The Palestinian Museum Digital Archive / أرشيف المتحف الفلسطيني الرقمي

Sponsored by the Arcadia fund, the Palestinian Museum Digital Archive aims at collecting, digitizing and making widely available (in Open Access) endangered archival materials documenting Palestinian life and history. Started in 2018, the project has now reached its third phase involving partnerships inside and outside Palestine as well as a broadening of the geographical scope covered.

At the time of our visit, the archive included over 200,000 documents like “identification papers, official records, letters, diaries, manuscripts, maps, photographs, films, and audio recordings” collected from individuals, families, and institutions. The Palestinian Museum Digital Archive only keeps digital surrogates and return the original documents to their owners after processing.

Visitors can either Search the archive, Browse collections or Explore topics.

The basic search only requires to enter keyword(s) in the search bar at the top-right corner of the page. The advanced search offers a more refined search where you can limit by:

  • date (default year range is 1900-2024)
  • type(s) of material
  • collection(s) (generally named after donor)
  • entity(ies) (i.e. institution, organization, etc.)
  • location(s).

The collection browse allows to identify specific archives of interest before searching them. The number of documents in each collection range from less than a hundred to thousands of documents. The time period covered is clearly stated at the right-top corner of each collection:

The topics exploration offers a different way of navigating the website through subjects assigned to documents. Among the long list of topics (fifteen in total), visitors will find the following:

The number of documents in each category is indicated right beside the topic, and when scrolling over the topic, a series of thumbnails gives a snapshot of items that will be found under this topic. To ease navigation, the list could be sorted alphabetically.

It is important to note that all materials in the Palestinian Museum Digital Archive are “copyrighted either by the museum or by third parties who have granted permission for their materials to be included on this site. Visitors can therefore only use the documents “for personal, educational, non-commercial use, or for fair use as defined in the United States copyright laws.” It is possible to ask for high-resolution images by emailing info@palarchive.org or sending the request via the form available here.

To submit your personal archive, you may fill out the following form:

The website is entirely bilingual English and Arabic.

Middle Eastern Film Posters & Lobby Cards

The Middle Eastern Film Posters & Lobby Cards Collection is a digital collection launched by Princeton University Library to make available their Arabic Movie Posters and Lobby Cards collection to worldwide scholars. Acquired in Lebanon in 2008, the collection includes 1,748 posters, and 768 lobby cards produced mostly in Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq. At the time of our visit, the digital collection included 1,646 items which represents a large proportion of the overall collection, and newly digitized items keep being added to it.

The digital collection can be navigated in two ways. The left-hand side filters allow visitors to limit their search by place of origin, genre or date of creation. The categories accessible via the vignettes below allow to access the materials sorted by both genre and geographical origin:

Within each category, results can be displayed either in a list or a table form, and sorted by title, author, and date (ascending/descending).

When opening an item, the page will show the high resolution image and a succinct description at the bottom. For more information about the document, visitors can expand the right-hand side panel. Images can be displayed full-screen, enlarged and reduced, downloaded (as jpeg, tiff or pdf) or shared via a link.

We encourage users to read carefully the Statement on Harmful Content and the Rights and Permissions page as they contain important information.

Islamic Manuscripts, Art collection and Rare Books at Walters Art Museum

The Walters Art Museum’s collection encompasses art from various cultures extending over seven thousand years. Many of the items in their collection can be explored through their website at works of art site and Walters Ex Libris.

Beyond a wide range of artistic objects, their collection includes manuscripts and artwork on paper, as well as books and remarkable pieces of Islamic art. This includes valuable items like miniature paintings, beautifully illuminated Qurans and etc.

Leaf from Qur’an.
Bowl with Seated Figures Flanking a Tree
Islamic (Artist)
Jug with Sphinxes, Griffins, and Heron
Islamic (Artist)

Moreover, the Museum is house to” 900 printed manuscripts, 1300 incunabula and 2000 rare books”. Of these, 433 manuscripts and more than 8000 printed papers are digitized and accessible through Walters Ex Libris. These manuscripts cover a variety of periods, including works from the Safavid, Mughal and Ottoman empire.

Moreover, as a museum dedicated to education, storytelling, and fostering community engagement through knowledge and cultural expression, the Walters Art Museum is actively digitizing and making their collection accessible to the public. Some of their digitized exhibitions also serve this purpose. One such exhibition, ‘Poetry and Prayer: Islamic Manuscripts from the Walters Art,’ beautifully showcased a variety of books, manuscripts, and individual art pieces. This collection includes beautifully illuminated manuscripts featuring poetry, prayers, miniature art, the Quran, and more. Each item has been digitized, and an informative description is offered.

While exploring this specific exhibition along with some of their digitized manuscripts, we noticed some similarities or common characteristics between their displayed materials with some of the manuscripts and rare books available at Islamic Studies Library rare book collection. Thus, we decided to highlight some of them as an example.

However, there are many more similar cases to be explored. Some of McGill Islamic Studies Library’s digitized manuscripts and rare books can be found here. The Walters Art Museum manuscripts can be found here.

