Primary Source Database Trials (Fall 2021)

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.

  1. Afghan Central Press Digital Archive

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.

https://gpa.eastview.com/acp/

2. Al-Ahram Digital Archive

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.

https://gpa.eastview.com/alahram/

3. Cumhuriyet Digital Archive

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.

https://gpa.eastview.com/cumhuriyet/

4. Kotobarabia Arab Leaders, Historians and Philosophers Collection

‘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.

https://dlib.eastview.com/browse/books/1710#/

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 : collections patrimoniales numérisées de la BULAC

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.

bina interface is in French.

Khamseen Islamic Art History Online

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”.

This very promising platform was launched in October 2020 under the supervision of Christiane Gruber, Professor of Islamic art at the University of Michigan. The project received financial support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and is sponsored by the  Digital Islamic Studies Curriculum (DISC) at the University of Michigan.

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.

Additional resources included the following:

A selection of Teaching Resources for Islamic Art

An Audio and Video Recording Tools Guide

The recording of a 90-minutes Discussion of Online Resources for Teaching Islamic Art between Khamseen founder Christiane Gruber, Ruba Kan’an (Assistant Professor of Islamic Art and Architecture, University of Toronto), Michael Toler (Archnet Content Manager, Aga Khan Documentation Center at MIT), and Matt Saba (Visual Resources Librarian for Islamic Architecture at the Aga Khan Documentation Center at MIT)

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.”

Interested people can find more information about the platform or follow future developments on social media: @khamseenislamicart (Instagram), @TeamKhamseen (Twitter), @KhamseenIslamicArt (Facebook).

KITAB : Knowledge, Information Technology, and the Arabic Book

Based at the Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations at the Agha Khan University, in London U.K., KITAB is a project including both a searching tool for the textual exploration of the medieval Arabic written heritage, and an online discussion forum on Arabic texts. Since its creation in 2017, KITAB received funding from the Aga Khan University, the British Academy and the European Research Council.

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.”

The KITAB corpus of Arabic texts produced between the eighth century and the fifteenth century A.D. largely comes from the Open Islamicate Texts Initiative, another collaborative project of Sarah Bowen Savant, Maxim Romanov and Matthew Thomas Miller. KITAB corpus is continually growing  in order “to increase both the number and the diversity of texts.”

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.”

For regular updates on the project you can check the Blog, the What’s New page, and Professor Savant’s Twitter account.

Kashkul / كشكول

Kashkul is a collective composed of Iraqi, Kurdish and American students, artists, and researchers based at the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani (AUIS). The group aims at collecting, preserving, translating when necessary, and making available to the general public literary, artistic, and archival materials produced in Iraq. A partnership with the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) allows Kashkul to publish their collections through the International Digital Ephemera Project (IDEP).

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.


Past and current Kashkul projects include:

  • 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

SANA platform @ National Library and Archives of Iran

SANA is an online database that provides access to digitized periodicals published in Iran from the Qajar era- that marks the beginning of publishing newspapers, up until now.

This platform has been very recently made available publicly by National library and Archives of Iran, in accordance with free access to information and in order to provide equal access to information and knowledge for all. Also to facilitate access to valuable resources available at the National library for scholars and researches.

This platform includes lists and full text digitized periodicals, newspapers and Iranian journals from the beginning up until now in various topics such as Iran’s historical, social, political and economical situation, Persian literature, Islamic related topics; as well as publication about Tehran, Isfahan and other cities.

ش‍ف‍ق‌ س‍رخ‌.شماره 2748

SANA also includes few periodicals in other languages such as German, English, French and some of them dates back to 1906. Such as :

In this database resources are organized chronologically and then under each era periodicals are listed alphabetically. Also when available, description or information about the history of the publication has been given.

Here is the list of four different time categories of publication accessible through this platform:

( نشریات دوره قاجاریه (۱۱۹۳ – ۱۳۴۴ ق

(نشريات دوره پهلوی اول (۱۳۰۴ – ۱۳۲۰ ش

(نشريات دوره پهلوی دوم (۱۳۲۰ – ۱۳۵۷ ش

( نشریات دوره پس از انقلاب (۱۳۵۷ ش

Free registration is required in order to access the resources available at SANA platform.

