Middle East Photograph Preservation Initiative (MEPPI)

This seven-year multifaceted initiative is a collaboration of the GCI, the Arab Image Foundation, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the University of Delaware. It pursues a program of complementary activities encompassing research, awareness building, and training and capacity building for those changes with the care of photographs and photograph collections in the Middle East.

Conducted in two phases, MEPPI has as its objectives:

• identifying and assessing significant photographic collections throughout the Middle East and North Africa
• promoting the preservation and visibility of these significant collections
• training collections personnel and building their capacity in the preservation of photograph collections
• ensuring long-term sustainability of MEPPI's goals through engagement with regional policy and decision makers

The initiative is supported in part by generous funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.


Photograph collections in the Middle East (defined for MEPPI as the countries of the eastern Mediterranean, North Africa, and the Gulf) represent the broad spectrum of photography, including nineteenth-century albumen prints and glass plate negatives, twentieth-century black-and-white and color prints, plastic-based negatives and positive transparencies, and moving image works on film-based and magnetic media.

Awareness of the importance of this photographic heritage 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.


As part of MEPPI's research, the Arab Image Foundation is undertaking a survey of photograph collections in the Middle East to identify institutions and individuals with significant collections. The survey is recording pertinent collection information, including size, significance, mission, condition, and resources. This information is being compiled into a database maintained by the AIF to assist individual researchers and institutions interested in keeping, studying, and making available photographic collections. This database is growing as more collections are surveyed. Learn more about the database.

Training and Capacity Building

Phase One: Courses
The first phase of MEPPI's training and capacity building (2011–2015) has focused on three courses, each consisting of three components that covered a period of nine months to a year. These components included:

1. an eight-day workshop
2. an eight- to eleven-month period of assigned practical work that participants carried out at their own institutions using the new skills and information learned from the workshop
3. a follow-up meeting which allowed instructors and participants to review progress made over the previous months and discuss successes and challenges

This three-part learning model has allowed participants to apply information and skills acquired during the workshop to their own work environment while remaining in contact with a course instructor who served as a mentor. It also encouraged communications between participants while also exposing instructors to the particular challenges that participants occasionally faced when implementing what they've learned. The follow-up meetings that concluded each course brought participants and instructors together for further instruction and discussion, targeted to participants' specific experiences during the previous practical phase of the course.

The first MEPPI course began with a workshop in Beirut in November 2011 and finished with a follow-up meeting in Rabat, Morocco in September 2012. The second course began with a workshop in Abu Dhabi in November 2012 and concluded with a follow-up meeting in Istanbul in September 2013. The third course began with a workshop in Amman in January 2014 and concluded with a follow-up meeting in Beirut in January 2015.

Phase Two: Intensive Workshops
The second phase of MEPPI (2015–2017) focuses on the sustainability of photograph preservation in the region into the future. To achieve this, there will be intensive workshops for participants who completed one of the MEPPI Phase One courses and who remain actively engaged with photograph preservation. The participants' institutions are expected to have greater involvement during this phase to ensure achievement of the goal.

Symposium on the Photographic Legacy of the Region
The sustainability of MEPPI's efforts depends upon a wider recognition of the value of photography as a historic and contemporary record as well as support for preservation in the region. Therefore a critical complement to the training offered through MEPPI is engagement with a broader group of professional colleagues, including directors, policy and decision makers, scholars, and others with an interest in, or responsibility for, the photographic heritage of the region.

For this reason MEPPI will partner with a university in the region to present a symposium on the photographic legacy of the Middle East and North Africa. The aim of the symposium is to highlight the significance and use of photograph archives and collections across the region, the imperative of preservation, the achievements made by MEPPI-affiliated institutions, and future strategies for sustaining preservation efforts over the longer term.

Page updated: December 2015