Works from the 19th and 20th centuries in the collection
Sharjah, 11 November 2017: The Sharjah Public Library (SPL) – a subsidiary of Sharjah Book Authority (SBA) – has launched an integrated database of rare historical manuscripts, books, documents, and maps, which were part of the UK’s National Archive; making these historical treasures about the Middle East and Africa available for the first time in the region for public viewing.
Nearly 3,000 documents dating back to the 19th and 20th centuries, comprising a selection of letters, reports, diplomatic surveys, press releases, statistical analyses, pamphlets and military papers, among other types of extremely important documents and manuscripts, were revealed by the SPL as part of its participation at the 36th Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF 2017).
The database has been classified into three main sections according to the geographical region and the general theme of the manuscripts and documents. The first section deals with the Middle East in the period between the mid-19th and 20th centuries. The documents in the section describe the political and historical episodes the region experienced during that period.
Major events like civil wars and revolutions in the history of the Middle East and their political influence on the world during between 1971–81 are contained within these documents.
The second section is dedicated to Africa during 1834–1966, and provides historians and researchers access to confidential correspondences of the UK during the European invasion and colonisation of Africa. The documents offer chronological accounts of the ruling regimes in the continent, their agricultural and educational systems, the status of women, the environment, and stories of Africans immigrating to the United States in the later years.
The section also includes manuscripts, books, maps, advertisements, paintings and pictures that depict commodities like oil, fur, cotton, spices, tobacco, and more – the mainstays of African trade in those days, which influenced the history of the region and the entire world.
The history of consumerism in these parts of the world, how branding and advertising had started to develop in those days, and how commerce was impacted by the cultural makeup of communities, influencing the evolution and consumption of goods at an intercontinental level are also contained within these documents.
“We have been keen to provide these valuable sources of knowledge and information to the teachers, scholars and academia in the UAE, to facilitate teaching and research. We are happy that we have been able to succeed in our mission to help the nation’s guardians of knowledge by providing them with some of the most valuable political, economic and cultural artefacts that have shaped the region’s history,” said Sara Al Marzouqi, Manager, SPL.
“This was a significant step in elevating Sharjah’s global reputation as a knowledge centre and an incubator dedicated to the development of culture and science, but is committed to being a guardian and preserver of the world’s valuable history,” she highlighted.
“The move is in line with Sharjah Public Library’s cultural role in society and human responsibility to enable the present and future generations to gain a deeper insight into the history of the region and entire world.”
The manuscripts enjoy precise scientific sources that have been endorsed by world-class educational institutions, including the British National Archives, the Canadian Archive, the British Library, the universities of Stanford and Manchester, the Cambridge University Library and the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas.
Sharjah Library was founded by Sheikh Sultan bin Saqr Al Qasimi, in 1925 under the name ‘Al Qasimiyah Library,’ with the facility initially serving as his private archive. Its location has changed several times over the years, moving from Al Hisn (Sharjah Fort) in Bait Al Gharbi under the Mudeef Building to Sharjah City Municipality, then to Africa Hall and then to Sharjah Cultural Centre and Sharjah University City. In May 2011, the Ruler of Sharjah, inaugurated the new building of the library at the Cultural Palace Square, its current location under the title Sharjah Public Library. The new facility contains approximately half a million books in multiple languages across a numerous fields, including science, humanities, art and literature.