Syrian Prints Archive is an independent documentary initiative “without any political, partisan or religious affiliations”, that provides archiving and storing services for Syrian print media issued since the outbreak of the March 2011 Revolution, regardless of content or orientations. Between March 2011 and the end of 2014, Syrian media witnessed a significance rise in the number of print publications. To learn more visit the site.
The Directory of Free Arab Journals (DFAJ)
The Directory of Free Arab Journals (DFAJ) is an initiative of Middle Eastern Open Access activists aiming at producing a directory of all open access (OA) scientific journals produced in Arab countries. DFAJ currently includes 250 journals from 172 publishers in 17 Arab countries. The directory is published under a CC-BY-NC license. Initially launched in 2013, a new version was released in March 2017. To learn more visit the site.
Archives of Arabic cultural and literary journals
This archive aims to preserve Arabic literature and cultural heritage as well as serving research and educational purposes. This digital archives of Arabic cultural and literary journals offers Open Access to no less than 208 journals, among which some of the most significant periodicals of the 19th-20th centuries from Egypt (al-Hilal, al-Manar, al-Muqtataf, etc.), Palestine (al-Karmal), Syria (Journal of the Arabic Academy of Sciences), or Tunisia (al-Fikr). To learn more visit the site.
Middle Eastern and North African Newspapers
The Middle Eastern and North African Newspapers collection is part of East View’s Global Press Archive® (GPA) program. Open Access to this collection is made possible through the generous support of the Center for Research Libraries and its member institutions.. The collection includes publications ranging from across a dynamic region. A broad overview on important historic events from 1870 to 2019. To learn more visit the site.
The Library of Congress houses, preserves, collects and makes accessible numerous valuable and historical materials from across the globe in different languages, forms and subjects, this includes a noteworthy collection of rare Persian language materials. This collection is part of the “African and Middle Eastern Division (AMED) and the Rare Book and Special Collections Division” and includes various rare materials of early print books, lithographic books and manuscripts.
According to the Library of Congress most materials in this collection was acquired in 1930s through a well-known dealer in fine Islamic and Near Eastern arts, Kirkor Minassian. This acquisition includes rare manuscripts and books in Arabic, Persian, Armenian and Turkish language, however the rare Persian language collection grew beyond Minassain acquisitions as the library continued to acquire more materials from other sources as well as to receive rare collections in a form of donation from generous people.
This collection consists of materials in different subject and disciplines from the entire Middle East. However, literary works and historical lithographs makes up for much of the collection.
“A number of these items are exquisitely illuminated anthologies of poetry by classic and lesser known poets, written in fine calligraphic styles, and illustrated with miniatures. Many also have beautiful bindings. A number of the illuminated books are multilingual works, which include Arabic and Turkish passages in addition to Persian, focusing on scientific, religious – philosophical and literary topics, and others are holy books important to all confessional traditions within the Islamic world.”
In 2014 in an exhibition, called “A Thousand Years of the Persian Book” that was held by The Library’s Near East Section, 40 items of rare Persian collection were shown to the public, this exhibition led to a digitization project in 2015. As a result of this ongoing project up until now 169 lithographs of the Collection are digitized and made available.
This beautifully organized collection can be accessed here. Each record provides access to a digitized format of the item as well as a description about the item such as a physical account, bibliographic information and when available summary of the content.
In addition to the abovementioned collection, Library of Congress also provided to a large collection of Arabic script calligraphy sheets from 9th to 19th century. 373 calligraphy sheets can be browsed online which mainly consist of fragments of Quran written on paper or parchment.
The Middle Eastern and North African Newspapers collection is part of East View’s Global Press Archive® (GPA) program. Open Access to this collection is made possible through the generous support of the Center for Research Libraries and its member institutions.
“Supporting Area Studies and Advancing Digital Humanities”
“The East View Global Press Archive® (GPA) is a program that embraces an unprecedented variety of global news publications, presented in full-image and full-text format optimized for scholarly use… GPA is the result of a landmark initiative of Stanford Libraries and the Hoover Institution Library & Archives to digitally preserve and make more accessible thousands of original print newspaper publications collected by the Hoover Institution and now housed by Stanford Libraries”
The Middle Eastern and North African Newspapers collection includes publications ranging from across a dynamic region. A broad overview on important historic events from 1870 to 2019.
Total Publications 84
Total Pages 896,018
Total Issues 81,254
The collection comprises out-of-copyright, orphaned content, mostly in Arabic, but also includes key titles in English and French. The platform can be viewed in Arabic or in English. The collection offers a unique opportunity to researchers to access content, never been digitized or available as open access material, from the Middle East and North Africa.
