Qatar National Library (QNL) will host a lecture on Thursday on how the continuously changing natural environment of Qatar defines its past, present, and future, and what that means for similar dry regions around the world, as well as for understanding deserts and water evolution on planets such as Mars.
Planetary scientist Dr Essam Heggy will deliver the lecture, on ‘Understanding Space Exploration and the Natural Forces that Shaped the Qatar Peninsula’, at 10am.
Dr Heggy will also address the unique case of the Qatar Peninsula, with its ever-changing coastlines driven by several active natural forces. The eastern part of the Arabian Peninsula may have been one of the first areas to witness important climatic and environmental changes.
For instance, Qatar’s early population was unusual in that it may have been one of the few cultures that developed an intuitive scientific heritage associated with both desert and coastal changes. These early inhabitants would have had an intimate understanding of groundwater and sea levels, dune movements, coral reef evolution, and shallow-water navigation, and adapted their daily survival in response to the shifts in each.
QNL will also host the ‘Traditional Gulf Architecture Week’ from April 22-25, with a programme comprising an exhibition, lecture, and conference examining the region’s architectural history, forms, and identity from the 1700s to the 1960s.
Traditional Gulf Architecture Week kicks off with an exhibition of architectural photographs, drawings, and studies from a survey of Qatar’s historical buildings conducted by the French Archaeological Mission to Qatar in 1984-85.
The photographs were taken by the Mission’s photographer, Vincent Aïtzegagh, while the accompanying studies were written by the Mission’s specialist in Islamic archaeology and art history, Dr. Claire Hardy-Guilbert, a senior researcher at Le Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) in Paris.
QNL has recently acquired the Mission’s entire photographic survey — 1,700 colour slides in total — a small sample of which appears in the exhibition. The photographs portray the broad range of Qatar’s vernacular, domestic, public, religious, and military architecture.
The exhibition opening will be followed by a lecture on Qatar’s traditional architecture by Dr. Hardy-Guilbert, who will be accompanied by Aïtzegagh.
At the subsequent conference, expert panels will examine recent architectural projects in the region, the varieties of vernacular buildings, the influence of pre-oil trade and migration flows between the Arabian Gulf and the wider world, the state of traditional Arabian Gulf architecture today, preservation practices and debates, and architecture’s ongoing significance for national identity in Qatar and the Arabian Gulf.
QNL is co-convening the conference with Liverpool University’s School of Architecture, Qatar University’s Department of Architecture and Urban Planning, and Ibrahim Jaidah, CEO and Chief Architect of the Arab Engineer Bureau.
Dr. James Onley, Director of Historical Research and Partnerships, QNL, said, “We invite everyone interested in Qatar’s architecture, heritage, and material culture to come to the Traditional Gulf Architecture Week at QNL. For one week, some of the world’s leading experts on the subject will meet under one roof to present, discuss, and debate the fascinating history of the region’s architecture and its influences.”
Meanwhile, QNL has welcomed the recent decision by the General Secretariat of the Council of Ministers to give its approval for accession to the Marrakesh Treaty. The treaty allows for copyright exceptions to enable the creation of books and other copyrighted works for visually-impaired and print-disabled persons.
The Marrakesh Treaty, which was adopted in 2013 and forms part of the body of international copyright treaties administered by the World Intellectual Property Organisation, has been adopted by 35 countries.
“QNL firmly believes that information should be available to everyone as a human right, and we strive to make all of our books and other resources accessible to all. To that end, we are pleased that the Council of Ministers has given its support of the Marrakesh Treaty, which will enable Qatar to work with the international community to realise this goal,” said Dr Sohair Wastawy, executive director, QNL.
QNL has launched its Book Club for the Blind, a project that provides social opportunities and promotes equal access to the resources and services of the library. The project aims to share common reading interests, and allows participants to experience the natural connection between reading and communication in unique ways.
QNL’s main collection includes materials produced for those with special needs, such as large print books. In collaboration with the Mada Assistive Technology Centre, the library also provides equipment and software, such as scanning pens with headphones and portable video magnifiers, to help visually impaired users.
QNL also opened its inaugural digital exhibition, ‘Information is Beautiful’, on Wednesday. The exhibition uses QNL’s innovative technology to display visual data in both Arabic and English on 11 interactive digital totems.
Visitors can engage with unique visualisations and infographics, and compare and contrast interesting facts and figures on subjects such as reading in the Arabian Gulf, social media in the Middle East, Qatar, world empires, and many more.
Data journalist and information designer David McCandless curated the exhibition and delivered a lecture about using data visualisation to unlock the stories behind vast amounts of data and present them in understandable ways.
The exhibition will run until December 31.