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Project seeks high-quality photographic documentation of Jordan, region’s historical sites

By Saeb Rawashdeh - Apr 27,2017 - Last updated at Apr 27,2017

AMMAN — Given the numerous threats facing archaeological and cultural heritage sites in Jordan and the region, whether from war, development or vandalism, it is essential to preserve photographic documentation of such sites before there is further destruction, an archaeologist has urged. 

Scholar and archaeologist Glenn Corbett was speaking during his lecture “Archaeology in the Attic: Preserving Archival Treasures of Jordan’s Past”, held at the American Centre of Oriental Research (ACOR) recently. Corbett, who is ACOR’s associate director, emphasised the need for both foreign and local heritage institutions to catalogue, digitise and make their photographic collections available to preserve a visual testament of Jordan’s past. 

In 2016, ACOR was awarded $260,000 though the US Department of Education’s competitive American Overseas Research Centres Programme, to help improve documentation of cultural heritage sites in Jordan and around the region. 

The aim of ACOR’s funded project, called the “ACOR Library Photographic Archive”, is to create a high-quality photographic archive that can then be made publicly accessible via online resources and social media. At the conclusion of the four-year award, Corbett believes the archive will constitute a valuable resource for scholars, researchers and the general public. 

The new project is led by Corbett and ACOR Library Director Carmen Ayoubi. The project team also includes Diane Ryan, a senior archival consultant from the United States, ACOR library staff members Samya Kafafi and Yousef Abu Ali, as well as junior archivists trained at North American universities, who will come to ACOR on a rotating basis to support and manage the project. 

The ACOR photo collection consists of more than 100,000 images and is a visual testament to the institution’s almost-50-year presence in the Kingdom. The collection includes the photos of ACOR’s various directors, dating back to 1975, different private collections donated to ACOR by archaeologists, journalists and photographers, as well as the archives of specific archaeological projects that were gifted to ACOR over the years. 

To start with, the project is digitising and collecting information on two large photo collections, one donated by acclaimed British author and photographer Jane Taylor, and the other by the former Jordan Times editor, columnist and writer Rami Khouri. 

Taylor’s collection, donated to ACOR last year, consists of 10,000 colour slide photographs, many of which are aerial photos of Jordan’s archaeological sites and natural landscapes. Donated in 2011, Khouri’s collection includes more than 15,000 colour and black and white images which, although focused on Jordan’s archaeology, provide vivid snapshots of Jordanian life and society during the 1970s, 80s and 90s. 


For both collections, Corbett said that ACOR plans to “make high-quality scans of these photographs freely available online”, thereby enabling both local and foreign scholars and researchers to better assess the threats that some heritage sites are facing. 

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