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.
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.
Established in 1968, CEDEJ (Centre d’Études et de Documentation Économiques Juridiques et Sociales) is a French Research Institute whose main Branch is located in Cairo, Egypt. The core objective of CEDEJ is to facilitate and support multidisciplinary field research focusing on Egypt and surrounding countries like Sudan where a small Branch is located.
CEDEJ map library per se is quite unique: it holds “a multi-scalar collection of cadastral, topographic, and geographic maps covering all of Egypt” running from the end of the 19th century to the 1990s. In November 2021, CEDEJ launched an ergonomic, dynamic and interactive online catalog allowing users to access, extract, and explore textual and geo-referenced data: CEDEJ carto.
cedejcarto.org Portal offers to discover the collection via three different options:
The advanced search allowing to cross-search location, scale, series and date of publication
The search by index allowing to access maps/plans based on the series they pertain to (among the 71 existing series)
The search by location allowing to access maps/plans by a simple a click on a large map of Egypt.
Scholars should note that cedejcarto.org is not a database of scanned maps where they will find high resolution images available for download. This portal is a dynamic and interactive online catalogue that will help them identify maps and plans relevant to their research among the large collection of cartographic documents held by the CEDEJ library. Materials can then be requested by filing out the dedicated form and submitting to email@example.com & firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about usage permissions, people can visit the map library webpage.
Back in 1973, a preservation campaign of the Timbuktu’s collection made of approximately 400,000 codices was initiated by the Ahmed Baba Center (CEDRAB). In 1996, the newly founded association SAVAMA-DCI started raising awareness among private owners about the value of their family manuscripts, providing technical and financial support for the processing and conservation of these materials, and encouraging them to keep the manuscripts in their possession. If funding was limited at first, the association was over time able to collect enough funds to ensure the preservation and inventory of the collections. In 2012, with the jihadist occupation of Northern Mali, the fear that manuscripts would be destroyed lead to the transfer of Timbuktu’s manuscripts collections to other towns in the region like Bamako. According to SAMAVA-DCI over 370.000 codices were rescued.
« Dans la nuit noire de notre existence, les manuscrits sont les projecteurs qui éclairent le passé. »
Dr. Abdel Kader Haidara, fondateur de SAVAMA-DCI
The Timbuktu Manuscripts virtual exhibition is incredibly rich (more than 40.000 manuscripts from libraries and private collections) and provides many options to learn about the collections, their history, and the rescue and preservation processes.
The website includes:
shorts videos documenting the manuscripts’ preservation
pictures documenting the rescue operations, and the digitization of manuscripts
The archives includes more than 400,000 handwritten pages from the Qur’an, mathematical, astronomical and medical treatises, sex and black magic manuals, etc. dating from the 11th to the 20th century. A selection of manuscripts are accessible full-text from section 2. The Books. Section 3. Grid View allows to glance at individual pages displayed in a table view when section 4. A Universe of Verses gives access to individual pages in what appears like a much less organized display:
At the very bottom of the main page, The Timbuktu Manuscripts virtual exhibition links to other Google Arts & Culture projects to learn more about Malian music, modern art, architectural heritage, etc.
The Timbuktu Manuscripts website will default to the language of your Google Account. But the interface is accessible in any language available in Google (although some content may not translate).
And for those eager to learn more about the Timbuktu manuscripts, we suggest they go visit the Tombouctou Manuscripts Project website. This project focusing on the “content of the manuscripts, the circulation of scholars and ideas, the economy of the manuscript book, and other aspects of the “work of scholarship” in Timbuktu” was established in 2003 by an Associate Professor at the University of Cape Town (South Africa) and remains very active.
Digital Ottoman Studies (DOS) is a hub contributing to growing field of Digital Humanities by presenting projects, publications, tools, and events through the lens of Ottoman and Turkish studies.
This website seeks to create a digital network for future projects by bringing together diverse platforms, institutions, studies, and individuals. Thus, DOS provides access to projects and data bases that are created by other organization which includes Ottoman Archives, maps, manuscripts and etc.
Information on DOS is classified into 6 categories of Projects, publications, Tools, Databases, Platforms and under each category, there are sub-categories that direct the users to the respective projects which are encompassing “600-year-old Ottoman Empire’s archival heritage, diverse ethnics and geographical regions., etc.”
The Project category brings together variety of works in GIS, Network Analysis, Text Analysis, Databases, and 3D-AR-VR, each provides access to a wide range of research and academic projects form historical urban and industrial comparative analysis to Mapping Ottoman empire and region, or a digital history research project on Travels in the 19th century Ottoman empire.
Also, users can browse different database projects like Ottoman Inscriptions, Digital History, The Open Islamicate Text Initiative, etc. When possible, the DOS has provided the name of the project managers and then directs the user to the project’s main website.
Moreover, in the Publication tab users can have access a list of published articles, books and dissertations that are classified based on the topic/subject and some are accessible as an open access publication.
The tab of Databases has organized a list of various type of databases such as Archives, Map collections, manuscripts collections, dictionaries, E-resources, Photo collections, calendar convertors and Gazetteers.
