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