The Near Eastern collection at The Royal Danish Library

The Royal Danish Library in Copenhagen is the national library of Denmark and the university library of the University of Copenhagen. It is among the largest libraries in the world and the largest in the Nordic countries. The library’s collection of manuscripts date from the Middle Ages to the present. Some of these are available online and others can be viewed in the reading room.

Oriental Collection

The Oriental collection consists of manuscripts, printed works, and other material originating in non-western language areas and cultures, mostly Northern Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. With a few exceptions, the works in the Oriental collection are written in non-western languages like Arabic, Hindi, Japanese, Korean, Persian, Sanskrit, Tamil, and Turkish.

Oriental digitized materials

Digital editions from the Oriental Collection are chosen for their beauty, rarity, calligraphy, bindings etc. The Near Eastern collection comprises 515 Arabic, 450 Iranian (43 are Avestan), and 100 Turkish manuscripts. The oldest items date from the 10th century C.E. (Qur’ân mss. in Kufi script). The numbers of printed books for lending in Near Eastern languages are: Arabic 5500,  Persian 1850, Turkish 5330, and Caucasian languages 600 (mainly Armenian and Georgian)

Digitized Arabic materials

Digitized Arabic materials fall under the following categories:

  • Qur’an and other religious texts
  • Shafi’i fiqh
  • Shi’a works
  • Linguistics 
  • Literature
  • History
  • Medicine and natural science
  • Magic
  • Printed books: literature

Digitized Persian materials

  • Manuscripts
  • Avesta and Pahlavi
  • Printed books 

The digital collection viewer provides full description of the manuscript and allows users to download, print, zoom in/out and share on Twitter and Facebook.

University of Utah’s J. Willard Marriot Library: Middle East Digitized Collections

University of Utah’s J. Willard Marriot Digital Library offers over 350 digital collections, containing over 1 million digital photographs, maps, books, videos, audio recordings, and other items. Among these collections are the Middle East Digitized Collections.

I. ARABIC PAPYRUS, PARCHMENT, AND PAPER
The Arabic Papyrus, Parchment & Paper Collection is the largest of its kind in the United States, The collection was acquired by Prof. Aziz Suriyal Atiya, founder of the Middle East Center and the Middle East Library.

Time Period: A large number of pieces date to the period between 700 and 850 CE. The collection includes a significant number of documents from the pre-Ottoman period.

Collection size: It contains 770 Arabic papyrus documents, 1300 Arabic paper documents, and several pieces on parchment.

Coverage: A unique source on the political, economic, religious and intellectual life of Egypt during the first two centuries of Islamic rule and the period up to Ottoman domination.

II. AZIZ SURYAL ATIYA PAPERS
Dr. Aziz S. Atiya was the founding director of the Middle East Center at the University of Utah. He was the author of many books and articles and editor of the Coptic Encyclopedia.

Time period: Papers document the life and work of Aziz Atiya (1927-1993)

Coverage: Papers include curriculum vitae, memorabilia, and personal correspondence and financial records. Also include materials relating to his career as a teacher, scholar and author, including lecture notes, student papers, publication contracts, royalty information, materials relating to the publication of the Coptic Encyclopedia, articles, newsletters, offprints, clippings, research files and maps.

III. MIDDLE EAST COLLECTION
Highlighted in this collection is an eighteenth century Quran produced in Bukhara and a Persian manuscript of poetry by a Mughal princess.

Time period: dating from as early as 800CE/183AH

Collection size: 3,000 printed books from and about the Middle East.

Coverage: It includes manuscripts in Arabic, Coptic, Hebrew, Persian, and Turkish.

Items in these collections can be downloaded, shared on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Reddit, reference URL is also included.

Khazaaen

Khazaaen archive is a voluntary independent association, centered in Jerusalem, where it first started as an initiative in October of 2016. Khazaaen considers itself as a societal project where people’s efforts contribute in building the archive.

“Each paper has a story”

The archive is interested in gathering ephemera materials; which is basically any material that was produced for a short-term and specific objectives. Khazaaen has managed to gather up to 60 thousand documents, where most of the materials are either daily publications, advertisements, brochures, pamphlets, posters, business cards, postal cards, wedding invitations, commercial, political, or artistic. Khazaaen believes it’s important to gather such materials as they serve as basic information in understanding local and social histories and a collective memory of the society’s day-to-day interactions. Moreover, these materials contain honest and real information about certain events in certain points in history and they enable us to understand the social experience and the alterations that occurred across different eras.

Individual Contributors/ People’s cabinet (khazaneh)

Khazaaen has several collection centers located in Amman, Beirut, Doha, and Algeria. The Technical Team will sort out received materials and make a second copy to send it to another archive in order to have back-up copies. Then scan the original and create a digital surrogate. Hard copies are kept in antioxidant files to preserve them.

