Middle East Photograph Preservation Initiative (MEPPI)

The GCI is collaborating with the Arab Image Foundation, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the University of Delaware on the Middle East Photograph Preservation Initiative (MEPPI). This multi-faceted initiative covers seven years and pursues a program of complementary activities encompassing research, awareness building, and training and capacity building. Phase One took place from 2011 to early 2015; Phase Two extends from mid- 2015 to 2017. Both phases are designed to meet MEPPI's objectives of:

  • identifying and assessing significant photographic collections throughout the Middle East and North Africa
  • promoting their preservation and visibility
  • training collection personnel and building their capacity in the preservation of photograph collections in the region

The initiative is supported in part by generous funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.


Photograph collections in the Middle East (defined for MEPPI as the countries of the eastern Mediterranean, North Africa, and the Gulf) represent the broad spectrum of photography, including nineteenth-century albumen prints and glass plate negatives, twentieth-century black-and-white and color prints, plastic-based negatives and positive transparencies, and moving image works on film-base and magnetic media.

Awareness of the importance of this photographic heritage has grown in recent years and, along with it, recognition of the need for a broader understanding of collections within the region and for local expertise in the preservation of photographic collections.


As part of MEPPI's research, the Arab Image Foundation is undertaking a survey of photograph collections in the Middle East to identify institutions and individuals with significant collections. The survey is recording pertinent collection information, including size, significance, mission, condition, and resources. This information is being compiled into a database maintained by the AIF to assist individual researchers and institutions interested in keeping, studying, and making available photographic collections. This database will be available on AIF's website in 2015.

Training and Capacity Building

Phase One (2011–2015): Courses

The first phase of MEPPI's training and capacity building have focused on three courses, each consisting of three components that covered a period of nine months to a year. These components included:

  1. an eight-day workshop
  2. an eight to eleven-month period of assigned practical work that participants carried out at their own institutions using the new skills and information learned from the workshop; and
  3. a follow-up meeting which allowed instructors and participants to review progress made over the previous months and discuss successes and challenges.

This three-part learning model has allowed participants to apply information and skills acquired during the workshop to their own work environment while remaining in contact with a course instructor who served as a mentor. It also encouraged communications between participants while also exposing instructors to the particular challenges that participants occasionally faced when implementing what they've learned. The follow-up meetings that concluded each course brought participants and instructors together for further instruction and discussion, targeted to participants' specific experiences during the previous practical phase of the course.

The first MEPPI course began with a workshop in Beirut, Lebanon in November 2011 and finished with a follow-up meeting in Rabat, Morocco in September 2012. The second course began with a workshop in Abu Dhabi, UAE in November 2012 and concluded with a follow-up meeting in Istanbul in September 2013. The third course began with a workshop in Amman, Jordan in January 2014 and concluded with a follow-up meeting in Beirut in January 2015.

Phase Two (2015–2017): Intensive Workshops and Symposium

The second phase of MEPPI focuses on the sustainability of photograph preservation in the region into the future. To achieve this, there will be intensive workshops for participants who completed one of the MEPPI Phase One courses and who remain actively engaged with photograph preservation. The participants’ institutions are expected to have greater involvement during this phase to ensure achievement of the goal.

In addition to the intensive workshops, there will be a symposium in 2017 dedicated to the photographic legacy of the region with the objective to expand the network of individuals and institutions caring for photographic heritage. The symposium will highlight the history of photography and the collections in the region and highlight preservation strategies and priorities for the future.

Last updated: February 2015