British Library Qatar Foundation partnership

We've launched a free online portal providing access to digital copies of geographically scattered collections of archives and manuscripts relating to Gulf history and Arabic sciences.

Published date:

The British Library has been working in partnership with the Qatar Foundation and Qatar National Library to create the Qatar Digital Library. This is a free online portal that improves understanding of the Islamic world, Arabic cultural heritage and the modern history of the Gulf. It is based around the British Library’s collections.

A Memorandum of Understanding was signed in June 2012 as part of a 10-year partnership with Qatar Foundation to work together on shared projects.  

Access to the portal

The Qatar Digital Library (QDL) portal, provides a major new resource that contains India Office Records related to the history of the Persian Gulf and scientific manuscripts of the Arabic-speaking world. It gives researchers free and open access to previously un-digitised British Library collections. 

You can read expert articles on the portal that have used material in the archives. These articles provide help for researchers and the general public in understanding - and making better use of - material on the portal.

The majority of content has been translated into Arabic, which means the portal is bilingual.

The portal can be accessed across all platforms, meaning it can be viewed anywhere at any time. 

Impact of the project

The project has transformed access to this material – Phase 1 content had a total of around 6,500 Reading Room requests over the last 15 years at the Library. 

Since the launch of the portal (22 October 2014), it has seen over 5.5 million visitors and over 800,000 user sessions generating nearly 6 million page views.

We've seen excellent usage internationally, particularly in Gulf countries and the US, as well as the UK. 

It is possible to have immediate interaction with those interested in the portal via blogs, shared through Twitter.

Content of the portal

Content selected and digitised for the QDL is wide and varied:

  • India Office Records
  • maps
  • visual arts
  • sound and video
  • personal papers
  • catalogued and uncatalogued Arabic manuscripts.

By making content digitally available to the Gulf, and more widely, there will be new forms of interpretation of Gulf history.

Collection guides

Arabic collections

Printed books, periodicals and newspapers, manuscripts and a range of other materials

India Office Records and Private Papers

Archives of the East India Company and the pre-1947 government of India

India Office prints, drawings and paintings

We have one of the world’s richest archives of prints and drawings from South Asia

India Office photograph collections

Our India Office photograph collections contain some 250,000 images from c 1850 onwards.