Browsing the collection
The Middle Eastern and North African Newspapers can be browsed in 3 different ways:
Title navigation: Listing all the 48 titles alphabetically including the country, city, language and date range availability.
Date navigation: An interactive calendar where you can select a specific date. A list of publication that correspond to the selected date, if available, will display.
Map navigation: An interactive map displaying pins of newspaper publications based on the geographic location.
On the home page there is a cool feature, a random selections of publications that was published on a day that matches today’s date.
Searching the collection
You can conduct a simple search using keywords or an exact phrase using quotation marks around your search terms. The Boolean operators AND, OR and NOT help in refining the search results. Also, there is an advanced search option that allows you to limit and narrow down your search results.
Searching the collection can be performed using Arabic, English or French. The keyboard button displays Arabic letters and it is quite useful to those with English keyboard only. It is worthwhile searching a chosen keyword in various languages, as results may vary.
Access to East View Global Press Archive® databases is provided solely for academic and research purposes. To learn more about the use of the materials, citation guide and copyright click here
Khamseen: Islamic Art History Online is a brand new open-access platform making available Islamic art, architecture, and visual culture resources primarily to support the interactive learning and teaching of Islamic art history, and in particular educators “who face limited access to institutional and archival resources”, but also to “educate and inspire interested audiences outside of academia”.
At the time of our visit, Khamseen included a series of ten to fifteen minutes-long video presentations focusing on a variety of topics: Persian miniatures, Mosques architecture, textile in traditional Tentmaking, etc. To date, no less than twenty-five international Islamic art history specialists contributed to the the platform.
Further developments of Khamseen will focus on: “(…) expand[ing] the range of subjects and materials to provide a rich repository of resources in the realm of digital Islamic humanities, [and] (…) expand[ing] the project’s accessibility and foster a global audience through closed captioning and providing content in multiple languages [seeking] to take the study of Islamic art out to the world, reaching a truly international level of engagement and learning thanks to the possibilities of integrated digital technologies.”
Victoria and Albert museum (V&A) of art and design’s collection contains over 2.3 million objects showcasing 5000 years of human art and creativity. The Museum’s collection consists of UK’s national as well as international collections. These collections contain wide range of resources for learning, research and study of various topics such as: architecture, book arts, sculpture, Asian art and design and etc.
Since the beginning of the V&A in 1850’s and when Queen Victoria laid the first stone of the Museum in 1899, Museum’s mission has been to provide tools and ways of learning and engaging with their collection. Moreover, building an excellent collection with global relevance and attracting international audiences and collections has always been part of their mission; therefore, V&A collected various outstanding resources and examples of human art and creativity from around the world.
In that regard, the V&A houses a great collection of Islamic art, which holds more than 19000 artifacts and items from early Islamic era to early twentieth century from Middle East and North Africa. This great collection usually can be visited in the Jameel Gallery of Islamic Art, however, now that due to COVID-19 situation the Gallery is closed, the highlight of this collection is accessible digitally and can be found here.
This very well organized collection also provides exclusive information about the item’s history, place, date, material, techniques that were used in creation of the objects.
V&A Museum has a rich collection of South Asian artifacts which is described as: “The collections from South and South-East Asia comprise nearly 60,000 objects, including about 10,000 textiles and 6,000 paintings covering the Indian subcontinent south of the Himalayas, including India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan. The range of the collection is immense.”
Calligraphy as an astonishing form of Islamic Art also made its way to V&A collection and can be visited here, also at the end of the page a slideshow of different objects of the collection featuring beautiful work of calligraphy from different style, era and techniques.
Beyond words: dancing letters in Islamic calligraphy was on display in the Islamic Studies Library (ISL) from February 8th to March 13th, 2020. The library closure and service disruptions, caused by Covid-19, made the exhibition inaccessible to our students, professors and visitors. In this blog post, we will provide an overview of the exhibition, featured calligraphers, the ISL calligraphy panels collection and two events organized in conjunction with the exhibition.
Arabic calligraphy is one of the most recognizable forms of Islamic Art. While originally used to preserve the Word of God (Qur’an), Arabic calligraphy also appeared in other written texts (philosophy, literature and poetry). It further developed to represent figurative depictions and decorations that were uncommon in Islamic Art. Distinct scripts and styles like Kufic, Naskh, Raqaa, Diwani, Thuluth or Nastaliq flourished across the Muslim world often unified by specific common principles. Major elements of the Arabic script such as fluid lines and ornamentation offer contemporary calligraphers the flexibility to create a free-form twist on classic techniques, repositioning calligraphy for today’s context.
