Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, Chairperson of Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development, has marked a milestone in a project to digitize over 500,000 pages of historical material relating to the Gulf region.
A collaboration between the British library and the Qatar National Library, this is a landmark project for the Qatar UK 2013 Year of Culture, through which both Qataris and Britons have the opportunity to celebrate their shared history. To date, the project has processed over 85,000 pages of unique archive material that illustrate the Gulf region’s rich history.
Similar projects are underway in Holland, France and Turkey but Britain’s close historical ties with the region provide a rich archive for future historians to study with 475,000 pages from the India Office Records and 25,000 pages of medieval Arabic manuscripts digitised and made accessible online for the first time.
Her Highness Sheikha Moza said, “It is essential that we preserve and treasure our past. Our partnership with the British Library has already helped us to shed light on the Gulf region’s fascinating history and culture. This vast wealth of information now at our disposal and available digitally to future generations, will undoubtedly enrich and enhance our understanding of Middle East history, allowing us to further develop an appreciation of our history and culture.”
Mr Roly Keating, Chief Executive of the British Library, said, “We are honored to host Sheikha Moza at the British Library and to show her the considerable progress which has been made by our partnership’s highly specialised curators, digitisation and conservation experts in the last ten months. This partnership will enable our collection items to be shared on an international scale with academics, researchers and those who have an interest in the history of the Gulf region, and further demonstrates the shared vision between both organisations to contribute to the advancement of knowledge across the world.”
During the visit, curators presented Her Highness with several noteworthy collection items, including a beautifully illustrated copy of a text on cosmography and natural history, various maps of the region and the earliest recorded copy of Archimides’ treatise on water-clocks.
Qatar Foundation is leading the way in inculcating a library culture in order to preserve the nation’s heritage and to encourage the pursuit of education for all its citizens. Its recent announcement of the introduction of a new Master’s degree in Library and Information Studies further illustrates this aim. The programme, at UCL Qatar, will equip students with a thorough and comprehensive understanding of this subject matter.
Qatar National Library and the digitisation project:
Qatar National Library (QNL), a state-of-the-art facility offering multimedia archive resources, and a member of Qatar Foundation, is due to open its doors next year. In preparation, an expert team has been working to digitize over 500,000 pages of valuable material stored at the British Library relating to the Gulf region. This includes 475,000 pages from the India Office Records and 25,000 pages of medieval Arabic manuscripts digitized and made accessible online for the first time.
Dr Claudia Lux, Project Director at QNL, said, “The partnership is essential in enabling the world to learn and be inspired by Gulf history and its relevance to the modern day. An important development as part of Qatar National Library’s vision of showcasing Qatar’s Heritage and Future, the digitised materials will also be available through our online portal in order to support researchers, students and the community.”
More than 40 staff members, representing a range of disciplines, work together to preserve the priceless content at a rate of 1,500 images a day. Their aim is to create the world’s finest online resource of Gulf history by bringing to life aspects of the region’s historical advancements in science, geography, and politics.
From early 2014, tens of thousands of prized documents will be available online, complemented by scholarly articles that place the material in a historical context. This project will give the public unparalleled insight into the long-standing relationship between the Gulf region and Britain.
During the visit, Her Highness met with two Qatari women who are part of the digitisation team. They each expressed their enthusiasm for the project.
“I feel proud that I can take part in this awareness and partnership that is aligned to Qatar’s vision, which aims to preserve the nation’s heritage and enhance Arab and Islamic values and identity,” said Samia Hassan Al Shiba. “It is very important that Qatar has all the information about its history which will be a reference to the new generation in future.”
Her colleague, Aysha Hassan Al-Ansari, echoed this view. "I feel excited and in love with what I do," she said. "I had the chance to represent Qatari women, the Qatari younger generation, and express the depth and richness of Arab-Islamic civilizations through exhibitions and by putting special collections together. I found it interesting to talk about my country's history, culture and traditions."