UNRWA’s collection has more than 430,000 negatives, 10,000 prints, 85,000 slides, 75 films and 730 videotapes and is inscribed on the UNESCO ‘Memory of the World’ register. The rich digitized archive contains rare snapshots of the displacement, dispossession and expulsion of the Palestinian people, thousands of whom are refugees in their own homeland and in neighboring Arab countries including Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.
The digitizing of the archive in Gaza began in June 2013. The digital archive centres around humanitarian issues, containing images that capture the daily life of refugees, and the creation of refugee camps, during the 1967 dispossession and displacement. However, the photographs also document the Israeli War on Lebanon in 1982, as well as the first and second Palestinian uprisings of 1987 and 2000. Though the images draw attention to UNRWA’s humanitarian and relief work, they also shed new light on the political and historical events that engulfed the Palestinian refugees.
With the direct support of the Palestinian Museum, a number of recent graduates in Gaza have undertaken the digitizing of a large section of the UNRWA archive. According to Omar Al-Qattan, chairman of the Palestinian Museum Task Force, this is an extremely positive step: “We are delighted to partner UNRWA on this project. This partnership has significant implications that highlight the Museum’s approach and belief in the need to provide a platform for information about Palestine and the Palestinian people. UNRWA’s archive is perhaps the largest and most important of various collections bearing testimony to the life of Palestinian refugees: it constitutes a national treasure.”
“We are proud to support the project,” Al-Qattan added, “Not only because the digitizing process provides work opportunities and experience for graduates in the Gaza Strip but also, and very importantly, because it will make information and images relating to Palestinian refugees accessible and easy to use for researchers, students and those interested in Palestine. Simply put, this project will make it easier to tell the story of the Palestinian refugees.”
Click here to view photos from the UNRWA’s newly digitized archive