This exhibition brought together a new wave of calligraphy artists from various corners of the world united by the art of writing and the desire to break through barriers, tell a story and reach other cultures.
Massoudy chooses a word from the chosen quote and recreates it in much larger dimensions, with its straight lines and its curves and a new geometrical structure. Then, he writes the whole sentence underneath or on the side.
He is the great master of Calligraphy, praiser of the divine word. All the routes of the Mediterranean and the Middle East meet in the qalam of Ghani Alani, without contrast. His writing is not of dualities, but of harmony.
The master calligrapher, who has made the ancient Arabic tradition evolve from its religious roots, is creating deeply intellectual work that reflects his interest in modern poetry and literature, alongside Christian and Sufi philosophy.
Mahdaoui’s work inspired by Arabic calligraphy is remarkably innovative as the aesthetic dimension of letters brings forth a sense of the poetic, highly rhythmic, arresting us with its rich abstracts compositions.
Karaduman considers calligraphy art as a drawing science in aesthetical terms and conducts research and examinations in this field. He completed approximately 50 Holy Korans, verses and hilye-i sharifs by renovating, revising and imitating artworks of which some belong to calligraphy masters.
Zenderoudi has a superb style arising from juxtaposition and simultaneous use of freedom of Western modern art and the power of decorative and visual elements of the Oriental and Iranian traditions.
ISL Calligraphy Collection
A wealth of Arabic/Islamic calligraphy titles were on display and were available for browsing. Now, these titles can be can be found via the McGill library catalog. In addition to the circulating collection, the McGill Islamic Studies Library has a permanent digital exhibit Arabic/Islamic Calligraphy displaying a selection of dry black and white calligraphy and colorful illuminated pieces dating from the 10th to the 19th century.
The ISL hosted two events following the launch of Beyond words: dancing letters in Islamic calligraphy exhibit.
Calligraphy workshop with Mehdi Sharifi
Mehdi Sharifi is a trained calligrapher who masters a number of calligraphic methods. In January 2008, he was awarded the Best Momtaz Degree from the Iranian Calligraphers Association. In the workshop, he exhibited some of his artistic works, and demonstrated different methods for writing Nastaliq. The workshop was well attended. Participants had the chance to see firsthand various calligraphy tools and papers used in Calligraphy art. Almost everyone left with a souvenir from the calligrapher ( individual name written in calligraphic style).
A presentation by Dr. Hela Zahar, entitled Modulations du calligraffiti arabe & tensions arabo-occidentales
Dr. Hela Zahar is the director of the Lavallois Centre for Higher Education in Digital Arts and Creative Economics. Multidisciplinary, Zahar is a practitioner in calligraphy and digital arts, a teacher and researcher in urban and digital culture. Recipient of the INRS “Best Doctoral Thesis” Award (2018) and the “Cust of the Jury” Award – 5th Gala of Excellence, Maghreb Congress in Quebec (CMQ): The Way of Success (2017).
This fascinating and original talk was based on Dr Zahar’s PhD thesis defended in 2018 at the Institut National de la Recherche Scientifique (Université du Québec, Montréal). Her thesis analyzed “the political implications (…) of Arabic calligraffiti, a form of urban art that is inspired both by graffiti and Arabic calligraphy” in both Arab and Western cities. After conducting a digital and physical ethnography of calligraffiti that developed in Montreal, Paris, and some Tunisian cities between 2008 and 2017, Zahar examined the “various conflicts and power relations, such as Arab-Western tensions in the visual culture of Western cities, tensions around the religious role of Islamic calligraphy in Arab cities, tensions around urban art in all cities, and around the various digital spaces where these works are disseminated.”
The Beyond words: dancing letters in Islamic calligraphy exhibition was curated by Anaïs Salamon (Head Librarian, ISL) and Senior Library Assistants, Ghazaleh Ghanavizchian and Samah Kasha.
Under the guidance of the principal investigator, Sarah Bowen Savant -cultural historian of the Middle East and Iran between 600-1500 A.D. and professor at AKU-ISMC- and the Advisory Board composed of eight international leading scholars in the fields of Islamic, Persian and Arabic studies, KITAB team of twenty-one scholars and computing specialists and five partners work relentlessly to develop new capabilities (i.e visualization tools, Optical Recognition Character, etc.)
The searching tool developed by KITAB team is able to detect proper names occurrences within a large corpus uncovering the complex relationships between medieval Arab authors and how ideas and knowledge circulated throughout the Arab World across time. The most recent developments have focused on the gathering of statistics on the reuse of ideas across the tradition including “the extent and precision of reuse.”
