Seizing the opportunity of the start of this new academic year, I decided to highlight the Islamic Studies Library (ISL) research guides that library staff conscientiously developed over the past ten years, and keep updating regularly. But before diving into the details, let me start by defining what a research guide is: a research guide -also called ‘subject guide’- is a curated list of resources focusing on a specific topic, discipline, or field of study. The research guides include both resources owned by the McGill library available only to the McGill community, and Open Access resources that are freely accessible to anyone on the internet. Our guides were developed by library staff with the help of graduate students, course lecturers and faculty of the Institute of Islamic Studies.
How to access the ISL research guides? There are two ways you can access our research guides. Either you go to the Islamic Studies Library main page and look for the ‘Key resources’ menu:
Or you go to the main library webpage and look for the ‘Humanities’ tab in the ‘Subject guides’ column:
2. Which disciplines or fields are covered? Originally, we had only two guides, but over the years we added ten more in the aim to cover the broad range of topics and disciplines taught at the Institute of Islamic Studies. Currently, you will find the following guides:
3. How can research guides help me? Research guides list and link to selected resources such as reference materials (encyclopedias, dictionaries), periodicals, monographs, primary sources (archives, government documents, photographs, maps, etc.), websites, databases, etc. In addition, our guides include a number of tools that will be useful to Islamic and Middle East studies scholars like date converters, virtual keyboards for Arabic Persian, Ottoman Turkish and Urdu, as well as romanization and transliteration tables for these languages in non-roman scripts. As such, these guides are excellent starting points to dive into a topic, and familiarize yourself with the McGill library collections.
4. Where to go beyond research guides? Within each research guide, you can access the library online catalogue (Sofia) to search for more resources on your topic(s) of interest at McGill, in Québec, and worldwide. If you need help doing so, you are invited to contact your liaison librarian (me) either by email or phone (+1-514-449-1952), or to make an appointment for a consult using the scheduling tool accessible from the guides:
To achieve their goal a group of scholars and researchers from different fields were called and after carefully studying best practices in the world of encyclopedias, Great Islamic Encyclopaedia- دائرةالمعارف بزرگ اسلامیwas compiled as their first project. Later the center expanded to a research institution with a broader mandate in research and publishing and developed a digital library as well as published various other encyclopedias in different topics such as culture, Iran’s folk culture, Islam, Iran’s Geography, etc.
Some of their encyclopedias are open access and available via The center’s website, Encyclopedias such as:
Encyclopedia of Iran which is a resource about Iran’s folklore culture and provides information about values, customs, beliefs, superstitions in Iran’s society as well as documenting the oral culture for historical and sociological research. So far 6 volumes are published, this encyclopedia is published in Persian language however each entry has a roman phonetics as well as a label with the corresponding topic of the entry or name of the Author of that entry.
Great Islamic Encyclopaedia- دائرةالمعارف بزرگ اسلامیwhich is known to be a comprehensive encyclopedia on Islamic topics is also available online. This encyclopedia has been translated to English, Arabic as well but only the one in Persian is accessible online. Each entry besides providing access to the entry article, also provides corresponding volume number in the print version for that article. Islamic Studies Library of McGill has the print version of the book and can be accessed here .
دانشنامۀ فرهنگ مردم ایران is another open access resource from this center, encyclopedia of Iranian people culture, which explores various aspects of Iranian culture from past to contemporary era and is a useful resource for sociological, historical and anthropological research.
دانشنامه تهران بزرگ The Greater Tehran Encyclopedia is a detailed and specialized encyclopedia designed to compile a comprehensive, credible information about all aspects of the material and spiritual life of Greater Tehran. It is estimated that the Great Encyclopedia of Tehran will contain about 12,000 articles, which will cover various topics from the aspects of political, social and cultural life of Greater Tehran, especially in the last 200 years.
The Centre for the Great Islamic Encyclopaedia website also lists the most recent added articles from each of the mentioned encyclopedias as well as the most viewed articles, access here.
