Posted on March 20, 2018

Qatar National Library (QNL), a member of Qatar Foundation (QF), will celebrate its official opening in April with two weeks of events to mark the occasion. The public is invited to attend lectures, panel discussions, and exhibitions that highlight the library’s leading role in spreading knowledge and promoting the history and heritage of Qatar, the Arabian Gulf region, and beyond.

On April 17, the Qatar-German exhibition will open, with a detailed look at the history of Arabic and German fairy and folk tales, and how the two traditions influenced each other. The exhibition highlights, among other things, modern techniques of storytelling in Qatar and Germany and includes contemporary German and Qatari tales inspired by the Arabian Nights and the fairy stories of the Gebrüder Grimm. The first QNL Heritage Library exhibition will open to the public on April 17, displaying a wide range of items from the collection that illustrate the spread of ideas throughout the Islamic world, as well as documenting interaction between Arabs and the West through the centuries. The exhibition features books, manuscripts, maps, globes, and travelers' instruments, telling the story of Qatar, along with the history of science, literature, women, writing, travel, and religions in the region.

On the evening of 17 April, QNL will host ‘Truth Matters: The Era of Fake News,’ an inaugural panel discussion on how so-called “fake news” is being used in the current political climate to manipulate political agendas and what should be done about it. Panelists include Roger Cohen of The New York Times; Roly Keating, Chief Executive, the British Library; Charles Henry, President of the Council on Library and Information Resources; and Maggie Salem, Executive Director of Qatar Foundation International. The panel will be moderated by Samer Shehata, Professor of Middle East studies at the University of Oklahoma.

QNL’s ‘Book Club for the Blind’, a project that provides social opportunities and promotes equal access to the resources and services of the library, will also be launched by the President of the World Blind Union, Dr. Fredrick K. Schroeder, on April 17. The project aims to share common reading interests and allow participants to experience the natural connection between reading and communication.

On April 18, in conjunction with the opening of QNL’s first digital exhibition, data journalist and designer David McCandless will deliver an inaugural lecture titled ‘Information is Beautiful: A Data-Driven Tour of the Universe’. McCandless will use visualization to tell stories about the way we live, exhibit enhanced journalism, reveal unseen patterns, and challenge the audience’s way of seeing the world. “One of our missions as a library is to help raise the information literacy of our users – to help them develop critical thinking and judgement skills to find, recognize, and use the materials they need,” said Dr. Sohair Wastawy, Executive Director of QNL. “Our inaugural panel discussion and lecture will address many of the important issues and opportunities we face in a time of seemingly limitless access to information.”

On April 19, the public are invited to attend a lecture by Dr. Essam Heggy, a planetary scientist at the Viterbi School of Engineering in the University of Southern California, and a ROSETTA co-investigator at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Dr. Heggy will discuss the natural forces, such as evolving deserts and changing coastlines, that define Qatar’s past, present, and future. That evening, the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra will perform as part of its monthly Philharmonic at the Library concert series.

The architecture of Qatar and the Arabian Gulf takes center stage with the launch of the “Traditional Gulf Architecture Week; an exhibition and a conference”, which is open to the public and runs from April 22–25. Islamic archaeologist, Professor Claire Hardy-Guilbert will open the Architecture Week with a lecture on Qatar’s traditional architecture, including palaces, houses, shops, farms, mosques, and fortresses. The lecture will be preceded by the opening of an exhibition of photographs of Qatar traditional buildings, taken in 1985–1986 by the French Archaeological Mission in Qatar, and recently acquired by the QNL.

The conference that will follow brings together local, regional, and international experts on the architecture of the Arabian Gulf to discuss its traditions, influences, evolution, and functions. A trio of events highlighting QNL’s Heritage Library will bring the opening fortnight to a close. On the evening of April 26, community members are invited to attend the “Stargazing at the Library” event. The Heritage Library staff will present some of the collections rare manuscripts on astronomy, and telescopes will be set up outside to allow visitors to look at the craters of the moon and other celestial bodies. Participants will also be able to make their own sundials and astrolabes.

On April 29, Christopher Alario, QNL Information Services Librarian–Historical Maps; and QNL Director of Historical Research and Partnerships Dr. James Onley will present an introduction to the issue of Qatar on historical maps, and specifically its mysterious disappearance for more than 200 years. Qatar has been a known place on maps for almost 2,000 years, but the peninsula itself was represented on some maps from 1548 to 1596, then vanished completely until 1823. UCL Qatar archeologist and Arabian Gulf studies expert Dr. Robert Carter will also discuss what we can learn about early settlements in Qatar from these maps.

Finally, on May 2, Marcus Fraser, Honorary Keeper of Islamic and Indian Manuscripts and Miniatures at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, will deliver a lecture on ‘The Origins and Modifications of the Blue Qur’an’ manuscript. The Blue Qur’an, some leaves of which are in the Heritage Library collection, has long been recognized as one of the most significant examples of early Islamic manuscript production. Fraser will discuss the background of this style of manuscript, the way the Blue Qur’an has been altered since its production, and new evidence casting light on its historical context and production.

“The items in the Heritage Library collection show the diversity and depth of Arab and Islamic life, culture, and achievement throughout the centuries. We’re delighted to have the opportunity to give visitors the chance to learn about and interact with some of our most treasured pieces, so they can learn more about the Arabian Gulf’s rich past,” said Aysha Hassan Al Ansari, Head of the Heritage Collection.

In addition to the public events, QNL will be hosting several invitation-only events following the grand opening, including ‘Libraries in Conversation: A Global Perspective,’ a workshop in which globally renowned librarians will challenge and discuss assumptions made about libraries in the 21st century. QNL will also be formalizing several partnerships through signings of memoranda of understanding, and will host a board meeting of the British Library–Qatar Foundation Partnership.

For more information about the events, including times and registration, visit: www.qnl.qa

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