Memory of Modern Egypt
“Egypt’s civilization was not the gift of the Nile as Herodotus said, but rather a gift from the Egyptians to civilization and history” - Solaiman Hozayen
Bibliotheca Alexandrina (BA) strives to preserve the past and provide universal access to knowledge for future generations. The International School of Information Science (ISIS), a BA-affiliated research institute, uses the latest technology to further this goal by creating digital libraries.The Memory of Modern Egypt project
is a joint endeavor between ISIS and the BA’s Special Projects Department – whose duties revolve around documentation and the production of original material – to produce the definitive repository for culturally and historically significant material pertaining to the modern state of Egypt, thus preserving these materials in digital form and making them available to all in an online archive. The immense amount of materials available in the repository are primary sources that were produced during the concerned time period, from the era of Mohamed Ali in 1805 to the end of Al-Sadat’s presidency in 1981, providing an authentic and comprehensive look at Egypt’s rich history that no other single library or collection can offer.
The collection at a glance
The Memory of Modern Egypt repository includes 14 different material types, divided into documents, speeches, photographs, movies, audio, maps, books, essays, news, covers, currency, medals, stamps and advertisements, which have been collected from a number of sources. Families of some of the significant figures who are featured on the repository, such as Prime Minister Mohamed Mahmoud Pasha and members of the politically active Botroseyya family, have provided the BA with access to their private collections. Scanning units were set up in Dar Al-Hilal, the National Archives of Egypt (Dar Al-Mahfouzat), and Dar Akhbar Al-Youm to add their collections to the repository after their staff was trained to deal with indexing and scanning the material. In addition to these sources, and numerous others, ISIS has integrated its Digital Assets Repository (DAR) with Memory of Modern Egypt, so that the relevant books in DAR can be accessed directly from the Memory of Modern Egypt repository.
From the Memory of Modern Egypt repository, the user has access to:
- Over 60,840 photos of famous figures and important events in Egyptian history;
- Over 19,550 documents related to subjects such as the formation of ministries and political parties, wars and revolutions, etc;
- About 5010 analytical and biographical essays written by the Special Projects Department;
- Over 19,980 news clippings gathered from various newspapers and magazines;
- More than 220 unique maps;
- Over 1760 speeches by different rulers and prime ministers, covering diverse topics and events;
- Over 1120 audio recordings, including songs, speeches, and interviews with figures from various fields;
- More than 1920 video recordings, mostly of rare quality;
- About 940 historical advertisements for different goods and services;
- Over 1590 covers of magazines, newspapers, novels, albums, and film posters;
- About 290 currencies, both coins and notes;
- Over 1060 stamps commemorating significant people and events in modern Egyptian history;
- About 160 medals awarded to different figures; and
- About 180 relevant books accessed through DAR.
The interface and underlying infrastructure of Memory of Modern Egypt allows for easy navigation while reflecting the multidimensionality of the material. The repository is structured around five main themes – Rulers, Prime Ministers, Events, Subjects, and Public Figures – with each of these divided into subtopics, creating an index with over 500 dimensions. Each item in the repository is categorized by its type, such as photograph, video, etc., which make up an index of 14 different materials. Every item in each of the material categories is also classified by one or more of the theme subcategories, creating a multidimensional web of materials and themes. The user can choose to enter the site through a material category or theme category, and then further filter available material based on other themes and their subtopics. This cross-referencing of the two indexes – materials and themes – allows users to explore all the connections between the different material available in the repository and significant people, events and subjects in modern Egyptian history.
Due to the diversity of the visual material available, the repository features a number of different viewers that are appropriate to each type of material and thus further enhance the user’s browsing experience. Additionally, a timeline feature allows the user to easily limit available material to a specific time period at any point during browsing.
The search tools available in the Memory of Modern Egypt repository provide a number of options for finding desired material. The user may choose to perform a simple global search, an advanced search within a material category, or an advanced search on all materials with certain criteria, and may perform one of three types of linguistic searches – exact, stem-based, and morphological.
After three years of meticulous efforts and collaboration, the Memory of Modern Egypt project was launched in October 2008. The project, however, is by no means complete. The repository was created with an elaborate and extensive infrastructure that would allow for the continuous addition of material, and the BA anticipates future donation of material from other parties to further expand the repository’s depth and breadth.
Special Projects Department, the BA
Mohamed Mahmoud Pasha