Ottoman Archive
77 Materials
British Mandate Archive
1201 Materials
Palestinian Publications Archive
3785 Materials
The memory in 5304 Materials

Khazaaen hopes that it would be able to protect and preserve as many of the daily publications as possible and make these materials available to researchers and the public. In addition, Khazaaen aspires that its digital archive will contribute in starting a social and cultural discussion around critical political and societal issues in the hope of creating a better tomorrow.

All the material made available on Khazaaen’s website have been uploaded with special permissions and agreements with different institutions and individuals with the aim of making it available to the public. To read more, check Terms of use.

The Digital Collections platform at The Aga Khan Library, London.

The Aga Khan Library, London houses invaluable resources for Islamic studies produced in different regions and different periods of the Islamic world. The collection of rare materials consists of manuscripts, artworks, out-of-print publications, photographs, and maps, a wide range of research materials on the history, politics, customs, and beliefs. In addition to these materials, the Aga Khan Library is a current custodian of several research collections and personal archives donated by acclaimed scholars in the field of Islamic studies.

Aga Khan Library Digital Collections offers a digitized copy of some of the rare books in the Aga Khan Library, London. Therefore, becoming a member of the library will grant members a full access to the library collection. It is also possible to create a personal account for nonmembers, which will allow users to save books, chapters, images or other items to view later, organize saved items into folders, email and export citations and save searches.

“The Digital Collections platform is a significant milestone in the services of the Aga Khan Library to promote scholarship on Islam, past and present. The platform also supports the Aga Khan Library in its essential role as a facilitator of teaching and research at the Institute of Ismaili Studies, and the Aga Khan University Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations, its parent institutions.”

Digital Collections

Ottoman Collection

There are 109 items available for browsing, mainly in Ottoman Turkish Language and mostly published in Turkey. Disciplines include history, archeology, linguistics, literature, law, religion and mythology. Highlights of the collection include Osmanlı Tarihi, an encyclopaedia of Ottoman History; and Türkçülüğün Esasları, Principles of Turkism, a work published in 1923 by Ziya Gökalp.

View collection

Ismaili Printed Materials

There are 62 items available for browsing, chiefly in Arabic and some in Gujarati and other languages, mostly published in India. Disciplines include Religions, Mythology, History, Archeology and Literature. One of the highlights of the collection include works by the renowned Persian poet and traveller, Nasir-i Khusraw (d. 1088), and a large holdings of devotional hymns known as ginans attributed to Ismaili Pirs in the Indian sub-continent.

View collection

Peter Avery

Professor Avery (1923–2008) was an eminent scholar of Persian history and literature. His collection contains thousands of volumes including manuscripts, lithographs, and many rare and out-of-print titles in Persian, English, and Arabic, some dating back to the early 18th century. There are 2 items available for browsing at the moment.

Muhammad Abduh

A collection of books and holograph manuscripts casts a light on Muhammad Abduh (1849–1905) will be available soon. He was a crucial figure in the intellectual history of Egypt and the Muslim countries.

There are multiple ways of navigating the content: The main Search box in the header or the advanced Search; search by keyword with date range; search using combinations of author name, title, category, date range, or identifier.

Users can print and download individual images. All use of the site content is subject to Terms and Conditions, printing and saving should be for personal use, and standard copyright restrictions apply regarding unauthorized copying and distribution.

For Palestine

“We can not fight for our rights and our history as well as future until we are armed with weapons of criticism and dedicated consciousness.”
― Edward W. Said

In this blog post, we will highlight resources on Palestine, and Palestinians to support students and researchers focusing on this area and seeking to understand the Palestinian Question in its national, Arab, and international contexts. Our list of resources includes digital initiatives, projects, archives, NGOs, academic centers, etc. all which have in common to document Palestine’s history and Palestinians’ lives and preserve the Palestinian heritage. Gratefully, these various collaborative efforts between institutions make materials available in Open Access to scholars, students, and the wider public.

Palestine Flag. Wikimedia Commons. Author: Makbula Nassar

The project is a collaborative project of the Palestinian Museum and the Institute for Palestine Studies. To promote a dynamic vision of Palestinian culture engaged with new perspectives on history, society and culture.

Presents a series of anonymous but intimate portraits of Palestinian families living under the Israeli Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law. This Law, passed in 2003, prevents Palestinians from the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) married to Israeli citizens from obtaining a legal status in Israel, violating their right to a family life in Israel.

