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Historical Images of the Middle East

Posted by Laurie Frost on November 11, 2010

When I was looking for pyramids, I kept encountering the The G. Eric and Edith Matson Photograph Collection in the Library of Congress digital photogaphy collection. This Collection contains over 23,000 (more than 13,200 digitized) glass and film negatives, transparencies, and photographic prints, created by the American Colony Photo Department and its successor, the Matson Photo Service. The American Colony is described in the Library’s introduction to this collection as “an independent, utopian, Christian sect formed by religious pilgrims who emigrated to Jerusalem from the United States and Sweden” which lasted from 1881 to 1934:

These Christians shared a belief in the Second Coming of Christ at the Millennium. The colony of about one hundred people at first lived communally. Devoting themselves to the people of Jerusalem–regardless of religion or nationality–they cared for the sick and set up schools and soup kitchens, among other endeavors. They hoped to ensure their redemption through their charitable work.

After the turn of the century, the Colonists became involved in the tourist trade. They produced souvenirs and opened a store and a hostel for travelers. (The hostel, later called the “American Colony Hotel,” is still in existence.) Another lucrative enterprise was their operation of a photo service.

Not surprisingly, a number of the photos in this collection are of places mentioned in the Bible.

Hadjim[?] & car--Beersheba

Hadjim[?] & car–Beersheba. LC-DIG-matpc-13474

Bethlehem. Interior, Nativity Church at Xmas [i.e., Christmas] time. Sun's rays

Bethlehem: Nativity Church at Christmas time. LC-DIG-matpc-00660

Palmyra. The Turkish castle. Kala'at Ibn Na'an

Palmyra. The Turkish castle. Kala’at Ibn Na’an. LC-DIG-matpc-02899

Mecca, ca. 1910. [The Kaaba]Mecca, ca. 1910. [The Kaaba]. LC-DIG-matpc-04658

Bee-hive homes, Moselmeih, Syria

Bee-hive homes, Moselmeih, Syria. LC-DIG-matpc-07196


[Egyptian camel transport passing over Olivet, 1918]

Egyptian camel transport passing over Olivet, 1918. LC-DIG-matpc-14759 

Jerusalem (El-Kouds). Damascus Gate

Jerusalem (El-Kouds). Damascus Gate. LC-DIG-matpc-06655

While most are black and white, a few of the prints are hand-colored gelatin silver transparencies, like this one of fishermen in Galilee [ LC-M343- 47012-x]:

[Galilee fishermen]


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