Crowns Cultural Heritage Preservation Project Supported by British Council’s Cultural Protection Fund
Exhibit open to public thrice weekly
The Khalidi Library in Jerusalem in December opened (at 116 Chain Street) its newly installed Exhibition, “Knowledge, Place…Time” to public access, completing work on a two year project funded by the British Council’s Cultural Protection Fund. The Fund was set up by the British Council in partnership with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to protect cultural heritage at risk due to conflict in the Middle East and North Africa.
The Library, established in 1900 as part of a family endowment, in its premises today again accessible to the public, houses the largest private collection of Arabic manuscripts in Palestine and thousands of rare printed books, collected by scholars of the family, many dating back to the successive Islamic eras. A major architectural renovation project of the Library’s Mameluke era buildings in the old city, thanks to a grant from the Arab Fund for Economic and Social development and implemented by Taawon, was completed simultaneously with the opening of the exhibition.
The cultural heritage project, implemented over 2016-2018, aimed at renewing the Library, preserving its collection and increasing its community engagement. The Exhibition is part of an integrated set of activities delivered by Library staff and local experts, beginning with creating a digital catalogue of some 2000 manuscript titles and several thousand 18th and 19th century printed books, mainly in Arabic, English and French. Work under the project also included research in family archives and Jerusalem sharia court records, establishment of a fully-equipped manuscript conservation and binding facility, and a pilot training course in conservation techniques aimed at building local expertise in this rare skill.
The exhibition results from a unique partnership with Al Ma’mal Art Foundation, showcasing centuries of Islamic and Arabic scholarship embodied in the buildings and collection of the Khalidi Library. The exhibit, curated by Jack Persekian, Director of Al Ma’mal, provides a historic account through images, photos and texts of the Library, its 13th century Mameluke buildings adjacent to the Haram Al Sharif and Bab Al Silsileh, and the scholars and colorful personalities who created and nurtured it over the years. Its displays includes murals of a timeline covering the different epochs embodied by the Library, a family genealogy and other image and
drawings of the buildings, replicas of some manuscripts and samples of printed volumes and visitor books, as well as a short film portraying the Library in the context of the Bab al Silsilah neighborhood and Jerusalem.
The Exhibition, at 116 Silsilah Street, isaccessible for individual and group visits from 10 AM to 3 PM on Saturdays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Two advance private previews were organized on 20 and 21 November for members of the Khalidi family and the Jerusalem public, respectively. The preview events were addressed by the family endowment Administrators, as well as by the curator, who guided guests through the different elements of the Exhibition.