For example, this Mughal color-wash drawing (portrait of Lal Kunwar) at the Walters Art Museum and this miniature of a princess at McGill Rare book collection, have various elements in common, while created in different time.

Miniature of a princess, MSP 53 Rare Books/Special Collections

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………Additionally, these two manuscripts seem to share many characteristics. Both are Persian poetry books, featuring similar calligraphy styles and very comparable ornate illuminations. However, one (“Yusuf and Zulaykha” by Jami) is housed at the Walters Art Museum, and the other one (poetry book by Hafiz ) is at McGill Rare Books. Are these two manuscripts made in the same manuscript workshop but, in the course of history, ended up in two different parts of the world?

Dīvān-i Ḥāfiẓ. 15th century
Yusuf and Zulaykha. 16th century

These two painting share some similarities as well while the miniature of the Mughul Emperor is housed at McGill and the portrait of emperor Jahangir is at The Walters Art Museum.

Miniature of Mughul Emperor Farrukh-siyar, Persian Manuscript. MSP leaf 57.
Single leaf of a portrait of the emperor Jahangir W.705

Dīvān-i Ḥāfiẓ. 16th century
Hafiz (Persian) 16th century

There are more items at both places that can be compared and explored to find similarities or differences. These two Hafiz poetry books (mentioned above) can be examined from a different perspective. Although they were created around the same time, unlike the previously mentioned example, these two display distinct illustration and calligraphy styles, yet they also share some similarities.

The Walters Art Museum, in line with their commitment to public education and connecting art to people’s lives, publishes the Journal of Walters Art Museum as an open-access resource, providing free access to research about their collection which can be found here and contains valuable information about their
collection. While comparing or exploring their collection, this resource can also be used to obtain more background information about their various manuscripts or rare books.

“The Walters Art Museum’s Mission has been to bring art and people together and to create a place where people of every background can be moved by art”

The Timbuktu Manuscripts

The Timbuktu Manuscripts: discover a trove of Timbuktu’s ancient manuscripts digital exhibition and collection is the result of a collaboration between a Malian association called SAVAMA-DCI whose main goal is to preserve and make widely available Arabic manuscripts from Timbuktu and Google Arts & Culture.

Back in 1973, a preservation campaign of the Timbuktu’s collection made of approximately 400,000 codices was initiated by the Ahmed Baba Center (CEDRAB). In 1996, the newly founded association SAVAMA-DCI started raising awareness among private owners about the value of their family manuscripts, providing technical and financial support for the processing and conservation of these materials, and encouraging them to keep the manuscripts in their possession. If funding was limited at first, the association was over time able to collect enough funds to ensure the preservation and inventory of the collections. In 2012, with the jihadist occupation of Northern Mali, the fear that manuscripts would be destroyed lead to the transfer of Timbuktu’s manuscripts collections to other towns in the region like Bamako. According to SAMAVA-DCI over 370.000 codices were rescued.

« Dans la nuit noire de notre existence, les manuscrits sont les projecteurs qui éclairent le passé. »

Dr. Abdel Kader Haidara, fondateur de SAVAMA-DCI

The Timbuktu Manuscripts virtual exhibition is incredibly rich (more than 40.000 manuscripts from libraries and private collections) and provides many options to learn about the collections, their history, and the rescue and preservation processes.

The website includes:

  • shorts videos documenting the manuscripts’ preservation
  • pictures documenting the rescue operations, and the digitization of manuscripts
  • topical sub-collections of digitized manuscripts (astronomy, ethics, jurisprudence, mathematics, medicine, geography, etc.)
  • general information about the Arabic manuscripts tradition with a focus on the African tradition
  • detailed descriptions of the collections composing The Timbuktu Manuscripts collection
  • historical and literary information situating these manuscripts in the larger context of knowledge production and dissemination in Africa and beyond.

The most incredible experience offered via this virtual exhibition is the digital archives of the Timbuktu Manuscripts:

The main page gallery is staggering.

The archives includes more than 400,000 handwritten pages from the Qur’an, mathematical, astronomical and medical treatises, sex and black magic manuals, etc. dating from the 11th to the 20th century. A selection of manuscripts are accessible full-text from section 2. The Books. Section 3. Grid View allows to glance at individual pages displayed in a table view when section 4. A Universe of Verses gives access to individual pages in what appears like a much less organized display:

At the very bottom of the main page, The Timbuktu Manuscripts virtual exhibition links to other Google Arts & Culture projects to learn more about Malian music, modern art, architectural heritage, etc.

The Timbuktu Manuscripts website will default to the language of your Google Account. But the interface is accessible in any language available in Google (although some content may not translate).

And for those eager to learn more about the Timbuktu manuscripts, we suggest they go visit the Tombouctou Manuscripts Project website. This project focusing on the “content of the manuscripts, the circulation of scholars and ideas, the economy of the manuscript book, and other aspects of the “work of scholarship” in Timbuktu” was established in 2003 by an Associate Professor at the University of Cape Town (South Africa) and remains very active.

