British Library - Press and Policy Centre - Transforming our understanding of Middle Eastern history: The British Library and Qatar Foundation unveil project to digitise half a million pages of archive material 2012-07-19


“The British Library and Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development (QF) have unveiled an ambitious partnership to transform people’s understanding of the history of the Middle East, and the region’s relationship with Britain and the rest of the world. The £8.7 million project was announced this morning... Its plans will digitise more than 500,000 pages from the archives of the East India Company and India Office, in addition to 25,000 pages of medieval Arabic manuscripts - all of which will be made freely available online for the first time. The digitisation will take place over the next three years at the British Library, in close cooperation with the new Qatar National Library, and much information will be available in both Arabic and English. Once live, the site will also offer users the opportunity to add their own Gulf-related stories and memories, enabling them to contribute to the online resource, whether by sharing images of mementoes and old photographs, or by recounting the stories their grandparents once told them. In this way, historical items from living memory will be added to the archive of items dating back several centuries. The project also encompasses the digitisation of thousands of pages of medieval manuscripts that demonstrate the significant influence of Islamic scholars in the fields of science, medicine, mathematics and geometry. Together, these resources will illuminate centuries of fascinating Arab history and culture and massively boost understanding of the rapidly-changing Gulf region and its place on the world stage. ‘The India Office Records held by the British Library are an extraordinarily rich source of historical material relating to the Gulf,’ said the British Library’s Chief Executive, Dame Lynne Brindley. ‘We are delighted to announce this very exciting partnership with Qatar Foundation, through which absolutely anyone with an online connection will be able to have access to this unique treasure trove of material, illuminating subjects as diverse as tribal and global politics, international commerce and family history.’ Dr Claudia Lux, Qatar National Library Director, said: ‘There is no question that the India Office Records at the British Library holds one of the world’s foremost archives of material related to the Gulf region. Qatar National Library is very proud to work alongside the British Library in the development of the region’s first digitised local history archive.’ The India Office Records to be included in this online resource, dating from the mid-18th century to c1947, will include a wealth of information on the politics, people, places, trade, culture and customs of the Gulf region. Thousands of pages of research work about these records, already prepared at the heritage library of Qatar National Library - including transcription and translation into Arabic - will be incorporated to identify names and places, making it accessible to the Arab community. Personal names, place names and keywords will be fully searchable, transforming research possibilities for these collections. To date, this material could only be consulted by visiting the British Library’s Reading Rooms in London. Once it is digitised and uploaded onto a dedicated online platform, it will be freely available to researchers across the UK, throughout the Gulf and around the world. 19th and 20th Century reports and gazetteers – originally secret documents intended only for the eyes of senior officials – will provide a treasure trove of first-hand information, testifying to the critical strategic and commercial importance of the Gulf to European powers including Britain, France and Germany, which were actively involved in the region at that time...”



08/16/2012, 06:08

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oa.medicine oa.comment oa.south oa.libraries oa.crowd oa.museums oa.librarians oa.mathematics oa.digitization oa.british_library oa.middle_east oa.history oa.archives oa.qatar_foundation oa.qatar_national_library oa.humanities oa.ssh



Date tagged:

07/19/2012, 15:09

Date published:

07/19/2012, 16:07