The photographic legacy of the Middle East and North Africa is a unique record of the cultural and historical milestones that have shaped this region since the nineteenth century. To support preservation of this heritage, the Getty Conservation Institute, the Arab Image Foundation, the University of Delaware, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art developed the Middle East Photograph Preservation Initiative (MEPPI), a strategic effort to build the regional capacity of individuals and institutions to care for and manage photograph collections. Since 2011, MEPPI has offered a series of workshops, coupled with distance mentoring, for seventy-three participants from fifty-two institutions, representing collections in Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Palestine, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. MEPPI is supported in part by the Getty Conservation Institute and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
After concluding its first round of training in 2014, MEPPI launched a series of workshops for alumni who completed one of the MEPPI courses offered between 2011and 2014 and who remain active in photograph preservation. Building on the earlier courses, the two new workshops—on the environment and exhibition of photograph collections and on digitization—will provide MEPPI alumni an opportunity for more in-depth learning and further development of practical skills.
The first environmental workshop was offered in November 2015 (Beirut), and the second will be offered in October 2016 (Istanbul). Topics covered in the 2015 workshop included environmental impacts on photographs, condition assessments, environmental monitoring and control options, selecting and creating enclosures, cold storage, preservation concerns of exhibition, lighting, and mold management. Instruction was in the form of lectures, case studies, practical exercises, discussions, and visits to photograph collections.
The first two digitization workshops will be offered in May 2016 (Beirut). Topics include understanding quality issues of digital reproductions, quality control and image processing, choosing and evaluating equipment, and file and metadata management.
The long-term sustainability of MEPPI's efforts depends on wider recognition of the value of photograph collections and a commitment to their preservation from directors, policy and decision makers, scholars, and others with an interest in, or responsibility for, the region's photographic heritage. For this reason, MEPPI will organize a 2017 symposium to highlight the region's photograph collections and consider priorities for future preservation efforts at institutional and governmental levels. Attendees are expected to include directors of institutions participating in MEPPI; representatives of governmental entities, such as ministries of culture, education, and antiquities; and museum and library personnel, as well as MEPPI alumni.