over the years, the Archive interviewed over 650 first generation Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, and recorded “their recollections of life in Palestine and the events that led to their displacement.” The primary objective of the Nakba Archive has been to complete existing written record by allowing refugees to document their histories in their own terms.
“Diana Allan founded the Nakba Archive in June 2002. She has a doctorate in anthropology and film from Harvard University and has worked on a several activist media projects in the region. Video documentaries include: Chatila, Beirut (2002); Still Life (2007); and Terrace of the Sea (2010).” She is currently an Associate Professor in Anthropology & Institute for the Study of International Development (ISID) at McGill University. Co-founder and manager, Mahmoud Zeidan, is a Palestinian refugee from Ayn al-Helweh camp in Lebanon and active member of the Lebanese Center for Refugees Rights Aidun.
Despite not having been updated in a very long time, the Nakba Archive website remains a valuable source of information on where to find, and how to access the interviews conducted in its early years. A few excerpts have been made accessible from the NA website, but the vast majority of the audio and video recordings can today be found in the Jafet Library (American University of Beirut):
Another part of the the project, Photo48, included scanning “personal photos and documents (registration papers, land deeds, marriage licenses, birth certificates, etc.) which refugees brought with them from Palestine.” Unfortunately, these materials don’t seems to have been made available online anywhere. Interested people could always reach out to the Nakba Archives founders to inquire about them.
Last, the Nakba Archive produced in 2005 and 2008 two documentaries about archival work that can be ordered from the website, or found in your library: Nakba Archive Excerpts is available at McGill University Library.
The disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic did not stop the emergence of new ideas and projects at the McGill Islamic Studies Library (ISL). One such example is our collaboration with the Arabic Design Archive (ADA) which started in the middle of the pandemic. Originally, the ISL committed to feed the digital archives with scans of book cover from its collections. As time passed, both parties decided to create a joint exhibition titled Archival Alliance: Discovering Arabic Book Covers that was displayed in the Islamic Studies Library from September 15th to December 15th, 2022.
“The Archival Alliance: Discovering Arabic Book Covers exhibition seeks to highlight and broaden the concept of the histories of graphic design beyond Western contributions to present the wealth of design work produced in the Arab World [….], the exhibit [walked] visitors through the history of Arabic books covers design between 1970 and 2000.”
In early 2020, Moe Elhossieny, Egyptian designer, practitioner historian and researcher, started an archiving project that developed later into the digital Arabic Design Archive. ADA is a non-profit initiative aiming to facilitate knowledge production about Arabic design and its historical context by collecting, digitizing, and making available relevant materials; and to create a digital archive serving both for inspirational and scholarly purposes.
To achieve his goal, Elhossieny began to collect Arabic book covers designs from various collections crowdsourcing stored them in their repository, and posted the most interesting ones on the ADA Instagram account. This is where our former colleague, Mrs. Samah Kasha, learned about the project and contacted Moe Elhossieny to offer our contribution by sending a monthly batch of Arabic book covers’ scans from the Islamic studies Library collection. The collaboration started officially in the Winter of 2021.
Between January 2021 and January 2023, the ISL sent the digital copies of 250 book covers to the ADA archive across a wide range of subjects. Book covers were selected based on their date of publication (to comply with copyright requirements) as well as design and style including typography, graphic design, illustration, and calligraphy. The ADA included these images to their repository and posted some of them (when copyright allowed) on their Instagram account: @thearabicdesignarchive. Our materials have been tagged “Collection of @mcgillislamiclibrary.”
Examples of book covers:
While the Arabic Design Archives was growing and diversifying, the ISL relationship with them tightened, and we suggested expanding the collaboration: a jointly curated exhibition seemed like a good way to do so.
Given the restrictions imposed on everyone by the COVID pandemic, The Archival Alliance: Discovering Arabic Book Covers exhibition was developed in a hybrid format including both a physical display and a digital component. The virtual part of the exhibition consisted in a touch table exhibit that offered visitors a unique interactive digital experience. The physical display featured books from the ISL collection, and the digital display gave access to book covers from the ADA archive.
To incorporate the digital aspect of the exhibition, we asked our colleague Gregory Houston, ROAAr (Rare & Special Collections, Osler, Art, and Archives) Digitization Administrator for help. His expertise in developing touch table experience combined with Moe Elhossieny’s expertise in design resulted in a colorful and engaging touch table exhibit, showcasing books covers, animated clips, documentary videos, illustrated pages presenting the narrative of the exhibition, historical photographs, etc.
