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

Islamic Manuscripts Scientific Initiative

The  Islamic Scientific Manuscripts Initiative (ISMI) is a collaborative project between researchers from the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin (Germany) and McGill Institute of Islamic Studies in Montreal (Quebec, Canada) aiming at making available information on Islamic manuscripts in the exact sciences. As such it includes manuscripts in Arabic, Persian, Turkish, and other languages covering a broad range of topics like astronomy, mathematics, optics, mathematical geography, music, mechanics, etc.

Initiated in 1996, the project was over the years funded by numerous government agencies and private institutions. It is currently supported by the Canada Research Chair in the History of Science in Islamic Societies and Compute Canada.

The ISMI database gives access to authors, their works, and extant manuscript witnesses in the various fields of the sciences. links metadata with manuscripts images  When possible, digital images are made public. Designed to facilitate research on these materials, the database allows for great flexibility in cross-searching descriptive fields (author, title, place of production, dates, etc.). Alternatively, the database can be browsed by name, title, place of production but also repository, etc. Results always display as a list where items are clickable.

 When made public, scanned images display in a reader offering single page, double page or thumbnails view. Digital copies include photographs of the binding, flap, spine and page edges allowing for a better codicological understanding of the codex. “Unless otherwise noted all ISMI content can be used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license: CC-BY-SA.”

Any questions and/or feedback can be sent to ismi-feedback@mpiwg-berlin.mpg.de.

A new acquisition!! Eastlaws, an Arabic legal database

Founded in 1995 in Alexandria, Egypt, Eastlaws network specializes in the production of Arab legal programs as well as on the automation of prosecutions, courts, law firms, and legal departments. As such, the network collects, indexes, and makes available legal documents originating from professional associations, administrative units at all levels of Arab judiciary Institutions, Faculties of Law and legal Research Institutes, legal Departments of private Companies, and international Organizations. Eastlaws database includes a wide variety of legal sources such as court rulings, legislations, fatwas, Islamic judicature, etc.

The Islamic Studies Library and the Nahum Gelber Law Library recently subscribed to a number of modules from Eastlaws providing the McGill community with access to original legal sources from the Arab World. The list of modules available to us is as follow:

  • Legislative Database for 18 countries (Egypt, Jordan, Yemen, UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, KSA, Oman, Libya, Tunisia, Morocco, Sudan, Syria, Iraq, Palestine, Algeria and Lebanon)
  • Rulings Database  for 18 countries (Egypt, Jordan, Yemen, UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, KSA, Oman, Libya, Tunisia, Morocco, Sudan, Syria, Iraq, Palestine, Algeria and Lebanon)
  • International Commercial Arbitration
  • International and Arab Treaties and Conventions
  • Administration fo Fatwa
  • Islamic Judicature
  • Legal Terminology
  • Legal Dictionary.

It is important to note that all documents in Eastlaws are in Arabic. A very basic translation into English and French can be generated by Google Translate, embedded within the database. The interface of the database itself is also in Arabic, and partially available in English (some menus and options are not translated).

To access Eastlaws database, there are a number of options:

  • The McGill library catalogue

  • The Database A-Z list from the Library main page

  • The Islamic sources subject guide

Akkasah, the Center for Photography at New York University Abu Dhabi

Akkasah, the Center for Photography at New York University Abu Dhabi: Houses photographic heritage collections of the Middle East and North Africa. Since it is believed that the rich traditions of documentary, vernacular, and art photography in those regions has not acquired enough attention, Akkasah aims to investigate, document and preserve histories and contemporary practices of photography in those regions.

Akkasah contains 60,000 images, and gathers collection of prints and negatives; also it produces digital versions of collections of individuals or institutions who are willing to share their collections.

Sultan Ahmed Mosque, street seller in the snow (circa 1930, Istanbul, Turkey). Source: Engin Ozendes Collection, Courtesy of Akkasah: Center for Photography at NYU Abu Dhabi.

The database is constitute of three collections of Historical Collections, Contemporary Projects, Photo Albums.

Akkasah turns out to be more than a database of photo collection, it became a successful collaborative project management, representing partnership between faculty and library, here more information ca be found in this regards.

Wall of windows and mihrab with men praying in the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey Source: Engin Ozendes Collection, Courtesy of Akkasah: Center for Photography at NYU Abu Dhabi.

Furthermore, Akkasah through conferences, research fellowship program of the NYUAD institute, colloquia, and publications; tries to support research on Middle Eastern and North African photography also on cross-cultural and transnational aspects of it.

Some of Akassah’s activities includes:

  • Producing a series of publications that reflect the scholarly and archival concerns of the center
  • Commissioning new documentary projects on the diverse cultures and communities of the Unite Arab Emirates
  • Establishing a special collection of rare photobooks from around the world
  • Inviting applications for research fellowships in the area of Middle Eastern and North African photography through the Research Fellowships in the Humanities program funded by the NYUAD Institute.

In this article, you can read more the story of Akkasah: The long read: NYUAD’s Centre for Photography unveils a new collection of antique images from the Middle East

View of The Opera District in Dubai. (Dubai, United Arab Emirates, 14 January 2017) Photographer: Michele Nastasi Source: Collection of A Gulf of Images. Center for Photography at NYU Abu Dhabi.

