Two valuable collections of Islamic materials @Library of Congress

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The Library of Congress houses, preserves, collects and makes accessible numerous valuable and historical materials from across the globe in different languages, forms and subjects, this includes  a noteworthy collection of rare Persian language materials. This collection is part of the “African and Middle Eastern Division (AMED) and the Rare Book and Special Collections Division” and includes various rare materials of early print books, lithographic books and manuscripts.

Qurʼān. [1739 or 1740, 1739] Manuscript/Mixed Material. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/2017406495/>.

Sūrat al-Qāf. [18th Century] Manuscript/Mixed Material. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/2017498316/>.

According to the Library of Congress most materials in this collection was acquired in 1930s through a well-known dealer in fine Islamic and Near Eastern arts, Kirkor Minassian. This acquisition includes rare manuscripts and books in Arabic, Persian, Armenian and Turkish language, however the rare Persian language collection grew beyond Minassain acquisitions as the library continued to acquire more materials from other sources as well as to receive rare collections in a form of donation from generous people.

Ṣāfī, Aḥmad Rashīd, Scribe, Ibrāhīm AdʹHam Gharbaldah Balawī, and Charles C McVicker. Qurʼān
. [18–?] Manuscript/Mixed Material. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/2010471600/>

This collection consists of materials in different subject and disciplines from the entire Middle East. However, literary works and historical lithographs makes up for much of the collection.

“A number of these items are exquisitely illuminated anthologies of poetry by classic and lesser known poets, written in fine calligraphic styles, and illustrated with miniatures. Many also have beautiful bindings. A number of the illuminated books are multilingual works, which include Arabic and Turkish passages in addition to Persian, focusing on scientific, religious – philosophical and literary topics, and others are holy books important to all confessional traditions within the Islamic world.”

In 2014 in an exhibition, called “A Thousand Years of the Persian Book” that was held by The Library’s Near East Section, 40 items of rare Persian collection were shown to the public, this exhibition led to a digitization project in 2015. As a result of this ongoing project up until now 169 lithographs of the Collection are digitized and made available.

This beautifully organized collection can be accessed here. Each record provides access to a digitized format of the item as well as a description about the item such as a physical account, bibliographic information and when available summary of the content.

In addition to the abovementioned collection, Library of Congress also provided to a large collection of Arabic script calligraphy sheets from 9th to 19th century. 373 calligraphy sheets can be browsed online which mainly consist of fragments of Quran written on paper or parchment.

Access the collection here.

This beautiful collection also provides detail description for each item as well as script of the presented sheet, calligraphic style, date and physical account of the item. This collection also includes a section of Special Presentations:
Calligraphers of the Persian Tradition
Ottoman Calligraphers and Their Works
Qur’anic Fragments
Noteworthy Items

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).

Islamic Art @Victoria and Albert Museum

Victoria and Albert museum (V&A) of art and design’s collection contains over 2.3 million objects showcasing 5000 years of human art and creativity. The Museum’s collection consists of UK’s national as well as international collections. These collections contain wide range of resources for learning, research and study of various topics such as: architecture, book arts, sculpture, Asian art and design and etc.

Since the beginning of the V&A in 1850’s and when Queen Victoria laid the first stone of the Museum in 1899, Museum’s mission has been to provide tools and ways of learning and engaging with their collection. Moreover, building an excellent collection with global relevance and attracting international audiences and collections has always been part of their mission; therefore, V&A collected various outstanding resources and examples of human art and creativity from around the world. 

In that regard, the V&A houses a great collection of Islamic art, which holds more than 19000 artifacts and items from early Islamic era to early twentieth century from Middle East and North Africa.  This great collection usually can be visited in the Jameel Gallery of Islamic Art, however, now that due to COVID-19 situation the Gallery is closed, the highlight of this collection is accessible digitally and can be found here.

This very well organized collection also provides exclusive information about the item’s history, place, date, material, techniques that were used in creation of the objects.

V&A Museum has a rich collection of South Asian artifacts which is described as: “The collections from South and South-East Asia comprise nearly 60,000 objects, including about 10,000 textiles and 6,000 paintings covering the Indian subcontinent south of the Himalayas, including India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan. The range of the collection is immense.”

South Asian Collection Highlights

Calligraphy as an astonishing form of Islamic Art also made its way to V&A collection and can be visited here, also at the end of the page a slideshow of different objects of the collection featuring beautiful work of calligraphy from different style, era and techniques.

“Tray featuring a calligraphic script, 1330 – 60, possibly Syria or Egypt, brass. Museum no. 420-1854. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London”

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/

Amaliah

Launched in 2016 by Nafisa Bakkar, a 27th years-old entrepreneur based in London, U.K., Amaliah is an online media-platform aiming to serve as an amplifier for Muslim women’s voices. Rich of contributions from over 300 women living all around the World, Amaliah allows for different feminine experiences within Muslim communities to be made pubic and widely accessible. Amaliah is committed to inclusion trying to take a broad-range of perspectives into consideration when addressing issues.

Over the years, Amaliah and its founder received a lot of attention from main-stream media: they were featured in Forbes, The Telegraph, CNN, and The Guardian -to name only a few- increasing the platform’s visibility and leading to a digital footprint of over 3.2 million every month.