Khazaaen archive is a voluntary independent association, centered in Jerusalem, where it first started as an initiative in October of 2016. Khazaaen considers itself as a societal project where people’s efforts contribute in building the archive.
“Each paper has a story”
The archive is interested in gathering ephemera materials; which is basically any material that was produced for a short-term and specific objectives. Khazaaen has managed to gather up to 60 thousand documents, where most of the materials are either daily publications, advertisements, brochures, pamphlets, posters, business cards, postal cards, wedding invitations, commercial, political, or artistic. Khazaaen believes it’s important to gather such materials as they serve as basic information in understanding local and social histories and a collective memory of the society’s day-to-day interactions. Moreover, these materials contain honest and real information about certain events in certain points in history and they enable us to understand the social experience and the alterations that occurred across different eras.
Khazaaen has several collection centers located in Amman, Beirut, Doha, and Algeria. The Technical Team will sort out received materials and make a second copy to send it to another archive in order to have back-up copies. Then scan the original and create a digital surrogate. Hard copies are kept in antioxidant files to preserve them.
Khazaaen hopes that it would be able to protect and preserve as many of the daily publications as possible and make these materials available to researchers and the public. In addition, Khazaaen aspires that its digital archive will contribute in starting a social and cultural discussion around critical political and societal issues in the hope of creating a better tomorrow.
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.
Open access Islamic-Iranian manuscripts database has been established with the aim of providing access to resources for researchers and scholars with the focus on the manuscripts of the Islamic world and Iran. This site, in order to promote the values of Iranian culture, with the help of group of dedicated partners tried to make available manuscripts and develop techniques of accessing the manuscripts of the Islamic world and Iran. And recently they have run their pilot version of their website.
It is possible to read manuscripts electronically and, on the web, as well as access other resources provided in this database such as books and articles related to the field of manuscripts.
This initiative consists of various departments such as cataloging, graphic editing, image development, public and international relations, and IT.
Development of their archive relies on collaboration of private collection owners, personal collections, national libraries, or other entities who are willing to share their manuscripts, books, or their resources with them to be digitized and to be made available for public use.
The image of manuscripts is accessible for everyone; however, the website interface is only available in Persian language. Each manuscript can be browsed, and bibliographic information is presented consisting of language of the item, subject and author. Also, when available more details about the manuscript is shared such as title, author or manuscript’s transcriber as well as where the item is kept, and it also indicates if the manuscript is not complete.
“We can not fight for our rights and our history as well as future until we are armed with weapons of criticism and dedicated consciousness.” ― Edward W. Said
In this blog post, we will highlight resources on Palestine, and Palestinians to support students and researchers focusing on this area and seeking to understand the Palestinian Question in its national, Arab, and international contexts. Our list of resources includes digital initiatives, projects, archives, NGOs, academic centers, etc. all which have in common to document Palestine’s history and Palestinians’ lives and preserve the Palestinian heritage. Gratefully, these various collaborative efforts between institutions make materials available in Open Access to scholars, students, and the wider public.
The project is a collaborative project of the Palestinian Museum and the Institute for Palestine Studies. To promote a dynamic vision of Palestinian culture engaged with new perspectives on history, society and culture.
Presents a series of anonymous but intimate portraits of Palestinian families living under the Israeli Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law. This Law, passed in 2003, prevents Palestinians from the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) married to Israeli citizens from obtaining a legal status in Israel, violating their right to a family life in Israel.