Digital Ottoman Studies

Digital Ottoman Studies (DOS) is a hub contributing to growing field of Digital Humanities by presenting projects, publications, tools, and events through the lens of Ottoman and Turkish studies.

This website seeks to create a digital network for future projects by bringing together diverse platforms, institutions, studies, and individuals. Thus, DOS provides access to projects and data bases that are created by other organization which includes Ottoman Archives, maps, manuscripts and etc.

Information on DOS is classified into 6 categories of Projects, publications, Tools, Databases, Platforms and under each category, there are sub-categories that direct the users to the respective projects which are encompassing “600-year-old Ottoman Empire’s archival heritage, diverse ethnics and geographical regions., etc.”

The Project category brings together variety of works in GIS, Network Analysis, Text Analysis, Databases, and 3D-AR-VR, each provides access to a wide range of research and academic projects form historical urban and industrial comparative analysis to Mapping Ottoman empire and region, or a digital history research project on Travels in the 19th century Ottoman empire.

Also, users can browse different database projects like Ottoman Inscriptions, Digital History, The Open Islamicate Text Initiative, etc. When possible, the DOS has provided the name of the project managers and then directs the user to the project’s main website.

Moreover, in the Publication tab users can have access a list of published articles, books and dissertations that are classified based on the topic/subject and some are accessible as an open access publication. 

The tab of Databases has organized a list of various type of databases such as Archives, Map collections, manuscripts collections, dictionaries, E-resources, Photo collections, calendar convertors and Gazetteers.

https://www.getty.edu/research/tools/digital_collections/notable/gigord.html

The Platform tab introduces the users to wide range of websites and podcasts including Hazine, Hajj Trail (Game), Ottoman History Podcast, Digital Humanities Turkey

“DOS is founded by Fatma Aladağ and she is coordinating the platform, whilst Assoc. Prof. Yunus Uğur is leading the project.”

Collection of Persian, Mughul and Indian Traditions Miniature Paintings

The Minassian collection consists of numerous precious miniature paintings from the Persian, Mughul and Indian traditions. The manuscripts and miniature paintings of this collection are housed in John Hay Library at Brown University.

“Figure lying on bed in outdoor setting is watched by four other figures. Possible funeral scene. The text that is second from the top, encased in the peachish area, says, in Arabic, “Bismillah e rehman i rahim”.
“Leaf” Minassian Collection of Persian, Mughal, and Indian Miniature Paintings. Brown Digital Repository. Brown University Library. https://repository.library.brown.edu/studio/item/bdr:80654/

This collection is from the estate of Mrs. Adrienne Minassian the daughter of an active art collector and dealer of Islamic and Near-Eastern antiquities, Kirkor Minassian (1874-1944), he was based in New York and Paris in the early 20th century. Mrs. Minassian continued her father’s legacy and she too was one of the few dealers of Islamic art in America. After her passing in a serries of bequests her collection was given to Brown University. To read more about Mrs. Minassian and her Father click here.

This collection is accessible online through the Brown University Center for Digital Scholarship.

The paintings often include text from Persian and Indian tales. Many of the illustrations within the Minassian Collection are depictions of stories from the classical Persian text, Shahnama of Ferdowsi.

Black ink drawing of male bust in profile. Fine line quality, no color used.
“Leaf” Minassian Collection of Persian, Mughal, and Indian Miniature Paintings. Brown Digital Repository. Brown University Library. https://repository.library.brown.edu/studio/item/bdr:80739/

Physical Description: Excellent workmanship on miniature. Image in excellent condition, slight damage to surrounding paper. Paper is rather heavy, but not coarse. Water stain evident on verso. Beautiful specimen. Colors appear as brilliant as inlay. Leaf is very similar to a depiction of Yusof published in Soudavir which is identified as Bukhara style.
“Leaf” Minassian Collection of Persian, Mughal, and Indian Miniature Paintings. Brown Digital Repository. Brown University Library. https://repository.library.brown.edu/studio/item/bdr:80651/

the collection can be browsed based on 3 Thematic Categories of Image and content, Material and Technique and Style and Type. Under each category there are more sub-categories. On the item level a description consisting of an abstract of the item and a note is provided, which present more detailed technical and historic information about the paintings style and content .

A highlight of the Islamic Studies Library research guides

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.

  1. 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:

The Center for the Great Islamic Encyclopaedia (A Center for Islamic and Iranian Studies)

The Center for the Great Islamic Encyclopaedia started in 1981 as a scientific research institution aiming to publish general and specialized encyclopedia.

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 اسلامی was 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:

Image credit : https://wikinoor.ir

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.

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Image credit: https://fa.wikipedia.org

Great Islamic Encyclopaedia- دائرة‌المعارف بزرگ اسلامی which 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   .

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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.

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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

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.

Individual Contributors/ People’s cabinet (khazaneh)

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.

Ottoman Archive
77 Materials
British Mandate Archive
1201 Materials
Palestinian Publications Archive
3785 Materials
The memory in 5304 Materials

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.

All the material made available on Khazaaen’s website have been uploaded with special permissions and agreements with different institutions and individuals with the aim of making it available to the public. To read more, check Terms of use.

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.