Preservation of the Photographic Heritage of the Eastern Mediterranean

ABSTRACT – There exist hidden treasures in the Eastern Mediterranean, largely unrecognized and cared for by an enlightened few. These treasures are not the artifacts, monuments and architectural wonders that normally come to mind when pondering the incredibly rich and long cultural history of the region, but photographs dating from the early history of the medium to the present day that are the undervalued record of times past, documentation of social, political and cultural history and the expression of past and present societies. In 2006 the Arab Image Foundation (AIF) and two photograph conservators from the United States began a collaboration that ultimately led to a successful two-week Middle East Photograph Preservation Institute (MEPPI), supported by funding from the Getty and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundations. Fourteen individuals from five Middle Eastern countries participated in this unprecedented and highly successful workshop. This has served as a springboard to launch a range of initiatives aimed at the preservation of photographic heritage in the region. It is clear that the AIF role is critical, but it must also be supported and augmented by collaboration and participation from other individuals and institutions with similar aims. Initiatives must be produced at all levels to raise awareness, educate, train and prepare the next generation to care for, appreciate and utilize this invaluable resource.


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