Anyone can use KITAB corpus and searching tool. The Our Pilot page provides a brief overview of the data and tools created by KITAB. One of the goals of the project is to “bring all of [their] data and sources into the public domain and with the field to take best advantage of what digital technology now allows […] to see and to discover.”
One of the main roles of today’s academic libraries, besides acquisition and classification of information materials, is facilitate access and -when necessary- provide guidance and training on how to access resources and information through a wide-range of digital tools and services or online platforms.
It may appear that technological development and digital tools have broadened our access to information, but sometimes we need guidance on how to use these tools to be able to benefit most from them. In order to avoid any unnecessary complication in accessing resources, libraries usually help users by creating step-by-step guides on how to use these tools. In the event of the COVID-19 pandemic, most library services moved online, and so did library guides and tutorials. Over the Summer, the Islamic studies library team produced video tutorials on how to use three important library tools and services: the Hathi Trust Emergency temporary access (ETAS), the McGill Virtual Private Network (VPN), and Islamic Studies library Subject Guides.
In this blog post, we will briefly introduce these tutorials.
“Hathi Trust digital library is a partnership of academic and research libraries offering a collection of millions of titles digitized from libraries around the world.” However, In response to this pandemic, this platform provided a new service in order to provide support for research, teaching and learning during the time of interrupted library services. As such, Hathi Trust Emergency Temporary Access Service (ETAS) provide access to digital material that corresponds to physical material that is held by the libraries. So for McGill library material over two million books from library’s print collection made available online, which counts for over half of McGill’s print collection. This temporary service is only available to McGill students, staff and faculty.
To learn how you can benefit the most from this service, and some tips on how to access the digital books, please watch the video:
McGill Virtual Private Network or VPN is one of the services/methods that provides students, faculty and staff with remote access to Library e-materials. For example, they can access e-books, or e-journals, etc., while they are not on Campus.
Please note that only some of the Library’s e-resources requires VPN connection to grant you access, the rest of e-resources will simply ask you to login with you McGill credential and then you will have access to that e-material.
Whether you chose to or you were required to use VPN to access library’s e-resources, you need to install and configure VPN on your computer/device and set it up. In this video, we will show you how to do this, and where to find the help that might need.
In doing research we need various range of resources tailored to our very specific topic, more over we need different types of resources from primary resources to online or open access materials and print resources.
Videos credits: Islamic Studies Library team : Anaïs Salamon, Head Librarian; Dr. Charles D. Fletcher, Head Library Clerk; Samah Kasha Senior Library Assistance and Ghazaleh Ghanavizchian Senior Library Assistance
Directed by Dr. Elizabeth Campbell, Professor of Middle East History at Daemen College in Amherst, New York, and Dr. Marie LaBrosse, an independent writer, translator and poet, who both used to work at the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani (AUIS), Kashkul also includes six scholars focusing on the numerous projects. In 2017-2018 and 2018-2019, the collective welcomed two artists-in-residence: Kurdish painter and sculptor Ismail Khayat and Mexican poet David Shook.
Crux “aims to understand how devotion becomes violent and how violent devotion can become peaceful.” Crux relies on case studies of specific areas and creates “in-depth profiles of Islamic thought leaders who are influential within these communities.”
Talabani Tekiye studies the theology and religious practice of the Talabani Tekiye and Mosque of Kirkuk, a bastion of liberal Islam, “and how, over generations, people have maintained their openness.”
Mosul Lives is meant to provide “a picture of daily life in Mosul, before the Islamic State, and the American presence of 2003.” This projects is based on extensive interviews.
Handmade “documents traditional crafts and practices in Iraq and its Kurdish regions and the stories of those who continue them, preserving the cultural heritage of daily life.”
Film, Music and Art Archives aims at collecting and preserving “contemporary culture in Iraq and its Kurdish regions.” The database features a personal library for each artist including scans of their works, translation, subtitles, etc.
Arrival‘s goal is the publication of an anthology of Kurdish poetry in translation. Currently, the project focuses on selecting, translating, analyzing and comparing “critical literary contributions from every century of Kurdish poetry.”
The Abu Ghraib Collection includes “letters, objects, and books made by a political prisoner in Abu Ghraib under Saddam Hussein” showing “how prisoners maintained hope, connection and the ability to express their ideas.”
The Referendum collection focuses on “how people and their political parties campaigned, expressed opinions, and voted.”
