Our main focus of activity is the digitalization and archiving of data

The Syrian Heritage Archive Project is concerned with the digitalisation of research data and Syrian archaeological, art-historical and geographical collections. These are provided by researchers, institutions and, thankfully, also by (private) individuals in the form of photographic material, drawings and texts. These collections may, for example, represent a researcher’s lifetime achievement, or they are photographic or slide collections, in which travelers have captured detailed views of places and buildings. Increasingly, such collections derive from Syrian lenders. Our oldest digitalized photographs were taken in 1907; reproductions even date back to 1863.


When documenting this enormous reservoir of knowledge, we operate as follows:

In the course of cataloguing the place name or the designation of an object is identified and all related information that is provided, for instance on a slide frame or reverse of a contact sheet, is noted. The individual photographs, drawings and texts are systematically named. The subsequent digitalization provides sets of data, which are further processed.

Each of these datasets has information permanently attached to it, so-called metadata, comprising at least the compiler’s name, the photographer’s name, the copyright, keywords and further information provided by the lender. Subsequent to this, each dataset is filed within a structured folder tree, hierarchized according to place name, building, author, year and subject, for example landscape, architecture, small find, etc.

The digital site index iDAI.gazetteer of our cooperation partner DAI, designed as a largely open internet platform, is used for managing these datasets. There, the according names of places and buildings are geo-referenced and specified with an ID. Thus, new place names are steadily generated in the virtual landscape of Syria’s material cultural heritage.

Finally, the compilation process is checked in a concluding step. Lastly, the collections are consolidated as image databases in iDAI.objects/Arachne and transferred to the internal easydb database in the Museum of Islamic Art. The datasets are compatible with other databases via interfaces, since international standards, such as CIDOC-CRM and LIDO, have been applied.