Qatar National Library has a firm commitment to preserving and showcasing Qatar’s heritage and promoting education and community development by sharing knowledge and providing resources to students, researchers, and the wider community.
The Qatar Digital Library (QDL) is revolutionizing the way that people study and understand the history of the Gulf region. The new portal provides access to a growing digital archive, currently over 300,000 records, in Arabic and English, for academics and casual users alike.
It is the result of a partnership between the Qatar National Library, a member of Qatar Foundation, and the British Library. On launch in October 2014 it represents the culmination of more than three years’ work.
Making the history of the Gulf accessible
The website makes scholarly content available to a wide audience thanks to an easy to use, non-technical interface with a powerful image viewer.
The responsive design means that users can explore Gulf history and Arabic science in a way that works best for them: whether on mobile phones, on tablets or desktops, they can explore maps (past and present); over 25,000 medieval manuscripts; handwritten documents; photographs; official papers; newspapers; video and audio. Content dates from the 11th century to the mid 20th century.
Articles from Our Experts offers interpretation of the archive, making it accessible to the widest possible audience.
- Responsive design: the new site is fully responsive, which means that content is accessible across multiple devices, including mobiles, tablets and desktops.
- Bilingual: available in both Arabic and English.
- Highly filterable search: over 150 facet options to refine your search.
- Simple to navigate: objects that are housed within often complex hierarchies are displayed in a simple to navigate way.
- Zoomable: all items are can be zoomed to explore incredible detail, offering unprecedented access.
- Free and shareable: material can be used and reused for free, and everything is shareable on social media.
- Expert context encourages onward journeys: contextual articles tell the story behind the primary source material. These use text, images, video hosted on YouTube and audio on SoundCloud. Onward journeys are encouraged and the rich media has a life outside of the site as well as in it.
- Creative use of APIs: compare old and new views of the same Google maps
- Open architecture: allows for the addition of material from new sources over time.
- Swathes of rich content: in the future, hundreds of thousands more artefacts will be added using the powerful back-end system. The digitized items and associated metadata are saved in to the Library systems, and uploaded to a server as an archival SIP file in bulk, where the software takes over, presenting swathes of rich content on the front end of the website.
- Meeting archival standards: The site and content meet archival standards, with a METS descriptor using common metadata profiles including Encoded Archival Description (EAD) and PREMIS. It also meets accessibility criteria: Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 AA.
“Fantastic new Qatar #DigitalLibrary by @BritishLibrary and @QF. Bi-lingual #library of Gulf history & Arabic science http://bit.ly/1wuHrEK”
Ed Vaizey, Minister of State for Culture and the Digital Economy, @edvaizey on Twitter
“We are diving in history and looking around. It’s like a door to the nineteenth century.”
Anas Hasanain, Student at Qatar University, Doha
“Students, scholars – whether here, in the Gulf region or indeed anywhere on the planet – will be able to explore this material, find new learnings from it, make new connections and make new discoveries.”
Roly Keating, Chief Executive of the British Library
“This is going to result in a whole new generation of historians, a boom in the historiography of the Gulf. This is profound; this moment right now is a milestone in the history of the region.”
Dr James Onley, Senior Lecturer in Middle Eastern History, University of Exeter