The archive is an oral history collective established in Lebanon in 2002. Since it’s inception, the Archive has recorded over 650 video interviews with first generation Palestinian refugees in Lebanon about their recollections of life in Palestine and the events that led to their displacement. These eyewitness narratives, with refugees from more than 150 Palestinian villages and towns, recall social and cultural life in Palestine before 1948, relations with neighboring Jewish communities and the British Mandate, the 1948 expulsion, and the early years of exile. The aim has been to document this critical period through the voices and experiences of those who lived through it, and to bear witness in a way shaped not by political symbolism but rather by the rhythms of personal memory.*
The Birzeit University Palestinian Archive Project (BZUPAP) is dedicated to documenting the life of Palestinians (persons, families and organizations) over the past century. Documents collected include the most diverse types of written and audiovisual materials (texts, photographs, videos, recordings). This growing, largely open archive is being preserved at the university. Incoming documents are organized, categorized, and uploaded on the electronic website http://awraq.birzeit.edu with a clear indication of the donor. The website constitutes an excellent resource for all interested persons and a primary source for researchers around the world, with its easy access and its Arabic and English language materials.*
The Palestine poster tradition offers an exceptional perspective on the history of modern Palestine and is, simultaneously, a much under-valued component of its cultural heritage. The posters themselves are important repositories of primary data. They provide a unique lens through which audiences can gain insight into the attitudes and aspirations of people directly involved in the contemporary history of Palestine, as they have experienced it and recorded it in graphic art.
Al-Quds open archive is the result of a collaboration between the Center for Palestine Studies at Columbia University (CPS) and the Institute for Palestine Studies in Ramallah. Al-Quds open archive includes 392 issues published between 1908 and 1914. The significance of al-Quds, aside from it being the first newspaper in Palestine, was its timing. It both celebrated and tested the new freedom of publication proclaimed by the Ottoman Constitutional Revolution of 1908.
The Jerusalem Quarterly is the only journal focused on the city of Jerusalem’s history, political status, and future. It addresses debates about the city and its predicament, as well as future scenarios for solving the problems of Jerusalem. The Jerusalem Quarterly has a prestigious board of advisors selected from leading Palestinian universities and research institutes and an editorial staff. It has been published continuously since 1998 by the Institute of Jerusalem Studies, an IPS affiliate, in Jerusalem and since 2003, in Ramallah. This journal is made available to readers and researchers by special arrangement with the Institute for Palestine Studies.*
The main goal of this project is to digitize the historical periodical collection located at the Al-Aqsa Mosque Library in order to create archival quality digital copies of the deteriorating newspapers and magazines. In addition, the project intends to create multiple derivative copies to extend access of these rare materials to scholars, students and the public.*
The Maps and Cartography section contains two kind of documents: original maps of Jerusalem reproduced here as a tool for researchers, and links to existing sets of Jerusalem maps—both historical and contemporary.
Palestine Open Maps is a platform for map-based exploration and immersive storytelling. This alpha version of the platform allows users to navigate and search the historic map sheets, and to view basic data about present and erased localities.*
In these text-maps by Palestinian writers, you will find a fusion of voices. Writers were asked to write a portrait of the city or town their families come from—experienced or imagined. They were to draw from family members, stories, dreams, or other channels. The contributors are listed under their city of origin; those who come from two different cities are placed under the city they wrote about. This map is an architectural metaphor. It’s a construction site, where readers can watch the map being built with every feature.*
More than 120 village memorial books, about the over 400 Palestinian villages that were depopulated and largely destroyed in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War have been published. Compiled as documentary histories and based on the accounts of those who remember their villages, they are presented as dossiers of evidence that these villages existed and were more than just “a place once on a map.” *
Hanna Safieh collection consist of black and white photo of Palestine and the Holy Land dating back to 1927 and featuring historic and biblical locations such as Jerusalem and the Old City, Bethlehem, Nazareth, Jericho and more.*
Started in the 1990’s, Dreams of a Nation is a Columbia University based archival project aiming at preserving and promoting Palestinian cinema. Dreams of a Nation resulted in the organization of two Palestinian film festivals held in 2003 and 2204, and the publication of a book entitled Dreams of a Nation: On Palestinian Cinema authored by Dr. Hamid Dabashi (Verso, 2006).
