Second Phase of Qatar Foundation, Qatar National Library and British Library Partnership Launched

22 September 2016
Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development (QF), Qatar National Library (QNL) and the British Library today announced the second phase of their ongoing partnership. The next stage of this productive collaboration, which will last until December 2018, follows on from the initial partnership announced in 2012 which has raised awareness of Gulf and Middle Eastern history.

Phase two will see the digitisation of 1,125,000 pages of rare, historical documents that will be shared with the public through QNL’s online Qatar Digital Library (QDL) in a bid to significantly enhance current understanding of the Islamic world, Arab culture and the Gulf’s regional history.

Qatar Foundation’s mission is to foster a progressive, engaged society that is appreciative of its heritage and traditions, and interested in furthering learning and knowledge in support of the nation’s priorities as set out in Qatar National Vision 2030.

As a member of QF, QNL’s vision is bridging Qatar’s past and future through knowledge, and it does this by sharing valuable information and cultivating creativity through an exceptional selection of printed and digital resources, regular training programmes, and social engagement initiatives.

This next phase will focus on digitizing historical documents from Britain’s Indian Office Archive including papers of the Political and Secret Department, political and military records, letters, photographs, maps and medieval manuscripts relating to Gulf and Arab regional history.

Building on the success of the first phase of this collaboration, the Qatar Digital Library will add an additional 970,000 pages from the India Office Records dating from the mid-18th century to 1951 as well as historical maps and photographs. Further highlights will include 56,000 pages of Arab Islamic Sciences manuscripts, and approximately 100,000 pages from private papers including those of Lady Anne Blunt, thought to be the first woman to cross the Arabian Desert in the 19th century.

Following digitisation, the material will be added to the Qatar Digital Library which originated out of the first phase of the partnership and was launched in October 2014. The QDL already provides students, researchers and the general public in any part of the world with free online access to over half a million pages of precious historic archive and manuscript material. The QDL’s unveiling received an exceptional reaction from the online community with nearly 780,000 page views in the first month alone.

Commenting on phase two of the agreement, Engineer Saad Al Muhannadi, President of Qatar Foundation, said: “This planned new material will preserve and add rich new insights into the history of Qatar, the Gulf region and Arab and Islamic history and culture. This project is a testament to the commitment of QF to fostering greater understanding of Qatar’s heritage, and to sharing this precious collection of resources with the whole world. I am delighted that this extension to QF’s partnership with the British Library both supports the nation’s journey towards a knowledge-based economy as set out in the Qatar National Vision 2030, and opens up this precious material for local people’s academic benefit and enjoyment.”

The many digital images of historical documents related to this region, once completed, will provide an informative source for anyone seeking to learn more about the region. “The aim of this partnership is to explore, and raise awareness about the history of the Gulf and the wider region while creating one of the world’s most ambitious and accessible resources for studies into Gulf History and Arab Islamic Sciences,” said Dr Claudia Lux, Project Director of QNL. “The second phase of this partnership will add further value to QNL’s existing databases and collections as we remain steadfast in our commitment and support of Qatar Foundation’s mission to preserve and bridge Qatar’s and the region’s past and future through knowledge.”

Commenting on the launch of the second phase, Mr Roly Keating, Chief Executive, of the British Library, said: One of the purposes of the British Library is to work with partners across the world to advance knowledge and mutual understanding. The goal of this collaborative project with the Qatar National Library is to create a 21st-Century online library to transform the study of both the modern history of the Gulf and Arabic science. Extending our relationship with the Qatar Foundation and Qatar National Library now enables us to now to further really develop these themes, converting the huge wealth of stored knowledge at the British Library into shared knowledge that is accessible anywhere in the world.

Richard Gibby, Head of British Library - Qatar Foundation Partnership said: “Our goal in launching the Qatar Digital Library was to create a resource which will advance world knowledge and understanding of the Gulf region’s cultural heritage. The second phase of our partnership, adding over a million extra pages in the next four years, will add depth and breadth, stimulating new research and enabling new discoveries.”