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UAE archives go online with Google

ABU DHABI // The National Archives has partnered with Google to launch a digital exhibit on the foundation of the UAE available online from Monday.

The exhibit, showcased through the Google Cultural Institute, includes documents, photos and videos related to the country’s unification 43 years ago.

Abdulla El Reyes, director-general of the National Archives, said he hopes that the resources help both Emiratis and expatriates understand the country’s history ahead of National Day on December 2.

“People participating in these National Day celebrations will have a better understanding of the importance of this day,” Dr El Reyes said.

The resources show events including the 1971 signing of the Independence and Declaration of the Union by Sheikh Zayed, founder of the UAE, as well as the first flag-hoisting and the first collection of stamps.

The UAE is the first Arab country to make available parts of its archives through the Google Cultural Institute, Google said.

The company’s cultural project began in 2011 and aims to bring cultural content online, including artwork, religious artefacts, historical photographs and manuscripts.

The institute has published archives from the US and the Netherlands and also has worked with the National Museum of Iraq and Museum of Islamic Art in Qatar.

Google initiated the idea about a month ago and teams from its institute and the National Archives began working together on collecting the documents.

“They have the technology, with which people can get online and explore history in a more exciting and interactive way,” Dr El Reyes said.

“Having these photos, documents and videos online will help other people around the world to explore the founding of the UAE.

“It is the fastest tool to reach our consumers, the researchers, and seekers of knowledge around the world.”

Dr El Reyes said that for him, the collection’s most fascinating historical record is the hoisting of the flag at the Union House in Dubai on December 2.

Many people don’t know there was another flag hoisted by Sheikh Khalifa at the same time in Abu Dhabi, he said.

The online records also will help younger generations of Emiratis as well as expatriates in the UAE become more familiar with the country’s history, Dr El Reyes said.

“Everybody has the latest technology, so it is much faster and easier to reach the vast majority of even Emiratis,” he said.

Dr El Reyes said he thought the archives should have more documents available online after working on the online exhibit — not just for the creation of the federation, but also for the country’s entire history.

“This is a very interesting moment for us. I think at the end we put together something we can be proud of,” he said.

“We have millions and millions of documents that go back to the early 16th century with the arrival of the Portuguese in the area.”

Amit Sood, founder of the Art Project and head of the Google Cultural Institute, said he hoped the archival project with the UAE encourages other Middle Eastern countries to share their own history.

“I hope it sends a message in the region,” said Mr Sood.

“We need more partners to come tell their story.”

The records are available at www.google.com/culturalinstitute.


Lindsay Carroll
December 1, 2014
Updated: December 1, 2014 11:37 AM
The National