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Palestinian Oral History Archive

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.

“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.
 
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