Started in 2019, Wikilala is a digital library making available and full-text searchable documents printed between 1729, when Ibrahim Müteferriqa founded the first Turkish printing Press and the letter revolution in 1928. The project was launched by Hiperlink‘s (first Turkish digital library) project manager, Sadi Özgür, and an academic member at the History Department of Istanbul Aydın University that acted as a consultant, Harun Tuncer.
Wikilala aims “to enable researchers and enthusiasts studying in almost all branches of science, such as culture, art, history, literature, architecture etc. to rediscover even the smallest details in order to illuminate a landscape that has been dimly lighted for two centuries. (…) Wikilala allows (…) to access this huge storage of knowledge.”
According to the description on the “About” page, Wikilala includes thousands of books, magazines, journals, newspapers,etc. that have been digitized in high-resolution, catalogued, and OCR’ed (i.e. Optical Recognition Character) to allow for full-text searchability. The project also include the “latinization” of texts to allow people who don’t have command of Ottoman Turkish to search the texts in Latin script.
To access Wikilala materials, visitors need to create an account (which is free with an institutional email). Once logged-in, the entire library becomes available.
From the main page (captured above), users can search the library in Latin or Arabic scripts (thanks to a handy multilingual and multialphabets virtual keyboard), or pre-select the type of documents they want to search/read: Newspapers, Journals, Books, Manuscripts and Documents.
From the results page, users will be able to sort the list in the order they want (alphabetical, chronological, etc.) and/or refine the list using the filters available in the right-hand-side column.
There are two methods to open documents: clicking on the Read Now button at the bottom right of the item’s page, or scrolling down to the thumbnails view: both options will open Wikilala’s viewer. The viewer is limited to online reading and full-text search: unfortunately, it does not offer download, saving or printing options. Perhaps will this be a future development?
Wikilala is a platform developed by a private company named hiperkitap, that works on numerous other products individuals and institutions can subscribe to or purchase. McGill can trial it for free until the end of 2021: take advantage of it!
The interface is available in both Turkish and English.
The David Collection is a museum of fine and applied art in Copenhagen, Denmark, built around the private collections of lawyer, businessman and art collector C. L. David.
The museum is particularly noted for its collection of Islamic art one of the largest in Northern Europe. The collection of Islamic art contains works from almost the entire Islamic realm, from Spain in the West to India in the East and dating from the 7th to the 19th centuries.
Islamic Art Collection
The Islamic works of art are presented from three different perspectives: Islamic art organized chronologically and geographically, Islamic art grouped according to material, and Islamic art presented in its cultural context.
Dynasties and Geography
The works of art here are divided into 20 sections according to specific epochs and dynasties and according to different geographic regions. Each of the 20 sections provides a historical introduction, a map, a selection of works of art, coins, and architecture.
The objects are categorized into eight different groups. This makes it possible to see how both stylistic features and techniques were developed within a specific medium both over time and across geographical borders.
Calligraphy / Miniature Painting / Ceramics / Glass / Stone and Stucco / Ivory, Wood, and Papier-mâché / Metalwork, / Weapons, and Jewelry / Textiles, Carpets, and Leather
Focusing specifically on the cultural background for art in the Islamic world, this section illustrates fourteen themes of special relevance. Each theme is illustrated with a selected group of objects, accompanied by an explanatory text.
Islam, the Religion \The Five Pillars of Islam \ The Prophet Muhammad \ Mecca and the Kaaba \ Sunni and Shia \ The Mosque \ The Religious Prohibition Against Images \ Symbolism in Islamic Art \ Islam in China \ Sufis \ Dervishes, and Holy Men \ Trade, Measures, and Weights \Mechanics, Astronomy, and Astrology \ Medical Science \The Art of War
During the month of October (September 27th to October 27th), the Islamic Studies Library will be trialing several primary source (mainly newspapers and periodicals) databases that are of interest to anyone whose research focuses on Afghanistan, the Arab World in general and Egypt in particular, or Turkey. Please check below for content and access details.
“The ‘Afghan Central Press’ collection brings together four national, Kabul-based publications of Afghanistan whose long runs and prominence provide a concentrated vantage point for understanding developments in Afghanistan for much of the twentieth century. The English-language Kabul Times is presented alongside Pushto publications Anis, Hewad, and Islah.Together, the archives of these newspapers provide a chronicle of events from the fall of the Kingdom of Afghanistan, the establishment of the People’s Democratic Republic of Afghanistan, the Soviet invasion, the rise of the Mujahedeen, the establishment of the Taliban and Al Qaeda, invasion by the United States and the ensuing period of reconstruction from the view of the capital.“
“Founded in 1875, Al-Ahram (الأهرام, “The Pyramids”) is one of the longest-running newspapers in the Middle East. It has long been regarded as Egypt’s most authoritative and influential newspaper, and one of the most important newspapers in the Arab world, with a circulation of over 1 million. Prior to 1960, the newspaper was an independent publication and was renowned for its objectivity and independence. After being nationalized by President Nasser in 1960, Al-Ahram became the de facto voice of the Egyptian government and today the newspaper is managed by the Supreme Council of Press. Al-Ahram has featured writings by some of the most important political and literary voices of the day, including Nobel Literature Prize winner Naguib Mahfouz, nationalist leaders Mustafa Kamil and Saad Zaghlul, as well as Salama Moussa, Taha Hussein, Yusuf Idris, Edward Said, Hamid Dabashi, and Anis Mansour.“
The interface of ‘Al-Ahram’ is available in both English and Arabic.
