A partnership between Beirut’s Saint Joseph University and the Boghossian Foundation
Saint Joseph University adds a photographic library to its Eastern Library, a unique heritage resource for Lebanon and the Near East.
Saint Joseph University’s Eastern Library holds a photographic collection of some 70,000 photographs assembled by generations of Jesuits priests who have accumulated a particularly rich collection of photographs of an archaeological, ethnographic and historical nature in the course of their mission and through personal research since the nineteenth century. The collection is a priceless source of documentation on the history of the countries of the Near East (Lebanon, Syria, Armenia and Egypt).
Most milestones of photographic art are represented in this collection, ranging from collodion to silver print through albumen print. The collection also features many glass photographic plates of varying sizes as well as flexible and paper prints.
Unfortunately, the collection had never been organized into a proper photographic collection, nor had it been afforded adequate conditions for conserving the items or been compiled into a methodically-catalogued inventory.
The partnership agreement signed with the Boghossian Foundation on 24 July 2014 will enable the Eastern Library to protect this unique heritage collection and to create a photographic archive and documentation centre based around the collection.
The project will be rolled out in several steps :
• Fitting a room with appropriate equipment, including temperature and humidity controls. Saint Joseph University has set aside a 100 m² room located on the Eastern Library’s ground floor for the purpose;
• Preserving documents in cabinets, boxes and acid-free envelopes;
• Compiling an inventory and digitizing the collection for its subsequent management, development and distribution; this requires the necessary equipment and means to carry out (computers, appropriate scanners, databases, etc.);
• Training qualified personnel to handle the collection’s digitization and preservation.
The photographic library’s purpose will encompass more than just the photographic collection’s management and development; it also intends to enrich the collection through the acquisition of other private, scientific and artistic collections. A call has already been sent out to all collectors !
The development of this project and the future support of other partners will enable an educational and scientific extension of this project to bring about the following :
• The creation of a museum of photography located inside the Eastern Library, exhibiting the cameras used by the Jesuits, to be further added to through the purchase of older cameras;
• Organizing temporary heritage exhibitions;
• The creation of a Library specializing in photography;
• Publishing books and catalogues based around the collection.
A part of the collection was highlighted by various exhibitions and the publication of exhibition catalogues :
• The origins of Aerial Archaeology, (with exhibition – USJ, Beirut), 2000
• Father Joseph Delore’s “Little Schools of Mount Lebanon (with exhibition – USJ, Beirut), 2003
• An archaeological adventure, (with exhibition Musée Archéologique, Arles), 2004
• Michel Jullien and Paul Soulerin’s archaeological trip to Syria and Lebanon in 1888, 2004
• The Armenian people, a quest for sanctuary, 1917-1939, (with 2 exhibitions : USJ, Beirut Cité de l’Emigration, Paris), 2006
• Photographic portraits of the East, 2010
• The Armenians of Cilicia, 2012
As part of this partnership, the Boghossian Foundation and the Eastern Library of Beirut will be putting on an exhibition at the Musée de la Photographie in Charleroi (Belgium) in late 2014. The exhibition will include a selection from the Beirut Photographic Library’s photographic archives based around the theme of population displacements in the East at the turn of the twentieth century.