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Photography collection of Stichting Het Oosters Instituut

Identifier: ubl134

Scope and Contents

Collection of photographs and photographic materials originating from Stichting Het Oosters Instituut, Leiden (Oriental Institute Foundation, Leiden) and consisting of albumen prints, snap shots, postcards, photo albums and several other items. The collection mainly contains images from the Arab world, but also from Indonesia, Africa and Europe.

A printed inventory is available in Gavin (1983), who makes the following general observations, using the old shelfmarks: Visual materials in the Leiden Oriental Institute (hereafter ‘L/OI’) Library fall into three distinct categories:

1. Pictures related directly to the Library donated to the L/OI by Rudolph Said-Ruete on June II. 1937 (with subsequent additions as well). Stored for the most part in the Said-Ruete Library's large glass-fronted bookcase, these collections were copied and catalogued by the H[arvard] S[emitic] M[useum] in 1983. Their inventories have been designated with the prefix L/OI.SR.


2. Pictures found with property of The Netherlands Institute for the Near East (Nederlands Instituut voor het Nabije Oosten, NINO). In some cases pictures properly belonging to the Oriental Institute's collections (L/OI) or those of the Said-Ruete Library (L/OI.SR) seem to have become confused with NINO holdings in the course of several moves as institutes changed buildings after World War II. Time did not permit the HSM to survey all NINO holdings carefully during the Summer of 1983 but two obvious instances of confusion were discovered. Item lists of those two collections have been appended to the (L/OI) inventory with the tentative designations: NINO 1 and NINO 2.


3. Pictures belonging to the Oriental Institute itself. In most cases much earlier than the donation of the Said-Ruete Library, these pictures are presently stored in a (six-drawer) cabinet beside the Said-Ruete bookcase. The photographs had been uncatalogued, so for the purposes of this inventory they were arranged in series. Retaining their provenance as they were found in envelopes, folders, etc., each series was assigned an alphabetical designation, and items within each series were numbered consecutively (e.g. Al, A2... B1, B2 ... etc.). Where items already had consecutive numbers, these were retained within the series. The designation L/OI was used as a collection title abbreviation, and should appear as a prefix to each series. According to Daniel van der Meulen (explaining his own 1926 signature on an envelope containing the 31 pictures catalogued here as L/OI.A.), consuls at the Royal Netherlands Legation in Jiddah would regularly send to Professor C. Snouck Hurgronje whatever photographs could be gathered as part of the effort to document sanitation conditions affecting East Indian Hajjis. The Albums: L/OI - J through N are albums, grouped by geographical area. Each area is assigned a series letter, then albums within that series are numbered consecutively. J1, J2 - Hejaz; K1, K2, K3 - Southern Arabia (Yemen); L1 to LS - Persia, architecture; M1, M2, M3 -Mesopotamia, Constantinople (few Europe), and Palestine; N1 to N4 - Egypt (N1 includes some Syria)


  • Creation: 1882-1935

Conditions Governing Use

Of certain parts of this collection no detailed inventory is available.

Regels die van toepassing zijn bij het raadplegen van dit materiaal kunnen worden gevonden op de website van de Universiteitsbibliotheek Leiden.

Biographical / Historical

The Oosters Instituut was founded in Leiden in 1927 on the occasion of the 70th birthday of the Dutch islamologist Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje (1857-1936), marking his retirement from active academic life. The original purpose of the foundation was to stimulate and co-ordinate initiatives in Dutch Oriental studies. More recently, the Foundation’s goal has developed into ‘promoting the study of Islam, of Arabic and Indonesia’. This also includes the promotion of fields which have been traditionally part of Leiden’s academic profile: Persian studies, Turkish studies, Semitic languages and Berber studies.


500 albumen prints (circa), 300 snap shots (circa), 130 postcards (circa), 15 photo albums (circa) and several other items.

Language of Materials


Abstract in Dutch

Collectie Midden-Oosterse foto’s en fotografisch materiaal, afkomstig van Stichting Het Oosters Instituut te Leiden.

Abstract in English

Collection of Middle Eastern photographs and photographic materials formerly in the possession of Stichting Het Oosters Instituut, Leiden (Foundation The Oriental Institute, Leiden).


