Salameh said the project aimed to link civil, personal, and family libraries in Jerusalem with each other to help researchers find manuscripts and archival documents. The three libraries embody “the collective history of the people of the city of Jerusalem,” he said.
The Khalidi Library was founded in 1900 and is the first Arab public library established by private initiative in Palestine. It is located in the Old City of Jerusalem and has resisted attempts to seize the property since 1967, thanks to the efforts of the Khalidi family in Jerusalem and abroad.
The bulk of the manuscripts and documents represent the biographies of families living in Jerusalem between 1896 and 1930 from newspapers, magazines and handwritten documents.
The preservation team is currently working on indexing these documents. They include papers describing the first prayers arranged for women inside the Dome of the Rock at Al-Aqsa Mosque in 1952, and older documents—including one about the tombs of three warrior princes who participated in the liberation of Jerusalem from the Crusaders during the 12th and 13th centuries.
Lack of Appropriate Conditions
Doaa Qirsh, director of projects at the Issaf Nashahshibi Center, told Al-Fanar Media that the project’s documents and 500 manuscripts often relate to Jerusalem families, and particularly involve Islamic law and Arabic literature.
In Palestine and Jerusalem in particular, she said, there are thousands of ancient manuscripts in the collections of Islamic endowments or family libraries.
Qirsh, who is also the center’s librarian, said most of these manuscripts suffer from wear and tear and lack appropriate conditions for preservation.
“This has necessitated the establishment of several laboratories for restoration, the most important of which are the Manuscripts Restoration Center of the Islamic Endowments Department inside the Haram al-Sharif (Temple Mount), another in Abu Dis, in East Jerusalem, and a new laboratory in the Khalidi Library.”