Preserving Historical Images in the Middle East

Protecting historical documentation of life and artifacts from the Middle East is monumental, especially at a time when conflict threatens the region’s relics. That’s why we’re highlighting The Middle East Photograph Preservation Initiative (MEPPI).

MEPPI was established to not only recover and restore antique photographs, but also to train  individuals so that preservation can happen on the local level.

“The initiative’s main goals are to raise awareness about photographic preservation and to bring training to the region, which lacks access to instruction in the safekeeping of photographs,” says MEPPI project director Tram Vo.

Launched in 2011,  MEPPI was created in partnership with The Getty Conservation Institution, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Art Conservation Department of the University of Delaware. With increased awareness of the importance of caring for the region’s photographed history, MEPPI has stepped in to provide resources and skills that the Middle East so desperately needs.  

Through immersive courses that almost immediately place students out in the field, MEPPI encourages practical application of preservation skills that will have an immediate impact within communities.

The eight-month course is intensive, and so far has led to considerable results. Participants graduate with the ability to evaluate and reconfigure photograph collections in their communities to ensure the highest level of care and preservation.

One graduate, Maha Ahmed Ali Ahmed, even went on to teach a course in the conservation and treatment of photographs at Cairo University, a class that could not have existed without her expertise. In discussing the effect her class has had on her students, Ahmed, in a blog post written for Getty, notes that “many more people are becoming interested in historical photographs—materials that were once not even recognized as heritage in Egypt.”

These photographs hold the key to mapping society’s evolution, and it is thanks to initiatives like MEPPI that steps are now being taken to protect these important records.

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