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American Historical Review Digital Primary Sources

A list from the American Historical Review of open access databases containing digitized primary sources for historical research.

Digital Library of the Middle East (Council on Library and Information Resources; Qatar National Library; Stanford Libraries)
“The Digital Library of the Middle East (DLME) offers free and open access to the rich cultural legacy of the Middle East and North Africa by bringing together collections from a wide range of cultural heritage institutions. Developed by an engineering team from CLIR and Stanford Libraries, the platform federates and makes accessible data about collections from around the world.”
Regions: Middle East
Dates: 11,000 B.C.E.-present

Cuneiform Digital Library Interactive (University of California, Los Angeles; University of Oxford; Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin)
The Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative is an archival library of cuneiform tablet collections from various universities, museums, and private collections. The library has catalogued thousands of tablets and other ancient cuneiform texts. The site includes images of the tablets themselves as well as information on their discovery and transliterations of the cuneiform into the English alphabet. The purpose of the library is to "virtually reassemble the scattered textual heritage of the Ancient Near East."
Regions: Middle East and Northern Africa; Mesopotamia
Dates: 3500 B.C.E.-1 B.C.E.

Database of Neo-Sumerian Texts (Various repositories; Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas)
“A searchable electronic corpus of Neo-Sumerian administrative cuneiform tablets dated to the 21st century B.C.” The project’s goals are to document all tablets from the Ur III dynasty period, which likely number well over 120,000.
Regions: Mesopotamia
Dates: 2100 B.C.E.-2000 B.C.E.

Princeton Digital Library of Islamic Manuscripts (Princeton University)
“The Princeton University Library created Voyager cataloging records for most of the approximately 9,500 Islamic manuscripts in the Manuscripts Division, which are from Robert Garrett (Class of 1897) and other sources. This is the premier collection of Arabic, Persian, Ottoman Turkish, and other Islamic manuscripts in the Western Hemisphere . . . The manuscripts digitized from microfilm include all texts (chiefly New Series) on Shia law and theology; texts related to other non-Sunni sects, such as the Druze and Kharijites; and more than 750 other manuscripts (Garrett Yahuda Series) on a variety of subjects.”
Regions: Middle East
Dates: 700-1973

The Zaydi Manuscript Tradition: A Digital Portal (Institute for Advanced Study; Hill Museum & Manuscript Library, St. John's University)
“In an attempt to provide documentation of the various collections and libraries, public and private, [the Zaydi Manuscript Tradition Digital Portal] serves as a comprehensive research guide to relevant collections of Zaydi manuscripts, providing accurate information on the location of each collection with a full list of its holdings (shelf marks) and the relevant bibliography for every single codex . . . In addition to this, the Digital Portal functions as a gateway to manuscripts within the confines of the ZMT that have already been digitized by a variety of institutions and libraries around the globe.”
Regions: Yemen; Arabian Peninsula
Dates: 800-2000

Qatar Digital Library (Various repositories)
“The Qatar Digital Library (QDL) is making a vast archive featuring the cultural and historical heritage of the Gulf and wider region freely available online for the first time. It includes archives, maps, manuscripts, sound recordings, photographs and much more, complete with contextualised explanatory notes and links, in both English and Arabic . . . The QDL has been developed as part of a 10-year Memorandum of Understanding on Partnerships between the Qatar Foundation, the Qatar National Library and the British Library.”
Regions: Middle East
Dates: 960-present

Manuscripts of the Muslim World (Columbia University; the Free Library of Philadelphia; the University of Pennsylvania)
“The Manuscripts of the Muslim World project collection includes digital editions of manuscripts Islamicate world broadly construed. Together these holdings represent in great breadth the flourishing intellectual and cultural heritage of Muslim lands from 1000 to 1900, covering mathematics, astrology, history, law, literature, as well as the Qurʾan and Hadith. The bulk of the collection consists of manuscripts in Arabic and Persian, along with examples of Coptic, Samaritan, Syriac, Turkish, and Berber. The primary partners in the project are Columbia University, the Free Library of Philadelphia, and the University of Pennsylvania with contributions from Bryn Mawr College, Haverford College, and other Philadelphia area libraries. This collection is funded by the Council on Library and Information Resources.”
Regions: Muslim World
Dates: 11th c.-20th c.