To register please go this address: https://sana.nlai.ir/register

For more information about National library and Archives of Iran and its many different databases and platforms please go to this page : http://www.nlai.ir/

Resources @ MEI

The Middle East Institute (MEI) located in Washington, D.C. was founded in 1946 as a non-profit organization by George Camp Keiser a Middle East scholar. Aiming to promote and transmit knowledge of Middle East, MEI has been active in leading research as well as cultural, academic and educational activities, which all together led to the formation of various centres of Policy, Education and Art and Culture. In addition to its effort in producing and expanding knowledge about Middle East, MEI became an intellectual hub and gave platform to regional experts whose works provide a balance outlook and understanding of the region. Besides organizing conferences and educational programs such as training languages spoken in Middle East like Arabic, Turkish, Persian, Hebrew; it also provides access to many useful online resources and publications about Middle East, some of which will be mentioned briefly below.

Middle East Journal:

MEI publishes The Middle East Journal since 1947, this journal as one of the oldest peer-reviewed publication in studying Middle East provides original researches and source materials covering wide area from Morocco to Pakistan and Central Asia.

“The Journal provides the background necessary for an understanding and appreciation of the region’s political and economic development, cultural heritage, ethnic and religious diversity.”

Access this to journal from McGill library here.

 Digital collection:

MEI via its Oman Library digital collection provides access to hundreds of digitized rare books and manuscripts about/of Middle Eastern studies for researchers and scholars from around the world. This online collection holds materials covering wide range of topics from history, culture and literature available in various languages like English, French, Arabic, Persian, Urdu, Farsi, Ottoman Turkish and Turkish. This collection includes rare material from 1700 to 1920 as well as its own publications published by MEI from 1960 to 2004.

Arts & Culture Center:

Middle East Institute, besides organizing cultural events and exhibition through its Art and Culture Center, uses this platform to provide access to a hundreds of different types of online material from media release to podcast, journal article and news. This platform aims to create an environment that facilitates conversation, cross cultural understanding as well as to promote Middle Eastern artist works.

Historians of the Ottoman Empire

The Historians of the Ottoman Empire project was initiated in the Fall of 2003 as a major bio-bibliographical reference book on Ottoman historians. This project is made possible by a generous grant from the Packard Humanities Institute, employing an assistant professor at Indiana University and two graduate students at the University of Chicago.

The database offers significantly more detailed information about Ottoman historians authors than what is normally found in typical encyclopaedia articles. Each author-entry is accompanied with a list of manuscripts (along with their locations). Unpublished manuscripts will be given particular attention, and a short summary or a table of contents will be provided. It is expected, the database will contain the most complete and up-to-date and accurate list of manuscripts available anywhere.

Historians of the Ottoman Empire covers different places, different times of the Ottoman Empire;  it includes works written in Cairo after 1517, in Athens up to 1830, and in Istanbul until 1923.

While the scope of this project is limited to historians, the definition of historian is used in its broader sense to include works such as biographical material, geographies, military narratives (gazavatnames,fethnames) etc. On the other hand, works written with an intention to be fully a piece of literature are excluded.

An “Ottoman” means “having been an Ottoman subject at least for a part of one’s life”. In other words, individuals having lived in the Ottoman Empire and having written narrative works that consciously include a significant “historical” content.

The database provides four browsing options; by historian, by work, by author and by date. Additionally, articles are written only in English and Turkish, because the database is bilingually designed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Historians of the Ottoman Empire project is intended to be a unique reference work to scholars and students, as well as for non-specialists interested in the histories and cultures of these regions.

Islamic Painted Page

Islamic Painted Page is a huge free database of Persian, Ottoman, Arab and Mughal paintings, illuminations, decorated Qur’an pages, book bindings as well as figurative paintings in manuscripts, albums and on single pages. The Database covers examples of the painted page dating from about 700 to 1900 CE and from over 270 collections worldwide.

