The library has over 1.9 million users from all around the world.
Qatar Digital Library [QDL], the world’s largest digital archive in the history of the Middle East, uploaded its two-millionth page in May— marking a significant milestone in the world of historical e-books.
Launched in 2014, the library is part of a partnership between Qatar National Library, Qatar Foundation and the British Library, and aims to preserve and share the region’s rich history and heritage.
“This historical achievement reflects our belief that knowledge transcends borders and positions our library at the forefront of the world’s libraries in terms of quality and quantity of documents available to all,” said Dr. Hamad bin Abdulaziz Al Kawari, Minister of State, Qatar, and President of Qatar National Library.
“With the QDL showing the world how a library of the future could be designed, we are proud to have collaborated with the British Library and Qatar Foundation to lead the field in the archival digitisation of Middle Eastern history.”
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The digital space— free for all users to access— hosts the world’s largest collection of historical reports, letters, manuscripts, maps, photographs and sound recordings on the Gulf, Arabian Peninsula, and neighbouring regions.
Each paper includes an explanation section in both English and Arabic to make it easily accessible and understandable for researchers and anyone interested in the region’s heritage and history. The unique and rich space also provides expert articles on the historical material it contains to give a deeper look into the context.
“The QDL is changing the way scholars and students research the history of the Gulf region and science in the Arab world. It has become their first port of call, enabling them to find in seconds what used to take them weeks, months or even years,” said Dr James Onley, Director of Historical Research and Partnerships at the Library.
“It is making the past more accessible than ever, leading to a sharp increase in the number of exciting new historical studies on the Gulf— the least-studied region in the Middle East.”
QDL is used vastly by researchers and experts around the world who are interested in Arabian and Gulf history, the library stated. In less than 7 years, the library had over 15 million page views and 1.9 million users— with over 300,000 items being downloaded.
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The digital institution get visits from all over the world, with the top countries being US, Qatar, UK, Oman, Saudi Arabia and India, according to Qatar National Library’s Historical Research and Partnerships department.
Dr. Fahad Bishara, the Rouhollah Ramazani Associate Professor of Arabian Peninsula and Gulf Studies at the University of Virginia, USA, said that the digital materials and resources the library provides free of charge made a huge impact and helped several projects about the region.
“Undergraduate and graduate students in the United States can write papers using materials that they would not have otherwise had access to, and instructors can design courses around the archival materials in the QDL. For scholars of the Gulf and Arabian Peninsula, and for historians more generally, the QDL has opened up a range of possibilities, both inside and outside of the academy,” he added.
The library covers a variety of topics and papers related to the modern history and heritage of the wider Gulf region (the Arabian Peninsula, Iran and Iraq). It is considered an ideal space for those interested in the region to explore a variety of subjects, such as trading practices, the two World Wars, the petroleum industry, Britain’s imperial administration of the region, and many more.
It also hosts a unique and rare collection of Arabic manuscripts on a variety of topics, including astrology, mathematics, agriculture, philosophy, music theory, military science, astronomy, geography, law, chemistry, mechanics and zoology.