The topics covered and the materials included in the The Archival Alliance: Discovering Arabic Book Covers exhibition were identified and selected over the course of several meetings. If more than 500 ISL book covers were scanned and sent to the ADA during our two years-long collaboration, only 20 of them were chosen for the physical display. While selecting the book covers, we realized that three artists had played an important role in designing book covers in the 20th century: Hilmi El-Tuni, Mohieddine Ellabbad and Bahgat Osman. With materials gathered for his personal research and the Arabic Design Archives, Moe Elhossieny was able to create documentary-style videos highlighting the work of the three featured artists (video1, 2 and 3). These videos were available for watching on the touch table.
Materials on both the touch table and in the display cabinet were assigned to three main subject areas : Religion, Literature, and History. Book cover design can teach us a lot by reflecting design trends and techniques of the period when they were published. To offer a more meaningful experience to visitors, the Islamic Studies Library made additional books accessible for discovery along side those in the physical display.
The graphic design and visual elements for the promotional materials like postcards (images 1 & 2) and poster (image3) were collaboratively developed.
If the plan was to host a launch or closing event in the presence of Moe Elhossieny, travel restrictions to Canada unfortunately did not allow us to do that.
The exhibition concluded on December 15th, 2023 after attracting numerous visitors from McGill and from the larger Montreal community. We received a lot of positive feedback: some visitors were impressed by the wide range of designs, others found the concept original and unique, others enjoyed the touch table experience and its audio-visual materials.
The exhibition was, curated by Anaïs Salamon, Head of the Islamic Studies Library, Moe Elhosseiny, The Arabic Design Archive, Samah Kasha, former Senior Library Clerk at the Islamic Studies Library, and Ghazaleh Ghanavizchian, Senior Library Clerk at the Islamic Studies Library.
We also thank Dr. Charles Fletcher, Head Library Clerk at the Islamic Studies Library, and Lauren Goldman, Communications and Events Administrator in the Office of the Dean of Libraries, for their invaluable support, and many contributions to this project.
This blog post is written by Ghazaleh Ghanavizchian and proofread by Anaïs Salamon.
Launched in 2009, the Foundation for Arab Music Archiving & Research (AMAR) is a private Lebanese organization working towards the preservation of recorded and printed Arab musical tradition of the Nahda (approx. 1903-1935). AMAR also aims at supporting on-going scholarly research in musicology, and promoting traditional Arab music. To do so, AMAR actively collects, catalogues, and digitizes printed scores and audio records, organizes public lectures, scientific conferences, and musical concerts, and ensures its unique collection is accessible to worldwide researchers and the general public.
Today, AMAR has one of the largest known record collections of Egyptian/Syro-Lebanese Arab music from 1903 through to the 1930s. AMAR also has some partial collections of Lebanese studio recordings that date back to the 1950s.
The geographical focus of the foundation’s work spans from Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Iraq, the Arab Gulf to Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia, and includes minority groups existing in these countries such as the Syriac, Kurdish, and Coptic communities as well as Sufi orders. If initially, AMAR’s dissemination work relied primarily on CDs and booklets, with the rise of the Internet, efforts were redirected towards the creation of “a website that will deliver Arab music at the highest quality that available technology allows.”
On the website, visitors will find a dynamic timeline highlighting important contributors to the development and circulation of traditional Arab music. Despite some limitations outline in the introductory paragraph, the timeline remains an interesting source of information.
Complementing the timeline, the Artists & Music section offers a different way to navigate the various singers, and composers included in the database:
Moreover, in the past ten years, AMAR produced over 200 Podcast episodes (in Arabic) focusing on individual artists, musical techniques and/or instruments. And the list of events available on a dedicated page gives a idea of the variety of manifestations AMAR participated in and organized: exhibitions, concerts, panels, film screenings, etc. Unfortunately, the most recent ones go back to 2021: one can only hope they will resume activities in this area soon. The Documents page gives access to lengthy and well-documented papers on various people and topics:
Last, the Products page is where one can order materials published by the foundation from, mostly CDs but also a monograph:
It is worthy to note that traditional Arab music enthusiasts will find original music available for listening in a number of the website’ sections (Artists & music, Podcast, and Products). Be advised that the sound quality varies from one recording to another.