The database is the work of Stephen Serpell MA MSc, a graduate of Oxford who works in Ipswich, UK. The website has been made possible with support from Iran Heritage Foundation, The Islamic Manuscript Association, German Research Foundation DFG and the Centre for the Studies of Manuscript Cultures (CSMC)

Some interesting features of the Islamic Painted Page:

  • Database Hints: The database provides a toggle button show/hide DB search hints, 8 hints are displayed to facilitate the search process.

  • Searching: The database offers users several options to search: by picture description, by collection and accession number, by place and date, by original author and title, or within a publication.

Also on the homepage, users can click on Go to search form which is an advanced search, allowing them to use any combination of criteria.

Here is an example of a result page for search by picture description only.

  • Links: The database offers links to assist finding online images, but some collections are much more fully digitized than others. Links will only work for items that have been digitized.
  • Transliteration: The database offers users the option of fully-accented Library of Congress transliteration, or “Anglicised” IJMES). In many cases Arabic script versions are also included.
  • Definitions: a short list of descriptions used in entries and their meanings.
  • Resources: In MS Excel format, users can download collections list, authors and titles list and publications list. The database is still being expanded, so the lists will continue to grow.

Chester Beatty Digital Collections

Chester Beatty Digital Collections gives access to part of remarkable treasures that are housed at Chester Beatty library In Ireland. This collection is a database of digitized artworks and manuscripts from different part of the world and includes Persian, Islamic, Turkish and Arabic collection.  These invaluable collections of manuscripts was gathered by Sir Alfred Chester Beatty (1875-1968) one of the greatest collector of the twentieth century and a friend to Ireland.

Opening folio from a Qur’an, illuminated by Muhammad ibn Aybak in Baghdad. This full-page illumination marks the beginning of a superb Qur’an volume produced in Baghdad. It is from a thirty-volume set, now dispersed in international collections or lost. Four of the known volumes contain the signature of the renowned illuminator Muhammad ibn Aybak ibn `Abdullah, who also recorded the date and that he was working “in the City of Peace, Baghdad”. From these inscriptions, Ibn Aybak’s work schedule becomes clear: he completed volume two in April 1303, ten in February 1305, and thirteen in October 1305, producing an illuminated volume approximately every three months. Folio from a Qur’an, colours and gold on paper, illuminated frontispiece panel with geometric design of central radiating star with quarter-stars repeated in the four corners, and hasp ornament on right margin, right half of a double-page composition, illumination by Muhammad ibn Aybak, opening folio from volume 25 of a 30-volume Qur’an (volume 25 codex is in Tehran Iran Bastan Museum, 3350),

Sir Alfred Chester Beatty was a young mining engineer in New York with huge interest in collecting European, Persian manuscripts, Chinese snuff bottles and Japanese netsuke. It was in 1914 and during a family trip to Egypt that the Islamic manuscript fascinated him so he expanded his collection to include rare books, richly illustrated material, fine bindings and calligraphy. Beatty’s exceptional collection developed over his life time, it comprises of remarkable Islamic, East Asian and biblical manuscripts, important Persian, Turkish, Armenian and Western European holdings as well as Burmese, Thai and Nepalese manuscripts, and is housed in the grounds of Dublin Castle.

Manuchihr pursuing his father’s murderer Tur, from the Book of Kings (Shahnama) by Firdausi

“The Chester Beatty Library is a public charitable trust established under the will of the late Sir Alfred Chester Beatty, who left his Collections in the care of a Trust for the benefit of the Irish people.”

The Beatty’s collection is a great resource for scholars and researchers as well as a cultural attraction for visitors from Ireland and from all around the world, part of which is available online through digital collection.

In 2017, the Chester Beatty started digitizing its collection with the help of digital photographers and a team of museum experts. Each item of this collection has a catalogue record and an informative description to the item. The digital collection is a searchable database; however, it is a growing database therefore it is useful to visit it from time to time.

Two horsemen aiming their lances, from Manual on the Arts of Horsemanship (Nihayat al-su’l wa al-umniya fi ta‘allum ‘amal al-furusiyya) by al-Aqsara’i