500 years of Jerusalem's history, digitized and accessible to everyone

King Abdul Aziz Public Library catalogues and arranges the largest archive of the Palestinian past
View of the city of Jerusalem

PHOTO/PIXABAY  -   View of the city of Jerusalem

The holy places of Jerusalem, the Dome of the Rock, Al-Aqsa Mosque...the value of the historical and religious heritage of Jerusalem is incalculable. Every year, thousands of tourists come to this corner of the world to see the wonders of the holy city in situ. From now on, getting to know the emblems of Palestinian culture will be a little easier. The largest archive on Jerusalem preserved by the Arab Union Catalogue is now digitized and available to everyone thanks to a project organized by the King Abdul Aziz Public Library. More than 250,000 pages of books, maps and manuscripts covering the city's history since 1528 will be made available through the UN Relief and Works Agency's Library Network, according to the digital version of Arab News. 

The preservation of Arab and Islamic heritage are the main pillars of the King Abdul Aziz Library, which has an extensive database of books, documents and maps. It has published a large illustrated volume entitled Al-Aqsa presenting the holy sites, the world heritage sites, the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque. It also includes a large collection of historical documents and photographs

Images are essential to documenting a people's past, they are part of the heritage of humanity and tell the story of our ancestors, their suffering, their losses... They are a vital element of community identity. Majed Al-Ahdal, an ancient documentarian, sees digitization initiatives as essential. "Digitization allows us to remember the past events of humanity and civilization. Images are the expression of the life of the individual and his or her deep desire for immortality," he told Arab News. 

Documentation is essential for the preservation of physical and intangible heritage. The Abdul Aziz Library has documented Arab intellectual creativity and has accumulated more than three million books, magazines, documents, manuscripts and photographs. "Documentation is today a means of surviving the historical and identity erosion of any human being," said Al-Ahdal. 

Among the documents, hundreds of photographs of the Old City of Jerusalem have been found, which constitute an important form of documentation and can play a role in conservation efforts. "It is a powerful tool on which many engineering and artistic applications can be built. It is one of the most important ways in which physical heritage can be reshaped in the event of damage or destruction caused by natural disasters or devastation caused by human conflict, with the help of 3D modelling software and other engineering applications," illustrated documentary filmmaker Majed Al-Ahdal. 

The photographs provide reliable records of buildings, decorations, people's costumes, society's customs and colours that may be difficult to describe and document otherwise. In 2009, the UNRWA archive was inscribed by UNESCO on the Memory of the World Register to provide an extensive audiovisual archive of films and photographs containing more than 10,000 prints, 85,000 slides and over 70 films on the life and history of the Palestinian people.