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Middle East Studies: Image Collections

Guide to Middle East Studies: ancient, medieval & modern.

Multimedia Digital Archive Collections

Golistan (A hundred years of Persian performing arts and journals from 1880 to 1980)

The Golistan a dedicated portal that is a virtual museum for the performing arts of Iran, from 1880 through 1990. This online environment includes recordings of solo performances by twentieth-century virtuosos, radio plays and programs, regional (mahali) music, 78-rpm recordings, film, theatre, as well as printed materials and journals. All these assets are digitized, indexed, and searchable by key rubrics.

American University in Cairo, Rare Books and Special Collections

The Rare Books and Special Collections Digital Library at the American University in Cairo supports research and teaching in the arts, culture, and society of Egypt and the Middle East by providing online access to unique cultural heritage resources.

American University in Beirut, Archives Online Collection

AUB Libraries Digital Collections is a gateway to our digitized and preserved collections featuring manuscripts, maps, photos, posters, books, multimedia, and other resources. This online growing repository aims to continuously disseminate knowledge about AUB, the region, our history, and cultural heritage for the purpose of research, teaching, and education. It is also a hub for collaboration with other departments, faculties, and scholars in addition to external partners, libraries, and institutions to support digital scholarship initiatives.

British Library – Endangered Archives Programme

Since 2004, the Programme has helped digitize over eleven million images and 35,000 soundtracks. Archive types digitized so far include rare printed sources, manuscripts, visual materials, and audio recordings. This continually expanding online collection is available freely through local archival partners and this website and it is discoverable via the British Library catalog for research, inspiration, and enjoyment.

Calisphere, University of California

Calisphere is your gateway to digital collections from California's great libraries, archives, and museums. Discover over 2,100,000 images, texts, and recordings. Watch an introductory video to learn more.

New York Public Library, Digital Collections

Explore 933,733 items digitized from The New York Public Library's collections. This site is a living database with new materials added every day, featuring prints, photographs, maps, manuscripts, streaming videos, and more.

Library of Congress, Digital Collections


Discover the magazine Chantiers nord-africains, a first-rate source for documenting colonial North African and, more specifically, Algerian architecture from the first half of the 20th century.

Gallica, Bibliothèque Nationale de France

Gallica is the digital library created by the Bibliothèque nationale de France and its partner institutions in 1997. Once a week, thousands of new documents are added to the current collection; today, millions of documents are available online.

Memory of Modern Egypt, Bibliotheca Alexandrina (Arabic only)

Memory of the Suez Canal, Bibliotheca Alexandrina

The Suez Canal Company archives present a fundamental interest in terms of technical and engineering achievement as well as economic and naval history. Two major themes are thus highlighted: The Canal cutting, maintenance, and improvement archives, and the other part covering maritime traffic and vessel crossings from 1869 to 1956. In addition, the photographic representations of the Canal were also digitized. Several series were thus retained due to their coherence, continuity, and the synthetic and systematic character of the information which they contain.

SALT Research

ART: These archival collections focus on the history of art in Turkey after 1950. They bring together documents and images from various institutions, including museums, artist initiatives, and foundations, in addition to providing material related to historically significant exhibitions. Also included here are archives collated by artists and curators that not only focus on their own practices but also shed a light on the artistic and cultural context of their time.

ARCHITECTURE AND DESIGN: These archival collections encompass professional and personal documents of architects and designers active in 20th-century Turkey. They include a variety of materials, ranging from sketches, drawings, correspondence, contracts, maps, and photographs to audio recordings and videos. Accompanying these extensive sources is a selection of architectural photographs by Gültekin Çizgen and Kayıhan Türköz, taken in various cities in Turkey between the 1960s and 2000s.

CITY, SOCIETY, AND ECONOMY: These archival collections provide information on the built environment and social life in the Ottoman Empire and the Turkish Republic. They provide the grounds for detailed studies of the transformations of this multicultural land in the last two centuries through stories of individuals from the 19th century onwards.

Travelers in the Middle East Archive (TIMEA), Rice University

TIMEA provides online access to texts, maps, and images documenting travel to the Middle East (primarily Egypt) between the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. These materials range from travel guides, travel narratives, and museum catalogs to stereo cards, advertisements, and postcards. To facilitate access and analysis, the texts are fully searchable, and the images are richly described. TIMEA also makes available interactive, dynamic GIS (Geographical Information Systems) maps that reveal the relationships between geographical features such as elevation and water and cultural phenomena such as settlement patterns. Finally, TIMEA provides teaching and research guides that explore the process of conducting research and set the materials in context.

