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As an integral and active leader of the educational and academic process, the AUC libraries create an environment that provides access, tools, content and services to advance  learning, teaching and research, scholarship and personal enlightenment locally and globally.

In fulfilling the mission of the AUC libraries, the Rare Books and Special Collections Library (RBSCL) supports research and teaching by collecting, preserving, and disseminating primary sources about the culture, intellectual life, and society of Egypt and globally.

 

Collection Strengths and Curatorial Areas 

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Rare Books

The RBSCL’s rare book collections were built largely through the acquisition of the private libraries of discriminating collectors like Sir K.A.C. Creswell, Max Debbane, Labib Habachi, Selim Hassan, and Mahmoud Saba. Their chief areas of interest - Islamic art and architecture, Egyptology, and travel literature - remain strengths today. Highlights include the Napoleonic Description de L'Egypte, volumes of the lithographs of artist David Roberts, and handwritten manuscripts. The collection has grown with additional acquisitions from distinguished scholars and bibliophiles.

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Photographs

RBSCL Photographic holdings richly document the history, society, culture, and architecture of Egypt and the Middle East. Formats include prints, negatives, slides, photograph albums, postcards, stereoscope cards, and digital images, as well as rare and contemporary books.  Notable are 19th and early 20th century prints and traveler albums; the collection of Islamic architecture scholar Sir K.A.C. Creswell; the corpus of renowned 20th century studio and art photographer Van-Leo; and photographs within the archives of architects (like Hassan Fathy), Egyptologists, and others.

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Regional Architecture Collections

The RBSCL documents the architectural heritage of modern Egypt and the Middle East through the work of its Regional Architecture Collections (RAC) unit.  The RAC houses archival resources like plans, drawings, models, and other materials from many of Egypt’s and the Middle East’s leading 20th-century architects, such as Hassan Fathy, Ramses Wissa Wassef, Sayed Karim, Gamal Bakry, and others. Also available is material documenting and related to the conservation of historic Islamic architecture in Egypt and the region.

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Islamic Art and Architecture

The RBSCL offers extensive resources for the study of Islamic Art and Architecture, reflecting its origins in the library of pioneering scholar Sir K.A.C. Creswell. In addition to current monographs and periodicals, RBSCL holds extensive photographic resources, centered on Creswell’s own collection. Other archival resources like architectural plans are also available, along with other material ranging from maps to theses.

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Egyptology and Coptic Studies

The RBSCL offers comprehensive resources for Egyptology research, including rare and current books, journals, and other research tools about ancient Egypt, in print and digital forms. Established through the acquisition of the libraries of leading scholars like Labib Habachi and Selim Hassan, holdings cover all aspects of Egyptology.  These are complemented by the archives of prominent Egyptologists, with an emphasis on Egyptians' contribution to the discipline, as well as photograph collections dating back to the 19th century.

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Egyptian Society, Arts, and Culture

RBSCL possesses extensive primary resources on the society, arts, and culture of modern Egypt (1800s-2000s). The archives of leading visual artists, cinema memorabilia, and more support the study of Egyptian art history and culture. Women’s history and social change are documented by archival collections of Huda Shaarawi and other reformers, social scientists, and civic organizations.  Economic and political life is revealed through primary sources like business records and material on Egypt’s 2011 revolution. Book, magazine, and photograph collections complement these holdings. 

 

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Archives

The RBSCL maintains archives, personal papers, and other primary source collections related to modern Egyptian cultural, artistic, intellectual, political, economic, and social life. Archival materials related to architecture and scholarship on Egypt’s ancient and medieval past are also available. Managed by the RBSCL’s Archives unit (responsible also for AUC’s University Archives), these collections include a variety of formats like correspondence, writings, publications, visual resources, and memorabilia and artifacts. Other RBSCL curators handle additional formats like photographs, architectural plans, and maps.

 

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AUC University Archives

The AUC University Archives is the official repository for the history and records of the American University in Cairo. Covering AUC’s early 20th century origins through the present day, holdings include records and documents, publications, photographs, videos and other audiovisual recordings, oral histories, websites, and other artifacts.

 

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AUC Records Management

AUC Records Management supports university offices in handling their inactive documents, files, and information, providing guidance on how long to keep records, and services like storage and disposal. Our mission is ensuring that documents required for administrative, legal, financial, or historical purposes are kept for as long as needed, stored securely, retrieved efficiently from the Records Centers, and appropriately disposed of or transferred to the University Archives. 

 

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Maps

RBSCL maintains over 5,000 maps documenting Egypt and the Middle East, with an emphasis on Cairo’s urban development.  Dating from the 18th to 20th centuries, they include atlases, topographic and cadastral maps, insurance plans, and street, transportation, and communication maps, and were produced by entities ranging from the Egyptian Survey Authority to the British military and UNESCO. Travel and other maps may also be found in various rare books and archival collections.