For more information, we invite you to consult the Press and Press TV Kits, and/or contact the AMAR Foundation. Their website is available in Arabic and English.
Before concluding this semester, we had the occasion to do an email interview with one of our Library student worker, Dhruv Mehndiratta, with whom we had the opportunity to work for few semesters.
We would like to thank Dhruv and all our student workers for their hard work and dedication!
1.Please tell us a little about yourself.
I’m an international student from India, majoring in Mathematics and Economics (minoring in Political Science). Having grown up around Delhi, I know Hindi, Urdu, and English. I also took German throughout school but unfortunately am nowhere near adept at it. I joined McGill in Fall 2020 as a U0 student, but, courtesy of COVID-19, was only able to come physically to Montreal the next year in August 2021 for the upcoming Fall semester.
2.What made you want to apply to work for the library?
Other than the obvious perks of it being a campus job perfectly suited for a part time employee/full-time student, the thing that really drew me to work at the library was the opportunity to undertake organizational tasks in a calm and orderly manner – and get paid for it! I’ve always taken comfort in order and organization and knowing I would get to do it in a positive working environment with union protection & rules was all I needed to know before applying.
3.What kind of work have you been doing?
The work has varied over time, but so far I have done barcoding, vacuumed books in HSSL1, updated records on WMS2, re-shelved books, assisted patrons in a number of ways, installed and shifted books onto new shelves.
4.Has working in the library helped you in any way or form?
Other than the regular stream of income, working in the library has given me the opportunity to get to know some great people, feel a part of the city, as well as providing me with something solid but still flexible to fix my schedule and keep myself busy.
5.Have the other languages you know helped you in you work in the library?
While my knowledge of Hindi and Urdu hasn’t been necessary, it is fun to sometimes be able to pick up a book and understand what it says while most other in the university would not. Plus it’s always fun to hear some people confidently mis-pronounce words in a language you know very well.
6.What aspect of the work did you like the most?
My favourite task so far has easily been updating records on WMS. I find it easy to get in a continuous rhythm and on occasion I don’t even notice how much time has passed. In general, however, the organizational nature of most, if not all tasks, is what I enjoy most.
7.What is –so far– your most vivid memory of your times as a student time at McGill?
On March 20 of 2022, I was in a café around Rue Rachel and saw a bunch of McGill students in giraffe costumes jaywalking. I’ve seen funnier things happen, for sure, but as far as vividity goes, that’s number one.
8.Do you have any suggestion or recommendations for other students like yourself? Is thereanything you would like to share about your experience of working and studying?
I would definitely recommend getting a Work/Study Authorization and submitting an application to a bunch of on-campus jobs, all McGill libraries included. It allows you to meet a bunch of people, get some professional experience (which is especially important if you’re an international student wanting to stay in Canada), provides you with a constant source of income which can either finance your lifestyle or give you with the opportunity to start saving, and the hours are extremely flexible. As far as studying goes, if you have the opportunity to take only 4 courses a semester instead of 5, do it, because you will definitely understand the material better. I’ve always had to take five course semesters, and there’s always been at least one course where I feel like I could’ve learned better and more efficiently, even if I ended up with an A. A way to get some four course semesters if you’re on a tight schedule with regards to your degree is to take some summer courses.
9.Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
I feel like I’ve shared all I can. Working at the library has been a great experience and everyone who has the ability to try and work there if they can!
Thank you very much for your time, Dhruv, and we would like to wish you best of luck in all your endeavor!
1.HSSL: Humanities and Social Sciences Library
2.WMS: Worldshare Management Services is Library cloud-based management platform.
Disclaimer: The views expressed do not necessarily represent the views of the Islamic Studies Library.
The Indian Princely States Online Legal History Archive (IPSOLHA) is an online archive for primary and secondary sources related to the legal and administrative history of the Indian Princely States started in 2021. Originally sponsored by the Society of Fellows of Dartmouth College, and a Digital Scholarship Grant from the American Institute of Indian Studies Digital Learning Initiative, the project later received support from the Department of History and Information Technology & Consulting at Dartmouth College as well as the South Asia Open Archives (SAOA) at the Center for Research Libraries.
