Middle Eastern Photographic Collections in the United Kingdom

by Gillian Grant
Middle East Libraries Committee Research Guides, 1989

Reviewed by Barbara Evans

Yemen Update 43 (2001)

"Almost thirty years ago, my late colleague Elizabeth Munroe and I, thinking that Britain's moment in the Middle East was coming to an end, started a collection of unpublished papers which would illustrate it."

Gillian Grant and her colleague then invited diplomats, officials, businessmen, missionaries, teachers, former residents or families to send them any documents which had been kept. The results were astonishing; a vast mass of letters, diaries, and other papers was revealed. They are now deposited in the Middle East Centre at St Anthony's College in Oxford.

With them are many old photos, some of which are from quite early in the nineteenth century. As archivist-in-charge, Gillian Grant had the idea of making a survey of similar collections countrywide, and again the results were surprising. Several million photos exist in British collections, and give an idea of the depth and variety of the Britsh experience in the Middle East.

Collections are listed by the names of towns where they are held. Some are in the National Libraries of Scotland, Wales and Ireland and other copyright libraries of the United Kindom. Others are in county record offices, some in universities within several different collections, but many are held otherwise, for instance in regimental or navy museums throughout Britain, Bank of England, British Bank of the Middle East, Customs and Excise, the Companies Register Office, the British and Foreign Bible Society, the Leprosy Mission, the India Office, Lambeth Palace Library, private collections (such as the Rodney Searight Collection) and so on. David Kennedy of Sheffield University gave advice on aerial photographic archives; indeed Hunting Surveys and RAF material are held in Sheffield itself.

As far as the Yemen is concerned, although Aden and the Hadhramaut are very often listed, there are fewer references to Yemen itself. However, as an example, a few of the collections in London alone which do make mention are held by:-

  • The Architectural Association Slide Library (vernacular architecture)
  • Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Yemen 1911, Robert Deutsch collection
  • Royal Geographic Society, Yemen in the 1890s, and others
  • Royal Air Force Museum.

The book is a guide, not large but packed and well worth consulting, when pursuing research on Yemen.

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