Qatar Digital Library recently celebrated its fourth year anniversary with a reception at the British Library in London, led by no less than HE Sheikha Hind bint Hamad Al Thani, Chair of the Board of Trustees of Qatar National Library, and Dame Carol Black, Chair of the British Library Board.

The bilingual website, which comprises content in both Arabic and English, provides free public access to an important range of historical collections held by the British Library. It has been visited by more than 1.2 million users and generated more than ten million pages views.

The website is the result of a partnership between Qatar Foundation, Qatar National Library, and the British Library to digitise historical collections related to Gulf history and Arabic scientific manuscripts. Metadata and descriptions of the digitised items are both in Arabic and English, and the Qatar Digital Library transforms access to these collections – previously only accessible via the British Library’s reading rooms – for academics, researchers, students and the wider global community.

Initially agreed in 2012, the partnership was extended earlier this year so that a further 900,000 images will be added to the 1.5 million already available online.

 

HE Sheikha Hind toured the digitisation studio on the sixth floor of the British Library, where Gulf-related material – including music, maps, ships’ logs, reports, letters, private papers and historic publications – is digitised, fully catalogued and uploaded onto the Digital Library.

According to HE Sheikha Hind, it is said that libraries give power – the power to cast the eyes across the sweep of history and discover what the past can tell about the present and the future. Unfortunately, harnessing this power depends on accessibility. Across the world, physical access to such a vault of knowledge is not universal.

Thankfully, the digital age means access to libraries is no longer purely defined by buildings. We are here to celebrate a project that epitomises how libraries, and all that they hold, can truly be available to everyone. Libraries open up our world. That is why they must be opened up to the world.’

Dame Carol Black said that the collections held at the British Library are the raw material of historical research. She said that over the past four years, the Qatar Digital Library project has helped make the rich and fascinating collections relating to Gulf history and Arabic science, available to researchers around the globe.

Working in close and fruitful partnership with Qatar Foundation and Qatar National Library, we are delighted to have made this valuable resource freely available as never before. Expect to unlock access to many more collections as the third phase of the programme begins in the New Year.’

Dr Sohair Wastawy, Executive Director at Qatar National Library, said that the Qatar Digital Library embodies the core missions of Qatar National Library – to provide free access to a wealth of information to everyone.

Qatar Digital Library has already supported numerous researchers and scholars across several disciplines, ranging from history to science, from archaeology to sociology, among others.

Visit the Qatar Digital Library through this link