MED-MEM Mediterranean Memory

Initiated by Ina under the auspices of COPEAM (Permanent Conference of the Mediterranean Audiovisual Operators) at the request of the holders of audiovisual archives in the Mediterranean region, “Sharing our Mediterranean Audiovisual Heritage (Med-Mem)” offers the general public some 4000 audiovisual documents from the countries in the Mediterranean area. The TV and radio archives, set into their historical and cultural context, are accompanied by a trilingual documentary note (in French, English, and Arabic). Co-funded by the European Union as part of the Euromed Heritage IV program, Med-Mem strives to raise the profile of a common heritage and underpins the drive to safeguard Mediterranean audiovisual archives.


Image Resources: Historical and Contemporary Photographs

Abdul Hamid II Collection (Library of Congress)

About 1,800 photographs in 51 albums from 1880-1893 of the Ottoman Empire, during the reign of Abdul Hamid II.

Akkasah Collection, New York University Abu Dhabi

Akkasah is home to an archive of the photographic heritage of the Middle East and North Africa. Part of al Mawrid, the Arab Center for the Study of Art, Akkasah is dedicated to documenting and preserving the diverse histories and practices of photography from the region, and our growing archive contains at present over 33,000 images. Akkasah undertakes and supports research on Middle Eastern and North African photography, as well as on cross-cultural and transnational aspects of photography, through conferences, colloquia and publications, and through the research fellowship program of the NYUAD Institute. It also commissions new documentary projects from contemporary photographers that are archived alongside the historical collections, and it is establishing a special collection of photographic albums, as well as of original photobooks from around the world.

American University in Beirut – postcards and photographs

​​​This photo collection includes around 100,000 photos that cover from the late 19th century until today. It documents the political, historical, cultural, social, as well as military scenes in the Middle East, Europe, and North Africa. It is available in different formats, starting with albumen print, Gelatin Silver Prints, etc. until digital photography. The collection includes several significant sub-collections, arranged chronologically. The collection of postcards offers images from different countries that spread across most continents. The Levant portion of the collection, i.e., Lebanon, Syria, and Palestine, was digitized and is available through the Postcard collection portal.

Ancient Near East Photographs (University of Washington Libraries)

This collection, created by Professor Scott Noegel, documents artifacts and archaeological sites of the ancient Near East. While the majority of the collection depicts structures and sites dating from 3000 BCE to 200 CE, the collection also has images of more recent sites, such as the al-Azhar Mosque and the modern creation, Lake Nasser. Currently, all images are of Egypt and Israel, although plans exist to eventually add images from Anatolia, Syria, Iraq, and Iran.

Arab Image Foundation

Our collection of over 500,000 photographic objects and documents from and related to the Middle East, North Africa and the Arab diaspora has been gradually assembled over the last 25 years by artists and researchers and through donations. With a critical and innovative approach, we collect, rethink, preserve, animate and understand these photographs through their multiple strata, and enrich the collection in the process.

Das Bild des Orients

Das Bild des Orients is a specialized analogue und digital image archive, offering a great variety of authentic images of the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) Region for research, publication or private use.

The E.W. Blatchford Collection of Photographs

Børre Ludvigsen’s Digital Archive consists mainly in preserving the work done by Professor Ludvigsen especially the digital repositories related to the Levant and the region. This valuable information which is made available for researchers and the public is preserved and presented as a web archive.

Les collections du musée départemental Albert-Kahn

The launch version of the Portail Images of the Albert-Kahn departmental museum brings together more than 69,000 notices and images of works from the museum's collections. Discover in particular the Archives of the Planet, a set of fixed and animated images, produced at the beginning of the 20th century, devoted to the diversity of peoples and cultures. 

Islamic Art Network

The Islamic Art Network is a project undertaken by the Thesaurus Islamicus Foundation, a charitable, non-profit foundation that was established to advance, support and promote the protection, preservation, study and dissemination of the Islamic intellectual, cultural and artistic patrimony by any means deemed appropriate.

