The University Libraries proudly announce the launch of The Kamal Joumblatt Digital Library, which makes the digital archive of Kamal Joumblatt freely and conveniently accessible to scholars and readers. The Digital Library (DL) also offers a glimpse into the life of Kamal Joumblatt, as one of Lebanon's influential political leaders, who had a role in shaping the modern history of Lebanon (from the time of the French Mandate until the break-up of the Lebanese Civil War).
The University Libraries requested, and Mr. Walid Joumblatt entrusted us, to scan, preserve and provide access to the rich and comprehensive historical archive of Kamal Joumblatt, physically housed at the Documentation Center in al-Dar al-Taqaddumiyyah in al-Mukhtarah (Al-Dar).
Joumblatt was an avid reader and a prolific writer and corresponded with a wide circle of political and intellectual figures from all over the world. He wrote hundreds of editorials and published dozens of books on politics, philosophy, sociology, literature, and other topics. He also held hundreds of press conferences and interviews and relayed hundreds of political speeches in national, regional, and international conferences, as well as in the Lebanese Parliament. Most of this intellectual heritage was preserved by Al-Dar and is being gradually digitized by the University Libraries through this project.
The project involved a rigorous process, which started by collecting the archival materials from Al-Dar, then digitizing and organizing the collection, identifying and developing the Content Management System (CMS), and designing the web interface and adding to it the content and the necessary metadata.
Fatmeh Charafeddine, Associate University Librarian for Research and Academic Collaboration Services, and the Project Manager said that “working on this project was a great pleasure and a great learning experience which helped us expand our roles from keepers to producers and disseminators of knowledge."
Dr. Lokman Meho, University Librarian, said that the idea of a digital library for Kamal Joumblatt started after he saw similar ones for Gamal Abd El-Nasser and Mahatma Gandhi. “Kamal Joumblatt was the first person who came to mind when I thought we should be developing digital libraries for our leaders and thinkers."
Meho thanked Mr. Walid Joumblatt “for his generous donation of his father's books, photos, manuscripts, and other material to the American University of Beirut, which allowed the University Library to develop this beautiful Digital Library."
Meho congratulated and thanked the library team, who made the project a reality and said that the project is evidence of their advanced skills and knowledge in IT, graphic design, and web development, and in developing outstanding digital libraries.
He then added that “The Kamal Joumblatt Digital Library is the first of a series of digital libraries that the Library team intends to develop over the next few years, based on material donated to us by families of exceptional Lebanese figures. These digital libraries are part of Library plans and role in for preserving Lebanon's cultural treasures and heritage and making them freely accessible to the public."
The project includes the digitization of all of the following material:
- All books by Joumblatt (14 that he published during his lifetime and more than 70 published by Al-Dar after his assassination)
- Over 800 handwritten documents, including drafts of published works, speeches, letters, statements, press releases, notes, essays, and other documents
- Sound recordings: mostly interviews with the media
- Video recordings: mostly interviews with the media
- Photographs of Joumblatt at all stages of his life and career
Here is a link to an interview with Ms. Basma Chebani, Associate University Librarian for Cataloging and Metadata Services at the UL, who talked about the project on Tele Liban: https://www.facebook.com/TL.ahlasabah/videos/484443952465347/ .