Middle East Photograph Preservation Initiative (MEPPI)
Photograph collections in the Middle East represent the broad spectrum of photography, including nineteenth-century albumen prints and glass plate negatives, and twentieth-century black-and-white and color prints, as well as plastic-based negatives and positive transparencies in both black-and-white and color. Some collections also encompass important moving image works on film-base and magnetic media.
Photograph collections—whether public and private—may not always be systematically collected or managed. While collections of photographs can be found in many public and private institutions, and in the possession of private individuals, national archives and libraries in this region, on the other hand, may not always include photographs with their accessioned collections of documents, books, maps, and other materials.
Awareness of the importance of the photographic heritage of the Middle East has grown in recent years and, along with it, recognition of the need for a broader understanding of collections within the region and for local expertise in the preservation of photographic collections. To assist in the preservation effort, the Getty Conservation Institute has joined with the Arab Image Foundation, the Art Conservation Department of the University of Delaware, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, to form the Middle East Photograph Preservation Initiative (MEPPI). The initiative is also supported by generous funding from the Mellon Foundation.
MEPPI is a strategic initiative designed to gather information, raise awareness, and build capacity in the preservation of photograph collections throughout the Middle East—here defined as the countries of the eastern Mediterranean, North Africa, and the Gulf. Over a four-year period (2011–2014), MEPPI will:
- conduct a major survey of collections throughout the region;
- offer three courses on the preservation of photographs for caretakers of these collections;
- organize a symposium for professionals affiliated with institutions holding important photograph collections, as well as cultural policy and decision-makers at a national level.
Survey of the Photograph Collections of the Middle East
As part of MEPPI, the Arab Image Foundation is undertaking a survey that aims to identify institutions and individuals across the Middle East with significant photographic collections. Due to the political instability in some parts of the region, photograph collections were often displaced; in some cases it is difficult to determine where they are stored, what they include, and in which conditions they are maintained. There is a pressing need for a detailed survey to identify and record pertinent information about these collections, including size, significance, mission, condition, and resources. This information will be compiled in a database maintained by the Arab Image Foundation to assist individuals and institutions who share similar interests in keeping, studying, and making available photographic collections.
Three courses focusing on the preservation of photograph collections will take place between 2011 and 2014 at three different venues: Beirut, Abu Dhabi and North Africa. Each course consists of three phases that span a period of nine months: 1) an eight-day workshop; 2) an eight-month period of assigned practical work that participants carry out at their own institutions; and 3) a follow-up meeting which allows instructors and participants to review progress made over the previous months.
The first nine-month course began in Beirut in November 2011 with phases two and three continuing through September 2012. The Abu Dhabi course will begin in November 2012 with the North Africa course scheduled to take place from 2013 to 2014.
Symposium on the Photographic Legacy of the Middle East
Following the three courses, MEPPI will organize a two- to three-day symposium in 2014 for professionals affiliated with institutions with photography collections. Attendees will include museum, library or archive directors, curators, art historians, and collectors, as well as policy and decision-makers from governmental entities and cultural NGOs. The symposium will highlight the rich and varied photographic collections of the region, and provide information on challenges for their stewardship and preservation, as well as options for a region-wide response for meeting the needs of this heritage.
Further details will be available in late 2012.
Last updated: April 2012