The present inventory is based on the description in Gavin (1983), but follows the regular numbering system of Oriental manuscripts (Or. [number]) as assigned by curator Witkam in 2004. The inventory has been corrected, updated and expanded by curator Marie-Odette Scalliet, using the additional information found in Schmidt 1990 but not in Gavin 1983. The old classmarks in Gavin (1983) have been retained for easy reference. The inventory also specifies in which drawer of the old filing cabinet a specific album was located before reshelving.

The present inventory does not cover the materials still preserved at the premises of NINO or the Said Ruete library, nor the non-photographic materials of the Oosters Instituut.

Physical Location

Universiteitsbibliotheek Leiden, Bijzondere Collecties

Custodial History

Many photographs were sent to Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje, professor of Arabic at Leiden, by his contacts from all over the Middle East and Asia. The names of these persons are listed under the description of the individual items in the inventory.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The collection was transferred from the Oosters Instituut to Leiden University Library on 6 November 1996, with Prof. Dr. JTP de Bruijn acting on behalf of Stichting het Oosters Instituut, and with Librarian Mr PWJL Gerretsen together with curator of Oriental collections Dr JJ Witkam acting on behalf of Leiden University Library.


No future additions are expected.

Related Materials

The Photographic collection of Het Oosters Instituut is part of the larger Oriental photographic collections of Leiden University Library, Special Collections. A cognate collection is Or. 12.288, containing many photographs either taken by Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje or his contacts in the Arabian peninsula and elsewhere in Asia. For more information see the collection guide of the Collection Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje


  • Gavin, Carney E. (et al.), Historic photo collections of the Oriental Institute, Leiden. Photo collections in the Said-Ruete library. Cambridge, MA. 1983. (The King Fahd archives. Annual reports, 1). (contains photocopies of the unpublished typescript report). Link naar de online catalogus
  • Oostdam, Dirry, West-Arabian encounters. Fifty years of Dutch-Arabian relations in images (1885-1935). Catalogue of an exhibition in Leiden University Library, October 21-November 21, 2004. With contributions by Jan Just Witkam. Leiden 2004. (Kleine publicaties van de Leidse Universiteitsbibliotheek, 63). Link naar de online catalogus
  • Schmidt,Jan, Inventaris van de collectie van het Oosters Instituut te Leiden. Leiden n.d. [1990]. (Unpublished computer print, with index). [Reference library, Special Collections Leiden University Library; not catalogued.]


The materials in this collection can be requested at the Special Collections Reading Room.

Processing Information

Gavin (1983): “At the request of Dr. Emeri van Donzel, Director of Leiden's Oosters Instituut (herafter "L/OI"), Dr. Carney Gavin, the Curator of the Harvard Semitic Museum (hereafter "HSM"), first inspected remarkable photographic collections housed in the Institute's home (Noordeindeplein) in the spring of 1980. After several subsequent consultations and a planning survey in February 1983, HSM teams photographed and catalogued the visual documents during July 1983 in the L/OI's new library (at Witte Singel 24).” A photocopy of the typescript report is kept in the Special Collections reading room (see Literature, Gavin 1983).

In 1990 Jan Schmidt (1990) compiled an unpublished inventory of the entire collection of Stichting het Oosters Instituut, including the photographs now in Leiden University Library.

In 2004 curator JJ Witkam assigned new inventory numbers to the collection, Or. 26.362 - Or. 26.407, and had Gavin’s inventory converted to a machine readable file.

Also in 2004, an exhibit was held at Leiden University Library, West Arabian Encounters (catalogue Oostdam 2004), which incorporated items from the present collection.

In 2009, the photograph albums were taken from the old six-drawer filing cabinet, packed in acid-free boxes and reshelved with the other Oriental photographic collections under the co-ordination of curator Dr Marie-Odette Scalliet. The cabinet has been retained, now containing only various archival materials related with the Oriental Institute. These will be repacked and relocated in the near future.

Collection guide of the photography collection of Stichting Het Oosters Instituut (1882-1935)
Collectie fotografie van de Stichting Het Oosters Instituut
Ernst-Jan Munnik, Marie-Odette Scalliet, Arnoud Vrolijk, 2009
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Beschrijving is in het Engels.

Repository Details

Part of the Leiden University Libraries Archives & Collections Repository

Witte Singel 27
Leiden 2311 BG Netherlands
+31 71 527 2857