The archive is an oral history collective established in Lebanon in 2002. Since it’s inception, the Archive has recorded over 650 video interviews with first generation Palestinian refugees in Lebanon about their recollections of life in Palestine and the events that led to their displacement. These eyewitness narratives, with refugees from more than 150 Palestinian villages and towns, recall social and cultural life in Palestine before 1948, relations with neighboring Jewish communities and the British Mandate, the 1948 expulsion, and the early years of exile. The aim has been to document this critical period through the voices and experiences of those who lived through it, and to bear witness in a way shaped not by political symbolism but rather by the rhythms of personal memory.*

The Birzeit University Palestinian Archive Project (BZUPAP) is dedicated to documenting the life of Palestinians (persons, families and organizations) over the past century. Documents collected include the most diverse types of written and audiovisual materials (texts, photographs, videos, recordings). This growing, largely open archive is being preserved at the university. Incoming documents are organized, categorized, and uploaded on the electronic website http://awraq.birzeit.edu with a clear indication of the donor. The website constitutes an excellent resource for all interested persons and a primary source for researchers around the world, with its easy access and its Arabic and English language materials.*

The Palestine poster tradition offers an exceptional perspective on the history of modern Palestine and is, simultaneously, a much under-valued component of its cultural heritage. The posters themselves are important repositories of primary data. They provide a unique lens through which audiences can gain insight into the attitudes and aspirations of people directly involved in the contemporary history of Palestine, as they have experienced it and recorded it in graphic art.

Al-Quds open archive is the result of a collaboration between the Center for Palestine Studies at Columbia University (CPS) and the Institute for Palestine Studies in Ramallah. Al-Quds open archive includes 392 issues published between 1908 and 1914. The significance of al-Quds, aside from it being the first newspaper in Palestine, was its timing. It both celebrated and tested the new freedom of publication proclaimed by the Ottoman Constitutional Revolution of 1908.

The Jerusalem Quarterly is the only journal focused on the city of Jerusalem’s history, political status, and future. It addresses debates about the city and its predicament, as well as future scenarios for solving the problems of Jerusalem. The Jerusalem Quarterly has a prestigious board of advisors selected from leading Palestinian universities and research institutes and an editorial staff. It has been published continuously since 1998 by the Institute of Jerusalem Studies, an IPS affiliate, in Jerusalem and since 2003, in Ramallah. This journal is made available to readers and researchers by special arrangement with the Institute for Palestine Studies.*

The main goal of this project is to digitize the historical periodical collection located at the Al-Aqsa Mosque Library in order to create archival quality digital copies of the deteriorating newspapers and magazines. In addition, the project intends to create multiple derivative copies to extend access of these rare materials to scholars, students and the public.*

The Maps and Cartography section contains two kind of documents: original maps of Jerusalem reproduced here as a tool for researchers, and links to existing sets of Jerusalem maps—both historical and contemporary.

Palestine Open Maps is a platform for map-based exploration and immersive storytelling. This alpha version of the platform allows users to navigate and search the historic map sheets, and to view basic data about present and erased localities.*

In these text-maps by Palestinian writers, you will find a fusion of voices. Writers were asked to write a portrait of the city or town their families come from—experienced or imagined. They were to draw from family members, stories, dreams, or other channels. The contributors are listed under their city of origin; those who come from two different cities are placed under the city they wrote about. This map is an architectural metaphor. It’s a construction site, where readers can watch the map being built with every feature.*

More than 120 village memorial books, about the over 400 Palestinian villages that were depopulated and largely destroyed in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War have been published. Compiled as documentary histories and based on the accounts of those who remember their villages, they are presented as dossiers of evidence that these villages existed and were more than just “a place once on a map.” *

The G. Eric and Edith Matson Photograph Collection is a rich source of historical images of the Middle East. The majority of the images depict Palestine from 1898 to 1946.*

Hanna Safieh collection consist of  black and white photo of Palestine and the Holy Land dating back to 1927 and featuring historic and biblical locations such as Jerusalem and the Old City, Bethlehem, Nazareth, Jericho and more.*

A collection of postcards donated to Columbia University by Steven Wachlin.

Started in the 1990’s, Dreams of a Nation is a Columbia University based archival project aiming at preserving and promoting Palestinian cinema. Dreams of a Nation resulted in the organization of two Palestinian film festivals held in 2003 and 2204, and the publication of a book entitled Dreams of a Nation: On Palestinian Cinema authored by Dr. Hamid Dabashi (Verso, 2006).

