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Middle East Libraries: Safeguarding Centuries of Cultural Heritage With Digital Technology

In 2016, France’s national library, the BnF, kicked off the ambitious Middle East Libraries project. Available in English, French and Arabic, this collaborative digital database brings together remarkable documents from the collections of the BnF and eight libraries in the Middle East. Its goal is to promote wider access to this exceptional heritage and preserve it for future generations. Total Foundation has supported the project since its inception.


Spanning 10,000 documents, around 100 articles contributed by some 50 academics, researchers and curators, close to 15 partner libraries and more, Middle East Libraries is a colossal project.

The collection comprises digitalized documents and publications selected for their heritage or scientific value from research libraries in France, Cairo, Alexandria, Beirut, Jerusalem, Istanbul and Ankara. Covering the period from 1798 to 1945, its manuscripts, maps, drawings and photos are organized into seven categories: Crossroads, Communities, Religions, Knowledge, Politics, Imaginary and Personalities. 

The BnF has the expertise and advanced digitalization technologies needed to complete projects of this scale and ensure the preservation of heritage sites endangered by conflict in the region. Prior to the project, the BnF also helped restore a selection of rare, damaged documents.

Included in the archives are ancient Iraqi texts conserved by the Dominicans in Mosul, manuscripts from the Charfet Syriac Catholic Library in Lebanon, and the collections of Syrian and Chaldean monasteries in Iraq, recording the travels, history, traditions, artistic movements and philosophical, religious and political ideas of the Eastern Mediterranean. They have been made available to researchers, teachers and students, as well as the general public, to help improve understanding of the region. In this way, the documentary collection contributes to sharing and passing on knowledge.

Total Foundation has chosen to support this far-reaching project because the Middle East is one of the Group’s long-standing host regions and because the initiative, which promotes dialogue among different cultures and different eras, helps showcase the region’s heritage.

Find out more here.