British Library and Qatar Foundation extend partnership to digitise 1.1 million images of Gulf history

  • Recently launched Qatar Digital Library will triple in size to make a further one million pages of Gulf history and Arabic Scientific manuscripts freely available online
  • Records and private papers from 1600 to 1967 will be included, significantly expanding the themes and geographical reach of these unique archives
  • Manuscripts dating back to the 9th Century will include a 13th century manuscript of a treatise on the history and strategy of chess (Add MS 7515) and a 15th century manuscript of text on Euclid’s Elements of geometry

The British Library, Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development and the Qatar National Library are extending their partnership to significantly expand a bi-lingual online archive of Gulf history and Arabic manuscripts (

The partnership extension, which takes the project into a second phase until 2018, will mean that over a million pages of historical material related to the Gulf will be digitised in addition to the 500,000 pages already undertaken in the partnership’s first phase.

Researchers, academics, historians and the general public across the Gulf and the world will be able to delve deeper into the history of the wider Gulf region and explore a wealth of material on the portal.

Speaking at the Qatar Foundation’s ‘Road Ahead’ Forum today, Roly Keating, Chief Executive of The British Library, said: “One of the purposes of the British Library is to work with partners across the world to advance knowledge and mutual understanding. The goal of our project with the Qatar National Library is to create a 21st-Century online library to transform the study of both the modern history of the Gulf and Arabic science.

Extending our relationship will enables us to now to further develop these themes, converting the huge wealth of stored knowledge at the British Library into shared knowledge that is accessible anywhere in the world.”

Commenting on phase two of the agreement, Engineer Saad Al Muhannadi, President of Qatar Foundation, said: “This planned new material will preserve and add rich new insights into the history of Qatar, the Gulf region and Arab and Islamic history and culture. This project is a testament to the commitment of QF to fostering greater understanding of Qatar’s heritage, and to sharing this precious collection of resources with the whole world.  I am delighted that this extension to QF’s partnership with the British Library both supports the nation’s journey towards a knowledge-based economy as set out in the Qatar National Vision 2030, and opens up this precious material for local people’s academic benefit and enjoyment.”

Dr Claudia Lux, Project Director of QNL, added: “The aim of this partnership is to explore, and raise awareness about the history of the Gulf and the wider region while creating one of the world’s most ambitious and accessible resources for studies into Gulf History and Arab Islamic Sciences. The second phase of this partnership will add further value to QNL’s existing databases and collections as we remain steadfast in our commitment and support of Qatar Foundation’s mission to preserve and bridge Qatar’s and the region’s past and future through knowledge.”

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey said: “This ongoing partnership between the British Library and the Qatar Foundation will ensure thousands more historic and invaluable documents and manuscripts will be available to access by a wide audience. This is an ambitious project which will add to our understanding of the Gulf region and I wish it all the very best success."

Qatar Foundation’s mission is to foster a progressive, engaged society that is appreciative of its heritage and traditions, and interested in furthering learning and knowledge in support of the nation’s priorities as set out in Qatar National Vision 2030. As a member of QF, Qatar National Library’s vision is to share knowledge through disseminating valuable information and cultivating creativity through an exceptional selection of printed and digital resources, regular training programmes, and social engagement initiatives.

Spanning 14 km of shelving, the unique records accumulated by the East India Company and its successor, the India Office, will enable people to discover untold stories from the history of the Gulf. This new phase of the partnership will both complement and significantly expand the content being made available with the first phase of the project. The timeframes will be widened a further 150 years to include records and private papers from 1600 to 1967. The geographical reach and subject areas will be expanded to include, for example, records from the agencies in Muscat and Kuwait as well as completing the records from Bahrain and Bushire which were started in the first Phase.

These records contain both the detail of everyday lives included in personal diaries of key individuals, to the big issues as documented in official papers covering topics like trade and politics. New themes will be brought to life, for example, the changing methods of communication through telegraph and steamship records. In total over 1 million pages of new material will be made available from the India Office Records within the new phase.

The portal will also demonstrate the significant influence of Arabic scholars in the fields of science, medicine, astronomy, mathematics and geography dating back to the 9th Century by adding a further 55,000 pages from the Library’s Scientific Arabic Manuscripts collections. Included within these additional pages is a 13th century manuscript of a treatise on the history and strategy of chess (Add MS 7515) and a 15th century manuscript of text on Euclid’s Elements of geometry (Or 6572)

Over the last three years, the British Library has been working in partnership with the Qatar Foundation and Qatar National Library to develop an online portal, known as the Qatar Digital Library.


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Notes to Editors

Qatar Foundation

Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development is a private, non-profit organisation that is supporting Qatar on its journey from carbon economy to knowledge economy by unlocking human potential for the benefit of not only Qatar, but the world.  Founded in 1995 by His Highness Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani, the Father Amir, Qatar Foundation is chaired by Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser.

In pursuance of the objectives of the Qatar National Vision 2030, Qatar Foundation has become a key engine that is transforming the state of Qatar from a hydrocarbon economy to one based on knowledge.  Qatar Foundation carries out its mission through three strategic pillars: education, science and research, and community development.  Qatar Foundation’s education pillar brings world-class universities to Qatar to help create an education sector in which young people can develop the attitudes and skills required for a knowledge economy.  Meanwhile, its science and research pillar builds Qatar's innovation and technology capacity by developing and commercialising solutions through key sciences. Finally, its community development pillar helps foster a progressive society while also enhancing cultural life, protecting Qatar’s heritage and addressing immediate social needs in the community.

Qatar National Library – Bridging with knowledge Qatar’s Heritage and Future

Qatar National Library (QNL) is a non-profit organisation under the umbrella of Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development (QF). QNL is supporting Qatar on its journey from a carbon-based economy to knowledge-based economy by providing resources to students, researchers, and the community in Qatar. It was announced in November 2012 by Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, Chairperson of Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development.

QNL carries out its mission through three functions: National Library, University and Research Library, and a Metropolitan Public Library of the digital age. The National Library function collects and provides access to global knowledge relevant to Qatar and the region. It also collects, preserves, and provides access to heritage content and materials about Qatar and the region. The University and Research Library function supports education and research at all levels by providing printed and digital library materials for students and researchers. Metropolitan Public Library delivers library services and information for everyone to enjoy reading, meet people, and become information literate.

For more information on the Qatar Foundation please contact:

Gihan Mohsen Baraka
Tel:  +974 (445) 46034


@BLQatar - The British Library Qatar Foundation Partnership
@QNLib – Qatar National Library

For more information:

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+44 (0) 20 7412 7150

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The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom and one of the world's greatest research libraries. It provides world class information services to the academic, business, research and scientific communities and offers unparalleled access to the world's largest and most comprehensive research collection. The Library's collection has developed over 250 years and exceeds 150 million separate items representing every age of written civilisation and includes books, journals, manuscripts, maps, stamps, music, patents, photographs, newspapers and sound recordings in all written and spoken languages. Up to 10 million people visit the British Library website - - every year where they can view up to 4 million digitised collection items and over 40 million pages.