Oriental Manuscript Resource (University of Freiburg; Information Technology Center, University of Tübingen)
“OMAR was built at the University of Freiburg (Germany), in cooperation with the Information Technology Center of the University of Tübingen (Germany). The database contains images of approx. 2,500 Arabic manuscripts (in full text, 134,000 images) from Mauritania together with the corresponding bibliographical metadata. The scans were taken from microfilms, stored at the University of Freiburg, whose originals are preserved at the IMRS (Institut Mauritanien de Recherche Scientifique) in Nouakchott (Mauritania). The microfilms were made by Rainer Oßwald, Ulrich Rebstock and Tobias Mayer during several research trips in Mauritania between 1979 and 1997.”
Regions: Mauritania
Dates: c. 11th c.-20th c.

Preserving the Iraqi Jewish Archive (National Archives and Records Administration)
“Jews have lived in Iraq for thousands of years, but when coalition forces entered Baghdad in May 2003 only very few remained. A U.S. Army team searching for weapons of mass destruction in the flooded basement of the Mukhabarat, the headquarters of Saddam Hussein’s intelligence services, discovered over 2,700 Jewish books and tens of thousands of documents. The remarkable survival of this written record of Iraqi Jewish life provides an unexpected opportunity to better understand this community. The National Archives is preserving these books and documents and making them accessible worldwide.”
Regions: Iraq
Dates: mid-16th c.-1970s

Women's World in Qajar Iran (Harvard University Library)
Begun by scholars with a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, this digitized collection focuses on social and cultural history, including "bilingual access to thousands of personal papers, manuscripts, photographs, publications, everyday objects, works of art and audio materials."
Regions: Iran; World
Dates: 1796-1925

Arab Image Foundation (Arab Image Foundation)
“The Arab Image Foundation’s evolving collection contains more than 500,000 photographic objects. The work of over 250 amateur photographers and 700 professional photographers and studios, the objects date from the 1860s to the present day, and span 50 countries . . . 28,000 photographs from its collection have been digitised [and] 10,000 images from [its] holdings have so far been made available online under Creative Commons licences.”
Regions: Middle East; North Africa; Arab diaspora
Dates: 1860-present

Translatio (Institute for Oriental and Asian Studies, University of Bonn)
This project from the Abteilung für Islamwissenschaft und Nahostsprachen at the Institut für Orient- und Asienwissenschaften, Universität Bonn, has digitized Arabic, Persian, and Ottoman-Turkish magazines that date between 1860 and 1945. They have also created Wikipedia entries in English and German for each of the publications. Finally, the site includes links to related digital collections and projects.
Regions: Middle East
Dates: 1860-1945

Egyptian Postcard Collection (American University in Cairo)
“The Egyptian Postcard Collection contains over 800 postcards (mostly from the late 19th and early 20th century) depicting Egypt. Common topics include the Giza Pyramids, Sphinx, Citadel, the Nile River, mosques, archaeological sites in Luxor, the Suez Canal, and scenes from cities and villages. Several cards have handwritten notes on them, many briefly describing travels in Egypt. A few postcards are satirical cartoons.”
Regions: Egypt
Dates: Late 19th c.-Early 20th c.

Wilson Center Digital Archive (Wilson Center; Various repositories)
The center’s presentation of “International History Declassified” includes translations and images of hundreds of documents relevant to the Middle East, including the Iran-Soviet Relations collection and an Iran-Iraq War “collection of Iraqi documents translated and made available by the Conflict Records Research Center about the 1980 to 1988 conflict also known as the First Persian Gulf War.”
Regions: Middle East; Iraq
Dates: 1941-1989

Palestinian Oral History Archive (American University of Beirut Libraries; Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs (IFI), Nakba Archive; Arab Resource Center for Popular Arts (AL-JANA))
"The Palestinian Oral History Archive is a project to digitize, index, catalog, preserve, and provide access (through a searchable digital platform) to an archival collection of around 1,000 hours of testimonies with first generation Palestinians and other Palestinian communities in Lebanon. POHA documents the life stories of Palestinians residing in refugee camps and different communities in Lebanon. The Archive's main focus is personal accounts surrounding the Nakba, a defining moment in Palestinian history and collective experience. Furthermore, the collection contains life narratives of the pre-Nakba period in pre-1948 Palestine, folktales and songs, as well as stories of the women in Ein el-Helwe camp after its destruction in 1982."
Regions: Palestine
Dates: 1994-2009