Iranian Oral History Project

The Iranian Oral History Project (IOHP) was launched in fall 1981 at Harvard’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies. In the Autumn of 1980, the director of the project Habib Ladejvardi was encouraged by Edward Keenan, the dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, to document Iranian oral history.

Keenan as an historian believed that the immigration of many of Iran’s former leaders to western countries after revolution presented a great opportunity to gather valuable historical data through collecting the personal accounts of those individuals who played an important role in political events or decision making. The focus of the project is to collect information about the political history of Iran between the 1920s and 1970s. Various restrictions on information after the revolution makes this project even more valuable.

The aim of Iranian Oral History project is to provide:

  • A better picture of the way the Iranian political system actually functioned from the point of view of the actors involved – for example, how decisions regarding foreign and domestic issues were reached and implemented.
  • Circumstances behind major political events and decisions.
  • Additional details regarding the background, character, and career of key political figures of the period.

The IOHP’s goal is to gather first hand accounts of these major historic moments, events and decisions. Therefore, a wide range of leaders from different political parties, groups, and institutions, including foreigners who were involved or somehow had an impact in Iran’s political events at the time were interviewed. Interviews were conducted in Paris, Washington D.C., Cambridge, Austria, Switzerland and some other cities around the world. In addition, some politicians who still had an official role in Iran at the time, participated in the interviews while travelling to other countries.

896 items are available in this collection that can be browsed and searched by subject, interviewee, language, ….furthermore a comprehensive background on the project and detailed methodology used on gathering the information and interviews structure is accessible from here.

The Quranic Arabic Corpus

Quranic Arabic Corpus is an annotated linguistic resource which shows the Arabic grammar, syntax and morphology for each word in the Holy Quran.

This project contributes to the research of the Quran by applying natural language computing technology to analyze the Arabic text of each verse.The website offers:

  • Word by Word Quran:  maps out the syntax of the entire Quran, with analysis and translation

  • Quran Dictionary: Verb Concordance – Lemma Frequency – Morphological Search

  • English Translation: shows seven parallel translations in English: Sahih International, Pickthall, Yusuf Ali, Shakir, Muhammad Sarwar, Mohsin Khan and Arberry

  • Syntactic Treebank: Dependency Graphs – Grammar (إعراب)

  • Ontology of Concepts: uses knowledge representation to define the key concepts in the Quran, and shows the relationships between these concepts using predicate logic.

The graph is a network of 300 linked concepts with 350 relations.

    

 

 

 

 

  • Quranic Grammar: The grammar section of the website provides a set of guidelines for annotators who wish to contribute to the project.

This ambitious project was created by Kais Dukes who decided to apply his knowledge of computing to the Quran. Duke, a British computer scientist and software developer at the School of Computing, University of Leeds, is credited with the development of the Quranic Arabic Corpus and JQuranTree.

In January 2010, The Muslim Post published and interview with Duke; when he was asked about other ventures and projects, he says:

“When I started out this project, I didn’t realise how much demand there would be for an online Qur’an study tool, especially for learning the Arabic language and grammar in detail. I think now a related project we want to do is a simple Qur’an study website for beginners. The current website is aimed at medium-level Qur’an and Arabic researchers, but something from the very beginning, like the ABC of Qur’anic Arabic would a very useful related project to work, especially if we continue what we have been doing so far, and make all the information available online for free, for the benefit of all to use regardless of their backgrounds or personal opinions.”

Basagic Collection of Islamic Manuscripts

The Bašagic collection is a unique assembly of Bosnian and Muslim literary heritage representing Islamic manuscripts collected by Safvet Beg Bašagić – a Bosnian collector, journalist, poet, and bibliographer. Drawn from the holdings of the University library in Bratislava, these items are rare sources of world Islamic culture and offer the researcher access to a comprehensively documented history of Bosnia’s written literature in the 16th to 19th century.

دلائل الخيرات وشوارق الانوار في ذكر الصلاة على النبي المختار

http://retrobib.ulib.sk/Basagic/Normal/0395.jpg

 

This rich selection of Islamic manuscripts contain literary works (prose, poetry), scientific works (Islamic theology, law, history, philosophy, Koran sciences, traditions, Islamic mysticism), and works of various Bosnian Muslim scholars composed in Arabic, Turkish, and Persian. The uniqueness of the collection is highlighted by rare Serbian and Croatian texts written in the Arabic script. Moreover, the Bašagic collection covers the history of Bosnia under the Turkish state administration and provides a picture of the religious situation in Bosnia between the 16th to 19th centuries. Aside from their historic value, these manuscripts shed light on the Art of Islamic book making, calligraphy, illustration and miniatures.

 

After the fire at the National Library in Sarajevo in 1992, which destroyed valuable collections of Islamic documents, the Bašagic collection now preserves rare documents about Bosnian Muslim literature. This unique collection is recognised and included on UNESCO’s documentary heritage list.

 

 

The collection contains 284 volumes of manuscripts including 589 individual works: 393 Arabic, 117 Turkish and 88 Persian.

 

 

حاشية على شرح العقائد العضدية

This collection can be browsed or searched by title and item description is available for each document.