Manar al-Athar

The Manar al-Athar digital archive, based at the University of Oxford, provides high resolution, searchable images for teaching, research, and publication. These images of archaeological sites, buildings and art, cover the areas of the former Roman empire which later came under Islamic rule, such as Syro-Palestine/the Levant, Egypt and North Africa, as well as some bordering regions, such as Georgia and Armenia. The chronological range is from Alexander the Great (i.e., from about 300 BC) through the Islamic period. It is the first website of its kind providing such material labelled jointly in both Arabic and English.

Matson (G. Eric and Edith) Photograph Collection

The G. Eric and Edith Matson Photograph Collection is a rich source of historical images of the Middle East. The majority of the images depict Palestine (present day Israel and the West Bank) from 1898 to 1946. Most of the collection consists of over 22,000 glass and film photographic negatives and transparencies created by the American Colony Photo Department and its successor firm, the Matson Photo Service. Over 1,000 photographic prints and eleven albums are also part of this collection.

Middle East Centre Archive

The Archive has state of the art facilities in the spectacular Investcorp Building (designed by Zaha Hadid) and now contains over 3,000 boxes of papers and photographs of over 700 individuals or organisations covering the period 1800 to the present day with strong holdings for the Palestine Mandate and for Oman in the 1970s.

The Middle East in Early Prints & Photographs

More than 1,100 prints and photographs from books and albums dating from the 17th century to the beginning of the 20th century.

Middle East Photograph Archive, University of Chicago Library

The Middle East Photograph Archive consists of over 400 photographic prints dating primarily to the second half of the nineteenth century. At this time, the spread of the art of photography and the influx of Europeans into the lands of the Middle East led to the creation of a large number of photographs produced by professional photographers. Mostly architectural and panoramic views from major producers Adelphoi Zangaki and Abdullah Freres.

Moustapha (Bouchoucha Photograph Collection)

The collection, held at the Beit El Bennani, contains 8155 images that depict people, events, views and objects primarily relating to Tunisia.

Getty Research Institute Orientalist Photography

Exceptionally strong holdings of this genre were established with the acquisition of the Ken and Jenny Jacobson Orientalist Photography Collection. It comprises approximately 4,500 images of the Middle East and North Africa, with the majority dating between 1843 and 1920. They record a period when the Orient held a special allure for western viewers and was increasingly open to travelers, commerce, and ideas.

Pattern in Islamic Art

These archives offer some 5000 images of patterns and other design features drawn from the rich cultural heritage of the Islamic world. Historically, the decorative arts have always formed a major part of Islamic aesthetic expression. Its remarkable achievements in this direction (much of which are represented here) make it an invaluable resource for designers of all kinds as well as for art-historians and art-lovers generally.

Photographic Archives of the Oriental Institute, University of Chicago

The complete archive contains over 100,000 negatives documenting the Institute’s activities from 1892 to the present. These images record now-vanished temples and tombs, famed archaeologists standing proudly near their greatest finds and scenes of life now effaced by modern times.


19th and 20th century photographs and photo essay

Saudi Aramaco World Photo Archive

Search more than 50,000 images in one of the world's largest image archives specializing in historic and current images of the Middle East and the Islamic world. Most of the images are from AramcoWorld stories from 1964 to the present.

Royal Geographic Society (London) Picture Library

This Picture Library is one of the world's finest collections of photography and artworks, recording over 200 years of travel, people, place and geographical discovery. It contains over 2000 photographs, including those of Harry St John Philby's 1932 expedition to the Empty Quarter.


Print Sources

Historical Photographs of the Middle East UCSB only

  • 194 microfiches
  • ART REF DS44.5. S22 1985

Online Photographic collections

Afghanistan: Images from the Harrison Forman Collection

Afghanistan: Images from the Harrison Forman Collection contain images that document the life and culture of Afghanistan in the 1950s and 1960s. The photographs portray the daily life of Afghanis, capture the beauty of the land, and document historic sites, including the great Buddhas of Bamiyan destroyed by the Taliban in 2001

Alexandria Bombardment of 1882 Photograph Album

The Alexandria Bombardment of 1882 Photograph Album digital collection was originally compiled by Italian photographer Luigi Fiorillo. This unique resource documents the British naval attack on 'Urabi Pasha's nationalists, who revolted against Taufik Pasha, the Khedive of Egypt, from 1879 to 1882. Fiorillo’s fifty page album records damage to Alexandria's neighborhoods, particularly the harbor and the fortress district. The images trace the development of episode from the arrival of the British fleet to the destruction of the emerging downtown district. Further, the photographs show the artillery and forts used by the resistance. The album also features portraits of the key players in the bombardment, including 'Urabi Pasha, Khedive Taufik, Admiral Seymour, and Sir Wolseley.