The Stone Man was a collaboration between artist-in-residence Ismail Khayat and student artists that resulted in a retrospective of Khayat’s work as well as a sculpture garden (The Stone Garden) located on the AUIS campus.
Kashkulistan is a manuscripts, and artifacts collecting, cataloguing and digitization project lead in collaboration with regional archives, collectors and scholars.
If you want to learn more about Kashkul and be informed of their activities, you may follow them on Instagram: @kash_kul
Ten years ago, the first items from the Islamic Studies Library (ISL) collection located in Rare Books and Special Collections (RBSC) were digitized. Over the years, the Islamic Studies Library and Digital Initiatives (DI) have developed a strong link, and the history of this decade-long collaboration is worth sharing with our community. This continuous teamwork resulted in launching multiple digital exhibitions, an Internet Archive ISL Collection and various research projects.
Digital Exhibitions and Collections
The first collaboration, Beautiful calligraphy ensures entrance to Paradise, started with a physical display in the Islamic Studies Library from November 1st, 2010 to March 31st 2011. The Calligraphy panels came from McGill University’s Rare Books and Special Collections and the Islamic Studies Library holdings located in RBSC. The physical exhibition included sixteen items representing various styles of Arabic calligraphy: from dry black and white calligraphy of the 10th century to colorful illuminated pieces of the 19th century, all of which recounted a brief history of Arabic/Islamic calligraphy. The Digital Exhibit: http://digital.library.mcgill.ca/islamic_calligraphy/index.php.
The second collaboration, The Shahnameh by Ferdowsi, also started as a physical display in the Islamic Studies Library, from April 1st to October 31st, 2011. Here again, the physical exhibition included sixteen Shahnameh folios coming from McGill University’s Rare Books and Special Collections and the Islamic Studies Library holdings located in RBSC. Shahnameh by Ferdowsi offered the visitor an opportunity to experience some of the heroes and villains of this remarkable epic poem and to gather a diverse overview of this celebrated text as well as the magnificence of Persian painting. The Digital Exhibit: http://digital.library.mcgill.ca/shahnameh/index.php.
The third collaboration, Arabic Lithographed Books, drew upon selections from Arabic lithographed books. The collection was on display in the Islamic Studies Library between February 1st and September 30th 2014, and later formed the basis for the Islamic Lithographs digital collection. Since then, the digitization of Islamic lithographs at McGill has become a work in progress, and the resulting digital collection a continually updated resource. This Collection includes many examples of lithographed books in Arabic, Persian, Ottoman Turkish, and Urdu, dated from the eighteenth century until the mid-twentieth century showcasing different calligraphic styles, graphic designs, and publishing houses from the Muslim world and Europe. Items from the Islamic Lithographs digital collection were the first to be uploaded to the Islamic Studies Library Internet Archives collection. The Digital Exhibit: http://digital.library.mcgill.ca/islamic_lithographs/.
Exhibits photo credit: Klaus Fiedler
Since 2014, an increasing number of digitized materials from the ISL’s various collections have become accessible on Internet Archive, a non-profit library of millions of free books, movies, software, music, and more. Digital Initiatives uploads digitized materials twice a year. This unique collaboration began with 395 items and today includes digital copies of well over 1279 Arabic, Persian, Ottoman Turkish and Urdu manuscripts, lithographs and rare books from the ISL collection. The materials can be viewed and browsed using the Internet Archive book reader, or downloaded in PDF format. The RSS feed feature of the Internet Archive website offers the opportunity to stay informed of new additions to our collection. Internet Archives Islamic Studies Collection : https://archive.org/details/mcgilluniversityislamicstudies
On demand digitization
Among the first to use this service were two faculty members from the Institute of Islamic studies; Professors F. Jamil Ragep and Robert Wisnovsky selected around 30 manuscripts from the ISL collection and the Osler Library of the History of Medicine collection to be digitized for a joint research project. (Rational Science in Islamic (RASI) project: https://islamsci.mcgill.ca/RASI/). In general, items for personal or scholarly use can be submitted for approval to be digitized by consulting McGill University’s on demand digitization service. Digitized items become available online in full in accordance with Canadian Copyright Law.
Behind the scenes: Digitization at the Library (Video)
A short video created in December 2019 highlights the meticulous work that takes place at Digitization and Digital Initiatives. The Library’s digitization service captures and provides access to millions of pages and objects from the vast and varied collections of McGill Libraries. This service is now even more important and essential during this unprecedented period of remote instruction and library online services.
Blog post editors: Anaïs Salamon, Head Librarian, Dr. Charles Fletcher, Head Library Clerk, and Greg Houston, Digital Initiatives