QDL digitises 2mn pages of historical and cultural heritage
May 29 2021 09:58 PM
Men from the Arabia (1886-1889).
Men from the Arabia (1886-1889).

The Qatar Digital Library (QDL), the world’s largest digital archive on the history of the Middle East uploaded its two-millionth page this month, a major milestone in Qatar National Library’s (QNL) efforts to preserve and share the region’s history and heritage.

Launched in October 2014 as part of a partnership between QNL, Qatar Foundation and the British Library.

The QDL hosts the world’s largest collection of historical reports, letters, manuscripts, maps, photographs and sound recordings on the Gulf, Arabian Peninsula, and neighbouring regions––all free to access for users worldwide. This material is accompanied by contextualised explanatory notes in both English and Arabic, making it an invaluable resource for researchers and anyone interested in the history and heritage of the region. The QDL also offers expert articles on the historical material it contains, giving readers a deeper look into the region’s past and people.

From 2014 to present, QDl has 1.9mn unique users from around the globe with more than 15 million page views. From 2017 to 2020, over 300,000 items have been downloaded with an average of 6,000 items downloaded every month. Top countries accessing the QDL are US, Qatar, UK, Oman, Saudi Arabia and India

HE Dr Hamad bin Abdulaziz al-Kawari, Minister of State and president of Qatar National Library, said: “This historical achievement reflects our belief that knowledge transcends borders and positions our library at the forefront of the world's libraries in terms of quality and quantity of documents available to all. With the QDL showing the world how a library of the future could be designed, we are proud to have collaborated with the British Library and Qatar Foundation to lead the field in the archival digitisation of Middle Eastern history. We are grateful to Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, Chairperson of Qatar Foundation, without whom this historical, scientific and cultural milestone would not have been achieved. Her cultural vision and persistent efforts helped us transform this dream into reality.”

Dr James Onley, director, Historical Research and Partnerships at the library, added: “The QDL is changing the way scholars and students research the history of the Gulf region and science in the Arab world. It has become their first port of call, enabling them to find in seconds what used to take them weeks, months or even years. It is making the past more accessible than ever, leading to a sharp increase in the number of exciting new historical studies on the Gulf - the least-studied region in the Middle East.”

Roly Keating, chief executive of the British Library, said: “One of the British Library’s core purposes is to work with partners around the world to advance knowledge and mutual understanding. Collaborating with Qatar National Library and Qatar Foundation has enabled the British Library to make our collections relating to Gulf history and Arabic science accessible to hundreds of thousands of users across the world, fostering new areas of research and creativity, and transforming access to these important collections.”

QDL covers the modern history and heritage of the wider Gulf region making it an ideal space for readers as they explore a myriad of subjects, such as trading practices, the two World Wars, the petroleum industry, Britain’s imperial administration of the region, treaties, marine navigation, military operations, civil aviation, economic forums, Arab nationalism and medicine. It houses a rare collection of Arabic manuscripts on a variety of topics including astrology, mathematics, agriculture, philosophy, music theory, military science, astronomy, geography, law, chemistry, mechanics and zoology.


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