Tuesday, September 3, 2019

A Guide to Online Visual Sources in Middle East, North Africa, and Islamic Studies

A Guide to Online Visual Sources in Middle East, North Africa, and Islamic Studies
Let’s face it: every publication is better with images. Whether it’s a presentation, a blog post, a book, or just a paper, images engage an audience instantly. The internet is flush with images from Islamic art, architecture, and society, but reliable sources (with credit information) are more difficult to track down. So we’ve done it for you! Here are some of the best sites for finding credited visual resources for Islamic, Middle Eastern and North African Studies. Feel free to suggest more in the comments and we’ll update the list! Note this list is specifically focused on images and visual resources, but not necessarily manuscripts (for a guide to online manuscript collections, look at Evyn Kropf’s list here).
Before we get started, here is a useful article on the copyright laws regarding digital reproductions of artworks in the United States from the Huffington Post. Remember these quick rules: If the original artwork is: (1) 2-dimensional and (2) In the public domain (published before 1923) and (3) the digital image of the artwork is a “slavish reproduction,” or not transformed in any way, then: the digital image is also in the public domain and may be used freely. It is always good practice to note where you got an image in your publication, however, if only so future readers –including yourself– can find it again! Most of these websites have preferred citations/credit lines somewhere on them. If the artwork does not meet the criteria above, you should request permission from the artist or publisher before republishing the image yourself, unless you are using it purely for educational, not-for-profit purposes.
  • Akkasah Photographic Archive at NYU Abu Dhabi: this archive, drawn from around the Middle East and North Africa, currently consists of over 60,000 images, of which more than 9,000 are currently digitized. Only low-resolution digital images are available online for free– Akkasah will send high-resolution files upon request, though fees may apply.
  • American Center of Oriental Research (ACOR) Photo Archive: ACOR is in the process of digitizing its collection of over 100,000 images it holds in its collection. So far, 20,000 are online. The collections largely cover Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, and Iraq, with images of both daily life and archaeology. Images can be downloaded immediately, albeit with a watermark; ACOR can provide access to non-watermarked images.
  • American University of Cairo (AUC) Digital Collections: this largely includes slides, historical maps, postcards, and films spanning the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries. Naturally, there is an Egypt-focus (even quite an AUC focus), but images of other places in the Arab and Ottoman worlds can be found with a bit of digging; images of upper Egypt are also a critical component of the collection. Also notable is the Hassan Fathy Architectural Archives, which includes the papers and sketches of the iconic Egyptian architect, and University on the Square, which documents the Egyptian Arab Spring. Reproduction rights need to go through the American University of Cairo.
  • Arab Image Foundation Archive: The online platform of The Arab Image Foundation, Beirut’s non-profit archive of Middle Eastern photography, makes 22,000 images from the collection (so far) accessible and searchable. By registering an account, you can download the images as PDF files for non-commercial use.
ArchNet: this entirely open-access portal, curated by the Aga Khan Documentation Center at MIT, is aimed at scholars and architects engaged with the Islamic world. It contains some digitized publications but is best known for its library of digital images which includes plans, photographs (both historical and contemporary) and descriptions of architectural sites around the world...
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