Qatar Foundation and British Library partnership connects generations by unearthing historic documents dating back to the 18th century

CPO Content Area

Qatar Foundation and British Library partnership connects generations by unearthing historic documents dating back to the 18th century


London, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Thursday, October 28, 2010

• Agreement explores digitisation and translation of thousands of historic documents and ancient manuscripts from India Office
• Her Highness: “Muslims and Arabs – especially the young – should not look at our history with nostalgia but with fresh eyes”
• Digitisation of manuscripts that demonstrate the influence of the Islamic world in the fields of science and medicine

Her Highness Sheikha Moza Bint Nasser, Chairperson of Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development, and Baroness Tessa Blackstone, Chairman of the British Library Board, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) today establishing a partnership that aims to help the young generation in the Gulf connect to and understand their past. Through the agreement, tens of thousands of documents – including political records, letters and maps – and medieval manuscripts relating to centuries of history of the Arabian Gulf will be made available online to pupils, students and scholars across the Gulf region and around the world.

As part of this 4-year project, curators and experts from the UK national library will digitise India Office Records on the Gulf, spanning a period from the middle of the 18th century to 1951. In addition, the project will digitise manuscripts that demonstrate the influence of the Islamic world on the fields of science and medicine during the medieval period.

Speaking at a ceremony to mark the signing of the MOU, Her Highness said, ”Qatar Foundation is proud to enter into a partnership with the British Library, an institution that has an international reputation for supporting research and scholarship. We as Muslims and Arabs – especially the young – should not look at our history with nostalgia but with fresh eyes.”

Her Highness added that this project “compliments the work done at the World Digital Library” of which both British Library and Qatar Foundation are partners. The World Digital Library was established through a partnership with the Library of Congress in Washington DC signed last spring.

The goal of the project is to make this treasure trove of historic material available online in English and Arabic, alongside scholarly and contextual commentary. Users ranging from school children to academic researchers to family historians will benefit from a rich and accessible resource for study – both in the Gulf region and throughout the world.

The British Library’s Director of Scholarship and Collections, Phil Spence, said: “The British Library is delighted to be working in partnership with Qatar Foundation on this exciting project, which we hope will provide unprecedented online access to a wealth of original documents and manuscripts relating to Gulf history. By sharing the expertise of our curators, our technical know-how and elements of our unrivalled collections, we look to develop a long-term and strategic relationship with Qatar Foundation, to the benefit of users around the world.”

Following the initial development of online portals to this content, the project will seek to bring together records and archives held by other institutions, across Europe and the Gulf region, with websites hosted in London and Doha developing as regional hubs for the delivery of the full range of material. In this way, diverse and geographically dispersed items will be brought together virtually, along with interpretative material and teaching resources to make them accessible and relevant to a wide online audience.

Following the signing of the MOU, the scoping phase of the project is scheduled to take place over the next six months, after which a detailed work plan for the digitisation project will be devised.