The Palestinian Museum – Non-Governmental Association dedicated to supporting an open and dynamic Palestinian culture nationally and internationally. The Museum presents and engages with new perspectives on Palestinian history, society and culture. It also offers spaces for creative ventures, educational programmes and innovative research.*

PASSIA seeks to present the Palestinian Question in its national, Arab and international contexts through academic research, dialogue, education and publication. In order to facilitate understanding of Palestinian positions, it endeavors to analyze current policy issues, provide a constructive forum for open discussion, conduct high quality, independent research and publish studies and information papers. In addition, PASSIA aims to empower young Palestinians through training programs and seminars that build capacity, skills and expertise.*

The Institute for Palestine Studies (IPS) was established in Beirut in 1963 as an independent non-profit research institution, unaffiliated with any political organization or government. The creation of the institute, the first of its kind in the Arab world, occurred at a time when the Palestine Question was regaining its central place in inter-Arab politics and when Palestinian identity was regaining its vitality.*

The Center for Palestine Studies promotes the academic study of Palestine by supporting research, teaching, and intellectual collaboration among scholars within Columbia University and beyond. CPS provides an institutional home for faculty, post-doctoral researchers, and students at Columbia in fields that include history, literary studies, the social sciences, religion, philosophy, law, archaeology, architecture, and the arts. CPS also builds connections with other institutions and scholars to strengthen the academic study of Palestine and Palestinians throughout the United States and the world.*

The New Directions in Palestinian Studies research initiative of Brown University’s Center for Middle East Studies, launched in 2012. Over the past generation, the field of Palestine and Palestinian studies has grown rapidly, attracting some of the best and brightest scholars. Launched as a research initiative of Brown University’s Middle East Studies program in 2012, New Directions in Palestinian Studies (NDPS) has built an international community of scholars dedicated to decolonizing and globalizing this field of study New Directions in . Palestinian Studies brings together emerging and established scholars to shape the agenda of knowledge production on Palestine and the Palestinians.*

Cognizant of the Palestine Studies Trust adjacent to the University of Exeter initiated by Dr Uri Davis in the early 1980s, Professor Ilan Pappé and Dr Ghada Karmi founded the European Centre for Palestinian Studies (ECPS) in 2009. It is dedicated to producing interdisciplinary on the history of Palestine and the Palestine/Israel conflict.*

LAP is a network of self-defined librarians, archivists, and information workers in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for self-determination.*

*Descriptions of resources provided are taken from the source official website.

The Birzeit University Palestinian Archive Project (BZUPAP)

The Birzeit University Digital Palestinian Archive (BZUDPA) is dedicated to documenting the life of Palestinians and their institutions over the past century.

“The mission is thus an open archive dedicated to long-term preservation and to liberation: it is a reliable counter-archive of the Palestinian people.”

The archive is being preserved at The Birzeit University. Received documents from organizational collections, private family documents and archival materials collected by individuals, are organized, categorized, and uploaded to the online archive.

The archived materials will assist interested persons and researchers in understanding Palestinian society and the lives of Palestinians.

What distinguishes BZUPAP is the chronological, spatial and topical diversity of its holdings. Documents collected include the most diverse types of written and audiovisual materials (texts, photographs, videos, recordings)

Images
Maps
Textual

With a clear indication regarding the donor and the source, the archive primary documents consist of: 17000 documents are already uploaded on the website, 30000 documents are in progress of uploading, 7000 documents are being translated from the Ottoman language.

As for the Special documents, there are newspapers since 1909, Old post cards, documents from the Arab National Committee since 1948 and Ottoman documents in Arabic

The user-friendly website provides easy access to its Arabic and English language materials. The digital archive is an essential source for the history, politics and culture of the Palestinian people.

Journals, magazines, and newspapers open access initiatives

The Egyptian Press Archive of CEDEJ

The Egyptian Press Archive of CEDEJ is an initiative of the Centre d’Études et de Documentation Économiques, Juridiques et Sociales (CEDEJ) based in Cairo and the Bibliotheca Alexandrina (BA) consisting of scanning and publishing online press articles collected and curated by CEDEJ over the past 40 years. To learn more visit the site.

Syrian Print Archive

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.

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.

“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 collection

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

Exhibition | Beyond words: dancing letters in Islamic calligraphy

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.

Featured Calligraphers

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.

eL Seed is a street artist who uses Arabic calligraphy and a distinctive style, he calls Calligrafitti to spread messages of peace, unity and to underline the commonalities of human existence.

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.

Haji Noor Deen brings an immense learning in traditional thought and Islamic art to a modern audience, juxtaposing them in a new calligraphic style all his own, both Eastern and Western.

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.

Calligraphy Events

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).

ISL Calligraphy workshop | Octagon Room

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.

Celebrating the Islamic Studies Library and Digital Initiatives decade-long Collaboration

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

INTERNET ARCHIVE

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.

Special Thanks

Blog post editors: Anaïs Salamon, Head Librarian, Dr. Charles Fletcher, Head Library Clerk, and Greg Houston, Digital Initiatives