Phase Two // Abu Dhabi 2012 – Istanbul 2013

The Middle East Photograph Preservation Initiative’s (MEPPI) second course opened on the 11th of November 2012, gathering 16 participants from Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Palestine, Turkey, Bahrain, Kuwait, Libya, Iran and the UAE. The course began with an 8-day workshop, generously hosted by New York University, Abu Dhabi (NYUAD). The combination of lectures and hands-on sessions focused on the history of photography in the Arab World, image formation and degradation, storage practices, emergency preparedness, and digitization.

The workshop provided an overview of the technical history of photographic processes with a particular emphasis on the characterization and identification of albumen, silver gelatin, and chromogenic color print materials, glass- and film-based negatives. Other more rare photographic processes such as the daguerreotype, were introduced. Lectures interwoven with hands-on practica were conducted by conservators Debra Hess Norris, Nora Kennedy and Tram Vo as well as scientist Bertrand Lavédrine. The importance of balancing preservation and access was highlighted in discussions on establishing handling guidelines, improving storage and exhibition practices—including cold storage, environmental assessment and practical control measures, as well as mitigation from airborne contaminants and pollutants. Sessions were also held on best practices for digitization and access.

The importance of emergency preparedness, response and recovery was emphasized. Methods for collections’ surveys and prioritizing for preservation were touched upon in the interest of creating practical strategies for long-term preservation of collections. Lectures and discussions on fund-raising, contemporary art, and the history of photography and contemporary art were provided by Zeina Arida, former Director of the Arab Image Foundation, and other invited speakers.

Participants had the opportunity to present to the group an overview of the institutions they represent. The workshop also featured site visits to the national collections of the Tourism and Culture Authority of Abu Dhabi, the National Center for Documentation and Research in Abu Dhabi and the archive of leading local newspaper Etihad. Contrasts in methods of conservation and preservation were observed and discussions were engaged in. The group also spent an afternoon in Dubai, where they visited the impressive archive of late royal photographer Noor Ali Rashid and learnt of its establishment and preservation from the photographer’s daughter, Shamsa Rashid.

A public talk was also held on the first night of the workshop, at an auditorium in the Intercontinental Hotel in Abu Dhabi. Given by Debra Hess Norris and Nora Kennedy, and moderated by Shamoon Zamir (Associate Professor of Literary and Visual Studies of NYUAD), the speakers addressed an interested audience on topics related to the preservation of family photographs and museum practices. The lecture was followed by a series of questions, focusing, among other topics, on digital files and their preservation.

MEPPI Abu Dhabi 2012 course structure:

– An eight-day workshop in Abu Dhabi that included lectures, demonstrations, hands-on projects, collection visits, and case studies.

– An approximate eight-month period of assigned practical work that participants carry out in their own institutions while remaining in contact with an instructor. These assignments allow participants to apply the concepts and information presented during the workshop to their own collections. Completed assignments will be submitted periodically to the instructor through the MEPPI website. Instructors mentor participants by providing advice, guidance and additional information to assist them in their work with their collections. Participants can expect to spend from five to ten hours each month on practical work and distance mentoring with an instructor.

– A final four-day meeting in Istanbul where the participants and several of the instructors shared the results of their experiences and consider the potential next steps in advancing the preservation of their collections.

Workshop date: 11-19 November 2012

Workshop Venue: Downton Campus, NYU Abu Dhabi Institute, UAE

Distance mentoring: December 2012–July 2013

Follow-up meeting: SALT Galata, Istanbul, Turkey on 16–20 September 2013

The following course material are available for download:

Photo by participant Kamran Najafzadeh