The platform categorizes its multimedia content (text, video & audio) in seven main categories:

  • Identity relays stories of personal journeys to becoming a woman
  • Relationships is interested in romantic relationships, family relationships, and the relationship individuals have with themselves
  • Soul focuses on the spiritual side of things (tips, advice, and experiences helping to nourish and boost one’s faith or comfort one’s heart
  • Fashion shares fashion and inspiration from bloggers
  • Beauty & Makeup brings beauty and make-up advice
  • Lifestyle aims at inspiring, guiding and motivating with content inspired by one’s personal interests and daily activities
  • World focuses on current affairs, news stories across the globe and trending topics.

The Amaliah Podcast won the 2019 ‘Grassroots Production of the Year Award’ from the Audio Production Award, and was nominated for the 2020 British Podcast Awards in the ‘Best Sex & Relationships Podcast’ category. The Podcast discusses Muslim life, culture and politics in the U.K.

If some of you have ideas that they would like to share, Amaliah welcomes new contributions and contributors. So don’t hesitate to contact them at contribute@amaliah.com!

Last, in March 2020, Amaliah introduced a membership option giving access to a variety of exclusive events and content. You can check out the Support page to learn more!

The Afternoon Map

The Afternoon Map is a cartography blog brought to you by Ottoman History Podcast

“We firmly believe that every book needs more maps, and would be delighted if these maps could be useful toward that end”

The Afternoon Map

The blog is dedicated to presenting quality Ottoman/Turkish/Middle Eastern/Balkan maps with a maximum pixel-to-word ratio. A range of original, visually appealing and intellectually engaging maps harvested from archives and libraries around the world.

The afternoon Map will appeal to history buffs, travelers and map enthusiasts. Each map is provided with some background and analysis when available. Historians and other researchers will find these maps useful for their work.

“The Afternoon Map is a member of MENAlab, a constellation of independent internet destinations focused on the history, society, and culture of the Middle East and North Africa”

The Afternoon Map

The blog uses content generated by scholars and researchers from a variety of disciplines. The afternoon Map is open access and free from advertisement.

MAP LIST

Under Afternoon Map’s Comprehensive Map List, one can find the following:

Historical Maps

Blog posts in this section varies in topics (geographical, touristic, ethnic, etc.), in dates (as old as 1874) and in length (from one map to 14 maps)

Istanbul Tourist Maps

Home Made Maps

In this section, things get really interesting! Treasure map, food maps, Folk song map, etc.

Ottoman Food Map

Non Maps

 Topics in this section, not necessary related to maps, but it is worthwhile exploring!

Ottoman Hats

Articles

A list of published articles authored and/or co-authored by Nick Danforth on various media platforms and academic journals. There is a couple of articles that are marked unpublished.

PODCAST

Provide a link to Ottoman History Podcast, a podcast about the Ottoman Empire, the modern Middle East, and the Islamic world.

RANDOM

In this section, blog posts are randomly displayed. This may appeal to those who like the surprise factor.

ArabLit: Arabic Literature and Translation

ArabLit: Arabic Literature in Translation is a blog launched in 2009 by Marcia Lynx Qualey, a freelance journalist living in Cairo who holds a Master Degree in creative writing from the University of Minnesota. In addition to maintaining ArabLit M. Lynx Qualey writes about Arabic literature for a number of newspapers and journals:  The Guardian, Al Jazeera, Your Middle East, and AGNI  Online, a literary journal published by Boston University.

Over time, ArabLit became a good source of daily news and views on Arab and Arabic literature and translation. As described in an interview by Claire Jacobson (for Asymptot): “her [Qualey’s] coverage leaves no stone unturned, spanning a wide range of genres (from poetry to nonfiction, magical realism to science fiction) and countries (from Morocco to Iraq, Sudan to Syria).”

In 2017, ArabLit won the prestigious Literary Translation Initiative Award at the London Book Fair, and M. Lynx Qualey launched the BULAQ Podcast in collaboration with Ursula Lindsey, from The Arabist. BULAQ focuses on contemporary writing from and about the Middle East and North Africa, and on literature (what does it do? Why does it matter? How does it relates to society, history and politics?). BULAQ is co-produced by Sowt, a podcasting platform producing and distributing high-quality audio programs in Arabic based in Amman (Jordan) and launched in 2016.

In 2018, with support from fans and readers (53,208 followers in July 2020), Qualey was able to develop ArabLit by launching new initiatives:

  • the ArabLit Story Prize is awarded every year to the best short stories recently translated from Arabic to English by non-previously published translators
  • ArabKidLitNow! provides a “fresh view on contemporary Arabic children’s literature, in Arabic and in translation” is addressed to  publishers, translators, readers of Arabic, Arabic language learners, readers of English, teachers, librarians, booksellers, etc.
  • ArabLit Quarterly is a theme-based “magazine that brings together Arabic literature, essays, wordplay, art, music, and food in translation”
  • ArabLit Store offers items and publications for purchase.

In 2020, despite de COVID-19 crisis, M. Lynx Qualey was able to:

  • Launch the 5th and 6th issues of ArabLit Quarterly covering “The road” and “The crime” themes, and start working on the 7th and 8th issues that will focus on “Cats” and “Dreams”
  • Start a “lock-in literature” series for readers with limited access to books during the COVID-19 shutdowns
  • Run the #ArabicTranslationChallenge with Kevin Blankinship, assistant Professor of Asian and Near Eastern Languages at Brigham Young University.

Interested people can follow Marcia Lynx Qualey on Facebook, Instragam, Twitter, Youtube, SoundCloud, or by subscribing to the Tiny Newsletter. Last, in order to support further development, ArabLit is welcoming donations.

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.