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The Arab Image Foundation's (AIF) photographic collection spans over a century (1880 to 1990) and includes 400,000 original images from across the Middle East, which range from amateur family portraits to professional studio shots. It's core collection (80 percent of their images) consists of photographs taken in Lebanon from 1920 through the 1960s, where photography was thriving in a cosmopolitan country. 

The Foundation recently opened its research center to the public. The center was created to encourage the study of Middle Eastern photography and contemporary practices. Its library holds approximately 1200 books about photography and photographic history, as well as documents related to preservation.
An ongoing AIF project is the Middle East Photograph Preservation Initiative (MEPPI), a program promoting the preservation of photographic heritage in the Arab world. The foundation selected 15 applicants from eight Arab countries to participate in the first series of workshops in Beirut this November. Three international experts are coming to Beirut to teach photographic preservation techniques. The goal is to create a large network of photographic collections in the Arab world. Next year, MEPPI will convene in Doha, then in Cairo in 2013. MEPPI will create a photographic directory, enabling everyone interested in preserving cultural heritage to unite.

If this is of interest, the AIF website can be found here.


Photo: General view of Beirut and Lebanon 1870-1885 by Felix Bonfils. (Copyright: AIF)

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Comment by bill purvis on October 2, 2011 at 11:59
Hippolyte Arnoux operated a darkroom boat on the Suez Canal active from 1865. His boat had a sign 'Photographie du Canal'. The boat in the photograph in my collection has the sign 'Collection de Photographes'. Could this be his boat? Is someone able to enlighten me on this?

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