Digital Archive collects 20th century Arabic book covers


These independent projects raise new questions about what it means to archive the past. In “52 questions about the archives, An essay for the online journal Mada Masr, six artists and archivists reflect on discussions that arose from a course at the Cairo Institute of Liberal Arts and Sciences titled Archive Fever: appropriation in contemporary art. Recent interest in independent archives has been fueled, the authors write, by “desperation over the lack of access to official archives, where information is locked in cracks in ministry buildings or decaying government databases. “.

Yet these new decentralized archives face their own problems.

Researcher Kristine Khouri, one of the “Digital incursionsPanelists noted that projects like the Arab Book Cover Archive will benefit from standardization practices, saying it would be helpful for them to have “context and information about the covers (designer, author, illustrator, publisher, etc. .) more consistently throughout. “

And indeed, Elhossieny said the ABCA Group is now working to bring all this information and more together, adding, “We intend to add nuances in the way we organize our content, so people can get it. advanced search options that can help them filter their search.

“Since this is a visual search, the filter options will include visual options such as shapes, symbols, colors,” Elhossieny said. “So let’s say I could look for books in the ’60s that had a green color, an illustration, with a globe icon in it.”

“What makes an event worth archiving? “

Among the 52 questions asked by Mada Masr’s co-authors about the archives is what makes something worth saving. Elhossieny said that at present, ABCA has no guidelines for choosing worthy book covers. Instead, the team looks at “all the books” from the 1940s to the 1990s or so.

Currently, in the first phase of the project, they are focusing on collection and data. At this point, “we’re not putting together nice or nice book covers; we collect all book covers.

“The number one criterion for us is the quality of the analyzes,” Elhossieny said. “And the second is to be rigorous in collecting information. We are ultimately an archive providing the raw material for research, and this [research] might have such conclusions about what defines good or bad design.

While it is true that on Instagram, the ABCA group only shared the 450 or so covers that stood out the most, Elhossieny said there were many more to come, as he pointed out, “We collect absolutely everything”.


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