Palestinian Oral History Archive

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About

To access the Palestinian Oral History Archive (POHA) Library, kindly click on the following ​link:
https://libraries.aub.edu.lb/poha/


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​“And the mother remembered how she lost her way when she was little, and how her love for the place where she was born showed her the way back to the nest. She told her little daughter: all those who stray away, their love for their home will guide their path of return. 

”Al-Hamama al-Bayda’ [The White Pigeon], (1975), written by Zakaria Tamer & illustrated by Adli Rizkallah, Beirut: Dar al-Fata al-Arabi.

​About the Archive

The Palestinian Oral History Archive is an archival collection that contains more than 1,000 hours of testimonies with first generation Palestinians and other Palestinian communities in Lebanon The project will digitize, index, catalog, preserve, and provide access to the material through the creation of a state-of the art digital platform. It aims to expand and include additional oral history collections documenting varied aspects of the Palestinian experience in Lebanon and the region. The project is being completed in partnership with the AUB Libraries, the Nakba Archive and the Arab Resource Center for Popular Arts (AL-JANA).

Background

The Arab Resource Center for Popular Arts and the Nakba Archive have independently conducted and collected oral history interviews with members of the Palestinian community in Lebanon. As custodians of this material, the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs, along with the American University of Beirut - University Libraries have taken the responsibility to digitize, index, catalogue and preserve the collection. 

The community working to realize the Archive embodies an array of prominent scholars, librarians and practitioners, representative of diversified disciplines and backgrounds. This multidisciplinary approach hopes to better engage with the experience of Palestinian refugees and the multifaceted construction of the modern history of Palestine. By tapping into newly available digital tools, the Archive’s main aim is to make these narratives accessible through an online database, thus facilitating the possibility of mining these resources in all their richness, layered significance, and their oral nature, through an active and dynamic engagement. The Archive will serve academics, students, artists, activists and the various Palestinian and Arab community organizations in Lebanon and the Diaspora.

The Collection

The eyewitness narratives of first generation refugees have been instrumental to the survival of the cultural geography of spaces, traditions, and histories from pre-1948 Palestine. Our Archive documents the life stories of Palestinians residing in refugee camps and different communities in Lebanon. The Archive’s main focus is personal accounts surrounding the Nakba, which elucidate a defining moment in Palestinian history and collective experience. Furthermore, the collection contains life narratives of the pre-Nakba period, folk tales and songs, and stories of the women in Ein el-Helwe camp after its destruction in 1982.  

Project Phases

  1. Digitize and store the material;
  2. Index and catalog the recordings with searchable keywords in English and Arabic;
  3. Produce a searchable database with a search engine and a user-friendly interface;
  4. Preserve the database and the original material on a mirrored state-of-the-art site;
  5. Conduct related outreach and dissemination efforts.

Goals & Objectives

The project’s immediate goal is to produce a multi-media online database for Palestinian Oral History featuring multi-format interviews, indexed thoroughly, retrievable through a user-friendly search engine and accessible through a state-of-the-art web interface. 

The medium-term objective of the project is to expand and include additional Palestinian oral history collections, of which there are many in Lebanon and the Arab world. 

The long term objective is to build an initiative around the archive that engages with the local communities and the academy; optimizes the use of oral history sources and disseminates the knowledge and experience accumulated; and that opens up new angles and venues of exploration in the official discourses of historiography, and of the history of modern Palestine.

The Video “Lest We Forget”, was released on May 15, 2015 to mark the 67th Anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba, in commemoration and remembrance of nearly seven decades of dispossession for the Palestinian people, and in celebration of the resilience of the Palestinian communities everywhere, and their continued struggle against injustice. It provides glimpse into POHA’s rich collection of the testimonies of first generation Palestinian refugees in Lebanon.