“During the period of British colonial rule, there were hundreds of semi-sovereign, semi-autonomous states across the South Asian subcontinent. (…) these states (…) were incubators for innovative legal, administrative, and political ideas and offered a unique counterbalance to the hegemony of British rule. Yet despite their unique history, studying these states is complicated by the scattered nature of their archival remains.“
The main objective of IPSOLHA is to make the archives relating to these Princely States ,more easily accessible by identifying, cataloguing, and digitizing them when possible to support the legal and administrative history of the Indian Princely States. At the time of our visit, the database included the description of more than 3,000 individual documents, and future efforts will focus not only on continuing to enrich the database with new materials, but also on promoting it as a research tool starting with a series of presentations by Elizabeth Lhost, principal investigator.
The Indian Princely States Online Legal History Archive proposes eight categories based on resources types to browse the collection:
Each category displays a list of sources -in a customizable view- some of which accessible online, others to be consulted on site at their holding institution. The left-hand side menu allow visitors to filter results by Subject Headings, Document type, Language, State, and Holding Institutions.
Specialists will particularly appreciate that documents in many languages (English, Gujarati, Hindi, Hindustani, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Urdu, etc.) are included in the database, and that Princely States are identified for each source.
For each item listed, IPSOLHA provides a lengthy description including Subject Headings and Type of resource tags allowing to navigate documents within the database (Main & IPSOLHA tabs), and instructions for accessing the materials (Access tab):
Interested scholars can get in touch with the project team at ipsolha [at] gmail.com, use the Contact form, or follow updates on Facebook, Twitter.
RIWAQ is a non-profit organization funded in 1991, and its goal is the protection and development of Palestine’s architectural heritage by documenting and restoring architectural heritage sites and buildings.
Documentation of Palestine history and cultural heritage have been challenging throughout its history. Primarily because of the destruction of many of architectural and cultural heritage, especially during Nakba (1948) where many of Palestine’s cultural heritage sites were destroyed along with villages, buildings, etc. Secondly due to lack of accurate and scientific registry of architectural heritage, in other words, due to various reasons such as the impact of the system of power, or colonialism, it seems that even the existing documentations of Palestine’s heritage have been conducted to serve a mission or an agenda and not necessarily to serve scientific purposes.
Therefore, in response to the great need in documentation, preservation, and discovery of Palestine’s cultural heritage, public space enthusiasts and heritage activists established RIWAQ. At first it was formed as a project called RIWAQ Registry of Historic Buildings in Palestine, which resulted in creation of a database of historic buildings in Gaza Strip, West Bank, especially to register the most endangered components of cultural heritage.
Later, between 1994 to 2004, 50320 historic building were documented by RIWAQ registry from various villages and cities, which later was also published in three volumes. Moreover, the field work conducted by RIWAQ team resulted in creation of 400 GIS map and a collection of photographs.
RIWAQ’s archives contains a rich collection of over 50000 analog photographs and more than 100,000 digital photographs. This collection presents Palestine’s documentary heritage from 1980’s and show cases its transformations.
“Archives are perceived as the memory of a nation archival documents, transcripts, photos, and maps narrate the everyday life of a given society. They bear witness to the main crucial turning points in the history of society.”1 Thus RIWAQ’s archive is an important and valuable source of information/knowledge to Palestine’s cultural heritage.
However, RIWAQ’s work is not limited to documentation of historic and architectural sites, but their work changed the paradigm in the field of heritage from economic, social, and environmental liability into an important tool for economic and social change. Their focus has been mainly on the rural areas and by taking on restoration of villages in Palestine they also helped job creation along with preservation of the cultural heritage sites. Moreover, their project helped raising awareness about the role of cultural heritage in Palestinians identity.
“Through its work, RIWAQ has succeeded in responding to the vital question of what it takes to rehabilitate an entire town, not only physically, but socially, culturally, and economically.”2
To this end, an interesting and interactive map of Jerusalem’s rural areas has been created. This map is a collection of sketches documenting oral history in that area.
By clicking on different parts of the map user will have access to a more data that narrates an object’s history, a popular vocation at the time or an artifact, etc. It also provides information about where the data is collected with the name of the narrator as well as pictures of those places and more detailed drawings.
Besides their active role in documentation and restoration of cultural and architectural heritage, RIWAQ also offers workshop and training in specialized topics and techniques such as the structural analysis of stone structures, traditional iron works, mural paintings, and photometry to those interested in working in restoration field.
Riwaq won the prestigious Aga Khan Award for Architecture.
RIWAQ’s website provides access to a wide range of different types of information, such as maps, photos, articles, etc.