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Oral Histories and Audiovisual Collections

Egypt’s heritage and the history of the American University in Cairo are the focus of oral history initiatives at RBSCL and its collections of audiovisual materials.  The oral history program led by the Archives unit focuses on interviews with members of the AUC community, individuals accomplished in their field, and witnesses to important events in Egypt like the 2011 revolution. Besides these and other audio recordings, the Archives maintains collections of reel-to-reel films and videos documenting Egypt and the university.

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Historical Magazines and Periodicals

The Rare Books and Special Collections Library maintains a variety of Egyptian and foreign historical magazines and periodicals, in Arabic, English, French, and other languages. These include titles like general-interest magazine Al-Musawwar (1920s-2010s) and the British community’s Sphinx weekly (1890s-1940s). Other holdings include academic journals noteworthy for rarity or age, and specialized professional periodicals like the Bulletin des Tribunaux Mixtes.  Offprints are also available, such as the Kraus-Meyerhof collection covering Arab and Islamic medicine, astronomy, mathematics, philosophy, and literature.

Using the Library

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Visiting and Access to the Library

The Rare Books and Special Collections Library plays an important role in preserving Egypt’s heritage, and is keen to promote access to its collections for academic researchers. We also work with the public, schools, and community groups to promote a wider interest in cultural heritage.  Click below for information about our location, hours, and access policies and procedures, including how to arrange visits and tours.

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Doing Research at the RBSCL

This guide provides useful information to help you plan your research at the Rare Books and Special Collections Library, including guidelines and tips for on-site and remote researchers, and using rare books, open-stack and reserve items, and special collections materials.

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Reproductions and Digitization

The Digitization Center at the Rare Books and Special Collections Library provides high-quality digitization services for library collection materials across a wide variety of formats. Highly trained staff combine state-of-the-art digitization equipment with best practices to provide support for collection-level digitization projects, systematic digitization, as well as on-demand requests by AUC faculty, students, and researchers. The Center has also contributed to major international digital initiatives such as the Arabic Collections Online project. Read below for policies, procedures, and pricing.

About the Library

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History and Facilities

Founded in 1992, the Rare Books and Special Collections Library combined predecessor units, including the personal library of Sir K.A.C. Creswell--a pioneering figure in the study of Islamic art and architecture--whose collection came to AUC in the 1950s. Housed until 2010 in a restored 19th-century villa at AUC’s Tahrir Square campus, the RBSCL now occupies the third floor of the Library on the New Caro campus, in addition to other facilities in the building.

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Care of Collections and Conservation

The RBSCL applies internationally-recognized best practices to preserve its collections. These include climate-controlled spaces, assuring security, and organizing, housing, and describing collections according to global library and archives standards. RBSCL’s well-equipped Conservation Laboratory is staffed by trained specialists who clean and repair books and documents, and craft custom-designed containers when necessary. The conservators also prepare and install items for exhibition display at the RBSCL and other campus venues.

 

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Donating to the RBSCL

Join us in preserving Egypt’s heritage!  The RBSCL welcomes your help in building collections of documents, photographs, family papers, maps, and rare books. Over the years the library’s research holdings have grown thanks to donors generously contributing rare materials that reflect the history, culture, and society of Egypt and the Middle East, helping preserve that heritage for future generations. For more information on the kinds of donations that would be suitable for the library, browse our website’s Collections pages.

 

Exhibitions

RBSCL exhibitions showcase its treasures and the stories they tell. On display on the third floor of the library (as well as other campus and off-campus locations), exhibitions are open to the public and free of charge. See Visiting the Library to plan your visit.
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Creswell's Cairo Collection

A century ago Sir K.A.C. Creswell began documenting Cairo’s medieval monuments.  Photographs, archival documents, and his equipment, along with cutting-edge digital tools, commemorate his achievements.

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fawzia

Princess Fawzia: The Duality of Egyptian Womanhood Through Western and Egyptian Eyes

Historical magazines with diverse viewpoints vividly reveal how the public roles and private life of Egypt’s Princess Fawzia were portrayed in the 1930s and 1940s.

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Contact Information

Contact Numbers

RBSCL Research Services Desk: +2.2615.3676

 

Library Directory

For the Library directory, click here.

To contact an RBSCL subject specialist, click here.

Email Contacts

Submit all questions about how to use Library services, plan your visit, request a library tour or find information to: rbscl-ref@aucegypt.edu 

 

 

Postal Address

Rare Books and Special Collections Library
3rd floor,Library Building
The American University in Cairo
New Cairo Campus
AUC Avenue,
P.O. Box 74
New Cairo11835, Egypt

 

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