The Middle East Photograph Preservation Initiative (MEPPI) is a strategic multi-year program designed to raise awareness about the importance of preserving the region’s photographic heritage. Launched in 2009 with a pilot workshop, it has grown into a multi-faceted initiative with an ambitious program of complementary research and capacity-building objectives.

MEPPI is led jointly by the Arab Image Foundation, the Art Conservation Department at the University of Delaware, The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Getty Conservation Institute.

MEPPI is a 3-part initiative:

  • MEPPI Survey: a collection survey to identify and assess significant photograph holdings across the Arab World, Turkey and Iran.
  • MEPPI Courses: a series of courses and workshops to train personnel responsible for the care of photographic collections in the region.
  • MEPPI Symposium: a symposium focusing on the photographic heritage of the broader Middle East for regional policy- and decision-makers.

Since 2009 MEPPI has held three introductory photograph preservation courses aimed at training collection personnel in the region. To date MEPPI has trained more than 60 professionals representing institutional and private collections in Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Palestine, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. These include national archives and libraries, museums, press agencies, universities, and private collections.

MEPPI courses provide an overview of the technical history of photography and photographic processes; an introduction to the history of photography; digitization fundamentals; emergency preparedness and response; preservation planning and the care, handling and storage of photographic materials.

MEPPI also seeks to make educational materials available throughout the region by translating to Arabic of a number of key publications on photograph preservation. These include an English-Arabic-French glossary of photograph conservation terms, and a series of academic publications on photograph preservation. In 2010, the AIF – with the permission of US-based Heritage Preservation – also produced an Arabic version of The Emergency Response and Salvage Wheel™, a tool outlining procedures for safeguarding heritage in times of emergency.

The MEPPI Survey, initiated in 2011, aims to identify significant photograph collections throughout the Middle East and North Africa, with the development of an online directory of collections.

MEPPI activities focused on the sustainability of photograph preservation within the region over the long term, with intensive workshops between 2015-2017, and a symposium 2017 on the photographic legacy of the Middle East and North Africa.

The intensive workshops included:

  • The Environment, Exhibition and Storage of Photographs, a two-week course offered twice that provides additional training and experience in preventive conservation, with a particular emphasis on the storage and exhibition of photographs. Topics covered include: environmental impacts on photographs; condition assessments; environmental monitoring and control options; selecting and creating enclosures; planning a small storage facility; cold storage; preservation concerns of exhibition, packing and shipping; lighting. Workshop teaching will involve lectures, case studies, practical exercises, discussions and visits to photograph collections.
  • The Digitization of Photographs, a four-day course offered three times. Topics include: topics of understanding quality issues of digital reproductions; quality control and image processing; choosing and evaluating equipment; and file and metadata management. Workshop included lectures and practical work sessions.

MEPPI is supported by a generous grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and additional funding from the Getty Conservation Institute.

MEPPI partners welcome additional funding and logistical partners within the region as a means of both aiding MEPPI’s activities and sustaining the preservation of photography collections over the long term.