Grantee:  Omniya Abdel Barr

Date: 2016

The Barakat Trust funded the “Creswell’s Cairo Photographs” project with a senior visiting scholarship in 2016-2017. The project focused on enhancing the Creswell photographic archive of Cairo at the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A). The work is allowing this important photographic collection to be fully available online on the V&A’s search the collection website, with proper descriptions of its content. The project also combined this documentation with research on looting and theft in Historic Cairo.

Creswell books and photographs along with other drawings and photographs from Cairo at the V&A during the special viewing for HIAA members in October 2016.

The project

“Professor Sir Keppel Archibald Cameron Creswell (1879 – 1974), a pioneer in the scholarship of medieval Islamic architectural history, was among the first to use photography in the Middle East as an essential part of recording historic sites and buildings. His photographs represent a unique account on the cities and their medieval monuments.” (V&A website)

Detailed cataloguing of the Creswell photographic archive was undertaken and the metadata of the photographs from Egypt (in total 2,017 prints) was revisited. The project added more description, history of specific buildings depicted, and information along with exact locations (with geographic coordinates and index number1) in both Arabic script and Arabic transliteration. A reference is made to relevant publications whenever the photograph was published.

Five public talks were delivered throughout the project, two in London, two in Cairo and one in Aswan. Two work in progress talks were given at the V&A, in November 2016 and March 2017, to share with V&A colleagues the project’s aims and objectives and projected results and successes. In addition, in March 2017, O. Abdel Barr was invited by the KRC in Oxford to speak about the project and the collection. Three more talks were given at the V&A and Royal Asiatic Society in 2018.

The wooden screen at the khanqah of Mamluk Sultan Faraj ibn Barquq, with the inscription panel and frame, photo taken by K.A.C. Creswell, 1916-1921 (Museum no. 1232-1921).


The project contributes to the preservation and understanding of Islamic heritage by

  • Cataloguing the some of the earliest photographic recordings of the Middle Eastern architecture, mainly of Cairo.
  • Creating high-resolution digital versions of the Creswell photographs and thus identifying architectural structures in the photographs that no longer exist on site.
  • Enabling searches in Arabic script on the new V&A website to avoid transliteration mistakes.
  • Researching on looting and theft in Historic Cairo to help protect heritage.
  • Sharing the knowledge with online platforms such as the new V&A website and public talks.