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National Archives to preserve Arabic writings

Agreement with New York University Abu Dhabi will give researchers free online access

Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: The National Archives and New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) on Thursday signed an agreement that will make Arabic books available online for both research and preservation purposes.

As part of the agreement, the National Archives will share several of their Arabic collections — many of them historical works that can no longer be purchased — placing them on NYUAD’s Arabic Collections Online website, a digital platform that contains thousands of Arabic books from across the Middle East, some of them dating back centuries.

The online platform has become a treasure trove for researchers, allowing them easy and free access to a wide range of Arabic books covering multiple subjects.

Dr Abdullah Al Raisi, director general of the National Archives, said that many of the books to be made available would include those on Emirati and Arabic heritage.

“We have so many materials in Arabic about the history and heritage of the UAE which, we need to include in this project… This will encourage researchers to do research on the history and heritage of the UAE and the Arab world in general… This is a great service for everyone.”

Virginia Danielson, director of library at NYUAD, and one of the key person’s involved in the Arabic Collections Online, said the digital library had collected over 7,000 Arabic books in seven years, and that the project was looking add many more.

“We currently have over 7,000 books on the website… We expect there will be roughly 25,000 books in total when we are finished with the project. The books are collected from other major research institutions like the National Archives, Princeton University, Columbia University, and the University of Cairo among others.

“Many of the books that are put online are out of print and very hard to obtain, sometimes a person would have to travel to a library in a different country if they wanted access to a specific book they were looking for.

“What we have done with the online collections is to have these books available 24-7, and for people to access them wherever they are and whenever they want,” she added.

“The books are based on several different topics, they include history, literature, religion, philosophy, social sciences, and poetry. There is an entire range of subjects available in these books,” she said.

Al Raisi also said the initiative was looking to reach out to young school children to encourage reading among them.

“It’s not only about making the books available… we want to encourage reading among the young children.

“Reading starts from childhood… if you instill in them the love and passion for reading it will stay with them throughout their lives… The earlier you start the better,” he added.