The Architectural Heritage of the Ottoman Balkans

This archive represents an invaluable source for researchers of this heritage. Created for the most part between the 1960s and 90s, it also contains visual documentation of many monuments that have not survived, or have been significantly altered in, the second half of the twentieth century.

The Creswell Archive Online, Ashmolean Museum

A unique negative collection of Professor K.A.C. Creswell, the eminent pioneer of medieval Islamic architectural history. Among the photographs are many of those used to illustrate the two publications which remain the basic research tools for scholars of medieval Islamic architecture: Creswell's Early Muslim Architecture, and Muslim Architecture of Egypt. The collection also includes large number of photographs intended for a third volume of Muslim Architecture of Egypt, which was to deal with the monuments of the Burji Mamluk period. Since this project remained unfinished at the time of Creswell's death, the bulk of these are unpublished.

Egyptian Mirage, Griffith Institute, Oxford

Iran in Photographs, Freer/Sackler Galleries

The Archives of the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery contain more than 1,100 original prints and glass plate negatives by Antoin Sevruguin and other Persian photographers, dating from the late nineteenth century to the first decades of the twentieth century. They range in subject from formal and informal images of the Qajar royal family to expansive views of Persepolis to glimpses of everyday life on the streets of Tehran. Largely contributed by generous donors, these images form the core of the museums’ rapidly growing collection of photography.

Monuments of Syria: A Window on Syria's Past by Ross Burns

Pitt Rivers Museum Online Collection, University of Oxford

The databases provide access to all the information held by the Museum about the objects and historic photographs in its collections.

George Eastman House Online Collections

More than a quarter of a million objects from the photography, technology, and George Eastman Legacy collections are now searchable, and more of the museum's vast holdings will be added on an ongoing basis.

The National Library of Israel's Photography Collections

By browsing through the Pritzker Family National Photography Collection at the National Library of Israel, you can pay a visit to Jerusalem in the 19th century, Tel Aviv as it emerged over 100 years ago, the agricultural settlements of Ottoman Palestine and the newly established State of Israel. You can follow in the footsteps of individuals, both famous and forgotten, witness cultural events and economic enterprises, archeological excavations and educational institutions. You can also become acquainted with the diverse cultures imported by the waves of immigration as well as local Arab culture. Countless experiences and revelations await you here, caught in the eye of the camera's lens.

UNRWA Audiovisual Archive for Palestine Refugees

UNRWA photo and film archive for Palestine refugees

Victoria and Albert Museum, Digital Collections


Online Poster Collections

Middle Eastern Film Posters Digitization Initiative, Princeton University Library

The Near East book Collection is one of the largest collections of Near Eastern research materials in the United States. The Near East Collections also boast a sizable periodicals collection of contemporary serials and newspapers that are acquired on a regular basis from around the world. The library currently receives over 2,000 active serial publications relating to the Near East. The Library's holdings in this field in Near Eastern and Western languages combined exceed 500,000 volumes.

Palestine Poster Project Archives

Hamid Naficy Middle Eastern Movie Posters Collection

This Collection contains 249 posters, which have been digitized and cataloged individually. These posters document the social history of film in Iran and offer a unique visual representation of the political and social climate there between 1966 and 2014.

Signs of Conflict

Political Posters of the Lebanon’s Civil War (1975-1990)


Art, Architecture and Archaeology


Scholarly resource focused on architecture, urbanism, environmental & landscape design, visual culture, and conservation issues in Muslim societies from MIT's Agha Khan Documentation Center

ARTstor UCSB only

The image section of JSTOR

Image Resource Collection (IRC) and MDID

IRC is located within the History of Art and Architecture Department. Staff can help locate high-quality images, help with image rights questions, and provide access to the Department’s digital teaching collection on MDID:

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Image Resource Guide – Islamic Art and Architecture

On this page you will find links to digitized collections of images or archival materials accessible online. The contents are ordered geographically by country in alphabetical order. Collections with broader scopes are listed first.

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