“Established in May 1924, ‘Cumhuriyet’ (“The Republic”) is the oldest secular Turkish daily newspaper and is widely considered one of the last remaining opposition newspapers in Turkey. Founded by journalist Yunus Nadi Abalıoğlu at the initiative of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, Cumhuriyet was the first newspaper of the Turkish Republic and promoted a belief in democracy, secularism and the rule of law. According to the newspaper’s editorial principles: Cumhuriyet is an independent newspaper; it is the defender of nothing but the Republic, of democracy in the scientific and broad sense. It will fight every force that tries to overthrow the Republic and the notion and principles of democracy. It will endeavor for the embracing by society of the principle of secularism along the path of “Enlightenment” ushered in by Atatürk’s revolution and principles. Over the last 95 years, Cumhuriyet has stood witness to the changing landscape of Turkey’s political, social and economic environment. Despite the challenges of these times, the institution of Cumhuriyet has sustained its coverage of domestic and international news, providing critical documentation of Turkey’s dynamic history and its relations with the global community. In the twenty-first century, Cumhuriyet continues its dedication to the principles of democracy and secularism as embodied by Atatürk. The newspaper has a daily circulation of over 30,000 and receives roughly 25 million visitors to its website each month. It is one of the most influential newspapers in Turkey and is regarded by domestic and foreign readers as a reliable source for impartial, intelligent news reporting.“
The interface of ‘Cumhuriyet Digital Archive’ is available in both English and Turkish.
‘Kotobarabia: Arab Leaders, Historians and Philosophers’ is “a compendium of early works of an astounding variety of disciplines from important Arab writers, spanning fields from feminism and social theory, to classics of literature, history, and the sciences. Includes works by the Four Imams of the Sunni Sect, the Al Azhar Modern Sheikhs, various authors of the Modern Arab Enlightenment, and rare works by the former Egyptian royal family. Consisting mostly of historic texts, the books in this collection are full-image, with searchable metadata only.“
The online reading interface is very similar for preriodicals and monographs. It allows to navigate easily within documents from the -left or right-hand side depending on the language of the interface- side menu. In addition, users will be able to read in full screen mode, select and copy a section to paste elsewehre, print, download as a PDF, email and cite. It is also possible to search for occurrences within publications: a virtual keyboard is available for those who don’t have non-roman scripts keyboards.
The trials started on Monday, September 27th, and will run until Wednesday, October 27th. These databases can be accessed either using the links provided in this blog post, or going to the A-Z database list (as shown below):
Please note access is based on IP addresses, and therefore limited to members of the McGill community. Also, note that activating the VPN may be required when/if you are off-campus. Check these databases out and let us know what you think!
bina is the digital collection of the Bibliothèque Universitaire des Langues et Civilisations (BULAC), an academic library established in 2001 to centralize the “Oriental” collections of nine parisian academic and research libraries. The wide-range of geographical areas covered by BULAC go from the Balkans, to Oceania passing by the Middle East, Central Asia, Africa, and Asia. BULAC’s mission revolves around three axis: gathering these “Oriental” collections in a single location, promoting and supporting open access, and facilitating worldwide scholars’ access to the materials.
The Middle Eastern, North African and Central Asian collections of BULAC include 235,000 monographs and over 800 periodicals. In addition, the library owns approximately 4,000 “Oriental” manucripts and rare books dating from the 16th to the 19th century. The online cataloguing of these rare collections started in 2013 and the digitization in 2016. At the time of our visit (June 2021), 248 Ottoman Turkish, 150 Persian and 61 Arabic manuscripts and archival documents had been scanned and were available in bina.
The XML-EAD standard initally used to describe these rare materials was not fit to reflect the linguistic and paleographical variety of the collection and the multiple transliteration systems used to transcribe non-roman scripts. Therefore, BULAC worked in collaboration with the Agence bibliographique de l’enseignement supérieur (ABES) to develop bibliographic descriptions and authority records matching the codicological and onomastical specificities of these collections. Those interested in learning more about this cataloguing project can read the following articles (in French):
Navigating bina digital collections can be done in three different ways. The simple search available from the top-right corner of the page will search simultaneaously the title, author, date, description, format and subject fields. The advanced search available either by clicking on the “Rechercher” tab or opening the drop-down menu in the simple search will allow to target specific fields and cross-search them. The Index search allows to browse materials by author, language, type of document and call number.
The metadata is divided in four categories: Notice (bibliographic data), Matérialité (physical description), Contenu (content) and Conservation (location).
The online viewer allows to browse volumes, jump to a specific page, display a single page, double pages or a gallery. It is also possible to save pages either as image of PDF (one page at a time), share (with a permalink) or embed the image elsewhere. Unless otherwise stated, all materials are out of copyright and free of use. For more technical and legal information, you may visit this page.
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.”