Photographs and Images in the ACOR Archives
The ACOR Library holds a remarkable photographic archive related to its role in preserving and promoting the country’s heritage. The complete collection, estimated to number more than 100,000 images, provides primary visual documentation of Jordan, including the major archaeological and cultural heritage projects the center has sponsored across the country over the decades. Given its broad range of content and subject matter, the ACOR Library photographic archive has the potential to be a crucial resource for American, international, and Jordanian scholars involved in cultural and natural heritage preservation and management.
The ACOR Library is seeking to make its valuable collection of images available to scholars. While the center has made several attempts in the past to make the photographic archive more accessible, including an early digitization effort funded through the Department of Education (2000–2002) and an initial attempt at archival-standard inventorying and storage supported through the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (2012), the overwhelming size and complexity of the ever-growing collection, along with evolving digital standards and platforms, has made it difficult for the library’s limited staff to keep apace.
Therefore, as a first step in making this extensive archival collection available to researchers, the ACOR Library intends to process, digitize, and make fully accessible (and searchable) online a majority of ACOR’s major institutional and donated photographic holdings. A staff of senior and junior archivists will work with the ACOR Library staff to process the following five collections (totaling c. 30,000 photographs) that will then be made available to researchers via the web:
ACOR Institutional Collection (c. 6,000 photographs): This large collection of negatives, slides, prints, and digital photographs documents ACOR’s operations and non-project related activities in Jordan since its founding in 1968. Especially critical are the photographic records of the five long-term directors who have served the center since 1975. These photographs document important ACOR events, the steady stream of ACOR fellows, scholars, and students, the gradual evolution of ACOR’s facilities and operations over the decades, and, most important, director visits to a range of archaeological, cultural, and natural sites across the country (and neighboring countries).
Kenneth W. Russell Collection (c. 1,000 photographs): This collection, donated by the family of the late archaeologist and Petra expert Kenneth Russell (d. 1992), provides a specialist’s view of the broad range of archaeological sites and features found in the UNESCO World Heritage site of Petra and surrounding regions. It also features a large number of photographs taken at important archaeological and natural sites in Jordan and neighboring countries, including Palestine, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, and Iran. Read also about the Kenneth W. Russel Memorial Fellowship at ACOR.
Rami G. Khouri Collection (c. 10,000 photographs): This expansive collection of slides and prints, donated in 2011 by Jordanian-American journalist and archaeological enthusiast Rami Khouri, provides visual documentation of countless cultural heritage and natural sites visited by Khouri on his journeys through Jordan in the 1980s and 90s. Significantly, the collection features photographs of not only major sites like Jerash, Petra, and Wadi Ramm, but scores of smaller, lesser known sites, many of which have remained little studied and are increasingly vulnerable to development and destruction. Read more about Rami Khoury.
Jane Taylor Collection (c. 10,000 photographs): Donated to ACOR in 2016, this collection features the photographs of acclaimed heritage and landscape photographer Jane Taylor, whose aerial photography work in Jordan and neighboring countries has spanned more than three decades. While much of Taylor’s photography focuses on Jordan and its various sites and landscapes, the collection also includes aerial and on-the-ground images of important sites in less visited countries, including Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, and Iran, as well as now threatened or destroyed sites in war-torn and destabilized countries like Syria, Yemen, Turkey, and Egypt. Visit the website for Jane Taylor’s photography.
Miscellaneous Collections (c. 3,000 photographs): In addition to the major donated collections listed above, ACOR also holds much smaller photographic collections donated by various archaeologists, photographers, and travelers who worked at or visited different sites in Jordan. Included here are the photos of distinguished archaeologists such as Nancy Lapp, George Bass, and Mohammad Najjar, as well as the landscape and site images of photographer Jay Guikema and ‘Aqaba-Ma‘an Archaeological and Epigraphic Survey project photographer Michael Bannigan.
By leveraging technology to make these photographs available and freely accessible, the ACOR Library will better equip American, Jordanian, and international researchers and policy makers to monitor and assess the numerous threats facing heritage sites in the Middle East and especially Jordan. What is more, this project will help ACOR establish best practice for processing and digitizing its much larger collection of photographic and archival records, particularly those related to official archaeological project documentation.
Briefly About ACOR
The American Center of Oriental Research (ACOR) in Amman, Jordan, is a non‑profit, 501(c)(3) academic institution dedicated to promoting research and publication in the humanities and social sciences, with a particular focus on issues related to Jordan and the broader Middle East. ACOR exists both to facilitate research by postgraduate researchers and senior scholars and to assist in the training of future specialists who focus on all phases of Jordan’s past and present.
ACOR was founded in 1968 to serve specifically as a research base for American scholars working in Jordan. The initial objective was to facilitate American participation in the excavation, documentation, and preservation of Jordan’s rich archaeological remains. ACOR’s mission has evolved over the decades to support a broad range of research and disciplinary interests, however, the preservation and presentation of the Kingdom’s archaeological and cultural heritage remains a priority for ACOR.
The ACOR Library houses one of the best English-language academic collections focused on heritage to be found in the entire Middle East and serves the public, resident fellows and researchers, the local academic community, and many international constituents n Jordan. The library holdings currently include more than 45,000 volumes, journals, and digital resources related to the varied disciplines supported by ACOR’s mission. In recent years, ACOR has also worked to expand its other electronic holdings, which now include online subscriptions to more than 40 journals covering a range of disciplines and research areas. The ACOR Library collection is maintained by two full-time librarians, a library and archival assistant, and several interns, all of whom are available to assist researchers with locating library resources.