Policy Brief

Talah Hassan, MSc Medical Anthropology, University College London 
Odessa Warren, BSc Anthropology, University College London 
Dr. Kaoukab Chebaro, Associate University Librarian for Archives and Special Collections, Jafet Memorial Library, American University of Beirut 
Palestinian Oral History Archive Program 





Projects

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Drawing by Burhan Karkutli, in Atfal Ghassan Kanafani [Ghassan Kanafani’s Children], Dar al-Fata al-Arabi and the Ghassan Kanafani Cultural Foundation.​

​The Partners

In 2010, a partnership was forged between the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs (IFI) at the American University of Beirut (AUB), the Arab Resource Center for Popular Arts (ARCPA/AL-JANA) and the Nakba Archive (NA) for the establishment of the Palestinian Oral History Archive. The University Libraries are the custodians of the archival collection, and together with IFI they are entrusted with assuring the highest standards are met for the different phases of the Archive’s construction.

Arab Resource Center for Popular Arts AL-JANA: 
AL-JANA/ARCPA works with communities that face marginalization in Lebanon in documenting and disseminating their empowering experiences and cultural contributions. Stemming from its work in the arts, AL-JANA produces learning and creative resources by and for children and youth, believing in their creative capacity as agents of change: deeply rooted in their community’s history and culture yet able to look at the world with critical eyes and express themselves openly and creatively. This is some of the work of children and youth who have become empowered to build on their strengths, and to turn challenges into opportunities. 

For several years now, AL-JANA has been conducting a campaign to collect oral testimonies from Palestinian refugees with particular attention to empowering experiences and cultural contributions of Palestinians in Lebanon, folk stories and songs, recollections of the uprooting, and accounts of life in Palestine. Teams of field workers have been trained to this end, and so far 550 hours of testimonials and material have been recorded and archived. Based on these testimonials, Al-JANA is producing its bilingual newsletter Al-Jana, as well as active learning packs and multi-media productions for youth and educators, while developing a user friendly archive and website.


Nakba Archive:
The Nakba Archive is an oral history collective established in Lebanon in 2002. Since its inception, the Archive has recorded over 650 video interviews with first generation Palestinian refugees in Lebanon about their recollections of life in Palestine and the events that led to their displacement. These eyewitness narratives, with refugees from more than 150 Palestinian villages and towns, recall social and cultural life in Palestine before 1948, relations with neighboring Jewish communities and the British Mandate, the 1948 expulsion, and the early years of exile. The aim has been to document this critical period through the voices and experiences of those who lived through it, and to bear witness in a way shaped not by political symbolism but rather by the rhythms of personal memory. 

Conceived as a grassroots, collaborative project, the Nakba Archive has been conducted by a collective of Palestinians from the camps; the goal has been not only to compensate for an incomplete written record, but also to involve refugees in documenting community histories in their own terms. The Archive is both a record of the memories of a passing generation of eyewitnesses and an act of witness to the legacy of 1948 and its continuing impact on the Palestinian refugee community in Lebanon. A growing selection of interviews and subtitled excerpts can be viewed online. 

The Nakba Archive was founded and co-directed by Diana Allan and Mahmoud Zeida

Visit their webpage at http://www.nakba-archive.org/


AUB Libraries:
The University Libraries embrace the mission of the University in supporting excellence in education and research and in serving the peoples of the Middle East and beyond.
The Libraries select, organize, maintain, preserve and provide access to resources in all formats necessary to support the educational mission of AUB. They teach the effective use and the critical evaluation of information resources and capitalize on innovative technologies to foster intellectual growth. They partner with all schools, faculties and research institutes in the University and respond to users’ changing needs by continual evaluation of user expectations, and active promotion of collections and services.

The Libraries serve primarily the students, faculty, administration, staff and alumni of the University. They also engage and interact with broader communities, where possible, given their material and human resources. 



Sources of Funding

  • Heinrich Boll Foundation
  • Welfare Association
  • American University of Beirut
  • Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs
  • AUB Libraries
  • The Delmas Foundation

Events