Qatar Digital Library
Archive, publishing system, website
About the project
The Qatar Digital Library (QDL) is revolutionising the way that people study and understand the history of the Gulf region. A wealth of archive materials that were previously unavailable online can be now be accessed by a worldwide audience.
The portal is the result of a partnership between the Qatar National Library, which is part of the Qatar Foundation, and the British Library. Cogapp designed and developed the software for the portal on behalf of the partnership and launched it in October 2014 after more than three years' work. It provides access to a growing digital archive, currently over 500,000 records, in Arabic and English, for academics and casual users alike.
We have worked continuously with Qatar National Library since the launch of the archive, enhancing and developing the site. In addition to multiple new features, we have added the ability for more data sources to contribute to the archive, making it a truly unique collection of archival material.
Making the history of the Gulf accessible
A leading example of a new type of online archive, the website makes scholarly content available to a wide audience thanks to an easy to use, non-technical interface with a powerful image viewer.
The responsive design means that users can explore Gulf history and Arabic science in a way that works best for them: whether on mobile phones, on tablets or desktops, they can explore maps (past and present); over 25,000 medieval manuscripts; handwritten documents; photographs; official papers; newspapers; video; audio; and contextual pieces. Content dates from the 11th century to the mid 20th century.
The development of the portal
The following video, created by the British Library, tells the story of the development of the portal:
Cogapp carried out user research in Doha, Qatar and in the UK to inform the development of the site. A prototype version of the site allowed for user testing and further iterations to ensure that the site meets the needs of the people who are going to use it.
The new site is fully responsive, which means that content is accessible across multiple devices, including mobiles, tablets and desktops.
Available in both Arabic and English.
Highly filterable search
Over 150 facet options to refine your search.
Simple to navigate
Objects that are housed within often complex hierarchies are displayed in a simple to navigate way.
All items are can be zoomed to explore incredible detail, offering unprecedented access.
Free and shareable
Material can be used and reused for free, and everything is shareable on social media.
Expert context encourages onward journeys
Contextual articles tell the story behind the primary source material. These use text, images, video hosted on YouTube and audio on SoundCloud. Onward journeys are encouraged and the rich media has a life outside of the site as well as in it.
Allows for the addition of material from new sources over time.
Swathes of rich content
in the future, hundreds of thousands more artefacts will be added using the powerful back-end system that Cogapp created. The digitized items and associated metadata are saved in to the Library systems, and uploaded to a server as an archival SIP file in bulk, where our software takes over, presenting the swathes of rich content on the front end of the website.
Meeting archival standards
The site and content meet archival standards, with a METS descriptor using common metadata profiles including Encoded Archival Description (EAD) and PREMIS. It also meets accessibility criteria: Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 AA.
Perspective from the Gulf
Find out more about what the project means to academics and students in the Gulf region in this video created by the British Library:
More videos about the project are available via the British Library website: bl.uk/qatar
The site was launched on 27 October 2014 has featured in international media, including Huffington Post, BBC, International Institute For Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works and Art Daily.
- BBC News Magazine: Tales from the India Office
- BBC Arabic’s Afaq programme (YouTube link)
- The Guardian: Historical views of the hajj – in pictures
- The Telegraph: The British Library drives the Gulf's digital memories
- Times Higher Education: Unveiled: papers from British residencies in the Gulf
- Times of Oman: Now, access Omani history online
Explore the site
View the site: www.qdl.qa
Find out more
The Qatar Digital Library is one example of our practice developing online archives. To find out more about our work and how it might benefit your organisation, please get in touch.