The Palestinian Museum – Non-Governmental Association dedicated to supporting an open and dynamic Palestinian culture nationally and internationally. The Museum presents and engages with new perspectives on Palestinian history, society and culture. It also offers spaces for creative ventures, educational programmes and innovative research.*
PASSIA seeks to present the Palestinian Question in its national, Arab and international contexts through academic research, dialogue, education and publication. In order to facilitate understanding of Palestinian positions, it endeavors to analyze current policy issues, provide a constructive forum for open discussion, conduct high quality, independent research and publish studies and information papers. In addition, PASSIA aims to empower young Palestinians through training programs and seminars that build capacity, skills and expertise.*
The Institute for Palestine Studies (IPS) was established in Beirut in 1963 as an independent non-profit research institution, unaffiliated with any political organization or government. The creation of the institute, the first of its kind in the Arab world, occurred at a time when the Palestine Question was regaining its central place in inter-Arab politics and when Palestinian identity was regaining its vitality.*
The Center for Palestine Studies promotes the academic study of Palestine by supporting research, teaching, and intellectual collaboration among scholars within Columbia University and beyond. CPS provides an institutional home for faculty, post-doctoral researchers, and students at Columbia in fields that include history, literary studies, the social sciences, religion, philosophy, law, archaeology, architecture, and the arts. CPS also builds connections with other institutions and scholars to strengthen the academic study of Palestine and Palestinians throughout the United States and the world.*
The New Directions in Palestinian Studies research initiative of Brown University’s Center for Middle East Studies, launched in 2012. Over the past generation, the field of Palestine and Palestinian studies has grown rapidly, attracting some of the best and brightest scholars. Launched as a research initiative of Brown University’s Middle East Studies program in 2012, New Directions in Palestinian Studies (NDPS) has built an international community of scholars dedicated to decolonizing and globalizing this field of study New Directions in . Palestinian Studies brings together emerging and established scholars to shape the agenda of knowledge production on Palestine and the Palestinians.*
Cognizant of the Palestine Studies Trust adjacent to the University of Exeter initiated by Dr Uri Davis in the early 1980s, Professor Ilan Pappé and Dr Ghada Karmi founded the European Centre for Palestinian Studies (ECPS) in 2009. It is dedicated to producing interdisciplinary on the history of Palestine and the Palestine/Israel conflict.*
Maydan complements and benefits from the flourishing academic blogosphere and the rise in digital scholarship, amplified by social media and the diversification of academic production venues. It aims to contribute to the developments in digital scholarship by bringing peer-reviewed academic research to the attention of the broader public and providing original resources and databases for scholars, students and the public to facilitate research, discussion, and pedagogy in Islamic Studies across all disciplines. In response to a growing need for a broadly-focused online resource for academic scholarship and critique, Maydan offers its readers multidisciplinary perspectives on the historical, intellectual, and global patterns and developments influencing the Muslim world.
While drawing on the expertise of the scholars and faculty associated with the Ali Vural Ak Center for Global Islamic Studies, Maydan aims to widen academic and public discourse, stimulate intra and inter-disciplinary debate and inspire researchers from all levels to undertake new projects and engage with new issues. It features original pieces and compiles academic resources for the advancement of a sound and nuanced understanding of Muslim societies and the Islamic faith, its role in world history, and its current patterns of globalization.
In addition, Maydan includes a Resources page centralizing news from the Islamic Studies scholarly community, a Journal Roundup page making available quarterly lists of the latest articles in Islamic Studies, a Book display page offers monthly lists of new publications in the field, and a Podcast page (Soundcloud) giving access to recorded lectures by, and interviews with, renowned Islamic Studies scholars.
Last, the weekly Media Roundups propose an overview of Islam in the media.
Iranologie.com is created by Khodadad Rezakhani, a scholar of late antiquity and the early medieval period, mostly in West and Central Asia. He created this site with a focus on Iranian history and is aiming to provide information about history and culture of Iran as well as about “Iran as a modern nation-state”.
The main feature of the website is “The History Page” which is the access point to the main content on the site about Iranian history categorized in three eras of: 1. From the Ancient Times to 650 CE, 2. From Islam to the Safavids, 3. From the Safavids to Modern Iran.
