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Exhibition from the Archive of Paul Collart Includes Previously Unpublished Images of Palmyra

(from left to right, top to bottom): The Temple of Baal Sahmin, a horse drawn carriage in Aswan, Madeleine Collart and friends with a car in Cairo, Karnak Temple in Luxor, Istanbul (then Constantinople), and Kairouan, Tunisia

Archnet announces a new collection of black and white photographs taken by the Swiss archeologist Paul Collart (1902-1981) during travels in Syria, Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia, and Turkey. The collection is curated by Lobna Montasser, Media and Documentation Officer at the office of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture in Geneva. It provides a representative sampling of Collart’s photography in the region, and features previously unpublished photographs taken while Collart was leading an excavation of Baal Shamim in Palmyra.

Montasser selected the images in the Archnet collection from thousands of photographs in the Paul Collart archive at the Institute of Archaeology and Ancient History of Lausanne University.

Paul Collart and his wife Madeleine compiled a series of 38 albums based on his photography and archaeological projects. The albums contain more than 4,000 original, black and white photographs that provide important visual documentation of archaeological heritage, as well as evolutions in the social, natural and built environment of the time. This “the photographs “bear witness to the decisive changes of the early 20th century,” Montasser says.

Montasser learned about the collection from a friend who is Collart’s grandson. Noting that a large portion of the archive dealt Muslim societies and topics aligned with the concerns of Archnet, she set about developing the collection for Archnet. Part of the collection was selected from material already available to students and researchers through the “TIRESIAS” database,  created in 2005-2006 by Patrick Maxime Michel, Senior Research and Teaching Assistant, from material previously inventoried by Anne Bielman.

Montasser arranged to inventory the unpublished photo archive dedicated to Palmyra and Baal Shamin Temple, choosing about 250 photographs of Palmyra and Baal Shamin Temple, working with Dr. Michel on identifying the images. She also chose a representative selection of images depicting locations in Algeria, Egypt, Tunisia, and Turkey during the first half of the 20th century.

Montasser spent nearly a year developing the collection now being made available on Archnet. She notes that “the most significant part of the collection that which is dedicated to the destroyed Temple of Baal Shamin…an important part of the current international discussion on Syria restoration. She chose to curate this collection for Archnet, in order to make the collection “available to the general public worldwide, perhaps even directly to the Syrians themselves, the people to whom the collection is the most relevant.”

Patrick Maxime Michel and AKDC Program Head Sharon C. Smith are presenters of “Documenting Syrian Heritage: Digital Safeguarding and 3D Modeling,” Wednesday, February 07, 2018, at 2:00pm.  Follow the link for additional information.


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