The Libraries at The American University in Cairo (AUC) have signed a memorandum of understanding with the Centre d’Études Alexandrines (CEALex) to preserve historic French language newspapers from Egypt. AUC provides CEAlex with printed volumes of French newspapers, which are then digitized by expert technicians in Alexandria. After processing, the files are then uploaded to CEAlex server, and become available to researchers worldwide. “Since 1798, when La Décade Égyptienne and Courrier de l’Égypte first appeared in Cairo, French newspapers and journals have been published in the country. In the early decades of the twentieth century, when French was the lingua franca of the cosmopolitan elite, there were dozens of publications that dealt with every aspect of life in Egypt, from law, to business, to politics, to culture, to literature and fashion,” said Mark Muehlhaeusler, director of the Centre for Excellence for the Middle East and Arab Cultures at AUC.CEAlex, founded in 2004 and directed by French archaeologist Jean Yves Empereur, strives to preserve the heritage and culture of Alexandria from antiquity to modern times. The Center has been focusing on the francophone press of Egypt in general, and Alexandria in particular, because of the city’s importance in becoming a place of cultural interchange between Egypt and the rest of the Mediterranean world. The center has created detailed documentation, and an openly accessible database entitled PFEnum http://www.cealex.org/pfe/, where users can search the full text of several thousand pages of newspaper and periodical issues, and access high quality scans.
While CEAlex have developed expertise in newspaper digitization, they began to acquire historic newspapers only recently. In order to obtain material for their digitization program, they have partnered with other institutions in Egypt, such as the Library of the Dominican Institute in Cairo. “Since AUC Libraries have significant holdings of French newspapers, it was only natural for both institutions to join forces,” said Muehlhaeusler.
Marie-Delphine Martelliere, the project director at CEAlex said, “The task at hand is immense. That is why we are delighted to begin our collaboration with AUC. It gives us the opportunity to increase significantly the range of materials which we can make accessible to researchers and the interested public (1300 documents this day) via our website, which attracts an ever increasing flow of traffic.”
In the first phase, AUC will be contributing volumes of the legal and economic periodical Journal des Tribuneaux Mixtes, which is of particular importance due to the detailed information which it contains. The first volumes have now been processed, and more are to follow. The staff at CEAlex and AUC hopes that this will increase the reach of their collections, and help stimulate research in and about Egypt.
"The AUC Libraries actually have a long and successful record of acquiring and making available to our greater community excellent information resources,” says Philip Croom, associate dean at AUC Libraries, and director of the Rare Books and Special Collections Library. “The runs of vintage French language newspapers are going to be made available electronically to users all over the world and it is just further evidence of how good our print collections are. Now access to these electronically makes them part of our growing digital resources as well."