Khodadad Rezakhani, the creator of the site, has a PhD form UCLA in late antique Near East and he is a professional academic dedicated to teaching , researching and writing. He describes the reason for initiating this project as :
“However, I have a deep interest in bringing academic research to the public and find producing knowledge for purely academic audiences to be undemocratic and against the spirit of knowledge. As such, I try to engage in anyway I can, giving interviews to TV and Radio programmes and appearing on various segments dedicated to history. But more than anything, I try to use the internet, and have done so since 1996 (!) to engage, through my podcasts and my weblog, and make sure that what me and my colleagues are working on does not remain behind the locked doors of academic journals.”
Iranologie.com is host for the History of Iran podcast and history Podcast in Persian. Both podcasts cover Iranian history fro pre-Islamic to Islamic and modern ear, one in English and the latter in Persian language. Moreover, all sources and additional materials that were referenced in the podcasts can are listed on Podcast section of the site.
In addition to the History and two valuable podcasts, recently, the author of Iranologie.com also created a new project on Twitter, “@historianofIran, which is a rotating weekly account where different scholars of Iranian history, culture, and languages write about their work for a week at a time”.
last but not least, historical issues are discussed mostly by the author both in English and Persian in the form of a blog and can be accessed on Iranologie.com here.
Located in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, St. Catherine’s Monastery is “one of the world’s oldest monasteries and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.” The site has been occupied by monks since the 4th century, but the monastery was formally established in 6th century the Byzantine Emperor Justinian. Thanks to its remote location, the Monastery has been able to preserve one of the world’s most important libraries holding 4,559 manuscripts dating from the 4th to the 19th century in 13 languages, covering a wide range of topics (Bible, liturgy, hagiography, patristics, spirituality, and history, classical poetic, scientific and philosophical texts). Widely recognized as “the world’s oldest continually operating library, the manuscript holdings of St. Catherine’s Monastery represent an unparalleled resource to study the history and literature of the Eastern Mediterranean from late antiquity until early modernity.”
Started in February 2018, the digitization of 1,172 Arabic and Syriac (400,000 pages) should be completed in March 2022. The second phase of the project will focus on digitizing Greek, Georgian, Slavonic and other languages 3,387 codices (1.1 million pages).
At the time of our visit, a total of 660 manuscripts in Arabic, Syriac, Greek, Aramaic, Turkish, Coptic and Latin were accessible via the following categories:
Within each category, holdings can be filtered by genre (the majority of the manuscripts fall into the liturgical and biblical texts genres), date (ranging from 501 to 1900), writing system (the large majority of manuscripts are written in Arabic and Syriac), script (Naskh being the most used calligraphy in this collection), codicological features (colophon, decorations, marginal notes, etc.), support (paper or parchment), form (all of them are codices), and names. Results are displayed either in list or gallery view:
Please note that access to digital versions of manuscripts is conditioned to the creation of a free account. Once logged in, you may open records and view the manuscripts in the custom-made viewer:
Records include bibliographical and codicological information on the codex as well as references. A good variety of reading options are available as shown below:
“The mission is thus an open archive dedicated to long-term preservation and to liberation: it is a reliable counter-archive of the Palestinian people.”
The archive is being preserved at The Birzeit University. Received documents from organizational collections, private family documents and archival materials collected by individuals, are organized, categorized, and uploaded to the online archive.
The archived materials will assist interested persons and researchers in understanding Palestinian society and the lives of Palestinians.
What distinguishes BZUPAP is the chronological, spatial and topical diversity of its holdings. Documents collected include the most diverse types of written and audiovisual materials (texts, photographs, videos, recordings)
With a clear indication regarding the donor and the source, the archive primary documents consist of: 17000 documents are already uploaded on the website, 30000 documents are in progress of uploading, 7000 documents are being translated from the Ottoman language.
As for the Special documents, there are newspapers since 1909, Old post cards, documents from the Arab National Committee since 1948 and Ottoman documents in Arabic
The user-friendly website provides easy access to its Arabic and English language materials. The digital archive is an essential source for the history, politics and culture of the Palestinian people.