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Judaica Division Receives $1 Million Grant for Digitization

Funds will support digitization of newly acquired Israeli photo archive.

 
An image from the Israel Sun photo archive of a Maimouna gathering in the Jerusalem forest. Maimouna is a post-Passover festival celebrated by Sephardic Jews.

January 28, 2014—The Lucius N. Littauer Foundation of New York has awarded the Judaica Division of the Harvard College Library a grant of $1 million. The grant is for the digitization of the Division’s recently acquired photo archive of Israel Sun Ltd., a photo news agency in Israel. This archive consists of well over a million negatives covering the years 1968 to 2003. These negatives, representing photographs taken in this period by a cadre of photographers working at Israel Sun, document in great depth events, places and people in Israel. (See a slideshow of images from the archive below.)

Before Israeli newspapers relied primarily on their own photojournalists, they would commission Israel Sun to have one of its photojournalists cover an event for the newspaper. Typically, the newspaper would purchase only a few of the many photographs taken and publish one or two in the newspaper. The rest of the photographs—and copyright to all photos taken—remained with Israel Sun. Thus, this photojournalist archive provides comprehensive and detailed documentation of Israeli life in the period 1968–2003, and goes far beyond the very limited photographic coverage provided in the published Israeli newspapers and magazines of the period.

In a letter to Charles Berlin, head of the Library’s Judaica Division, announcing the grant, Robert D. Frost, president of the Littauer Foundation, noted: “These images represent one of the most important visual resources on the history of Israel. We recognize this is a unique opportunity and that the digitization of this archive by Harvard will be an important contribution to the field by making this material freely available to the public....This grant is a fitting commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Judaica Division and a tribute to your leadership for that entire period.”

The Israel Sun photo archive was recently purchased (along with copyrights) by the Division with income from the Division’s Harvard-Littauer Judaica Endowment that was established by the Littauer Foundation in 1980 and is the Division’s prime resource in support of its digitization efforts. 

The Israel Sun photoarchive is a unique resource that encapsulates a significant segment of Israeli history. It is in effect a pictorial history, in great detail, of a crucial chapter in Israeli history—the last third of the 20th century. This archive will be a pictorial resource for scholars in their research, for students at all levels—from elementary to university—and for anyone anywhere in the world with an interest in Israel.

Sarah Thomas, vice president for the Harvard Library, said, “The Israel Sun photo archive is a wonderful addition to the Library’s collections and expands the already rich resources the Judaica Division provides to scholars. I am so pleased, as well, that these images will be accessible to anyone, anywhere thanks to the Division’s digitization efforts.”

The addition of the Israel Sun photoarchive to the Israeli photoarchives already at Harvard  creates a true “critical mass” of pictorial materials that in the aggregate represent one of  the largest digital collections of pictorial documentation of Israeli life and culture—and one that is accessible online globally. The Judaica Division has other extensive collections of images from Israeli institutions: the Central Zionist Archives (640,000 images), the Jewish National Fund Archives (650,000), and Yigal Allon Center (600,000); and from the private archives of Israeli photographers such as Israel Haramaty (400,000—including copyright), Eldad Rafaeli (250,000), Yaakov Agor (200,000), Yosi Zwecker (140,000), Eyal Landesman (110,000), Yitshak Amit (110,000), and others, as well as other visual documentation such as posters, for a total of some 5.3 million images. Adding over one million images from Israel Sun will bring the total to over 6.3 million.

Berlin noted: “I am profoundly grateful for this extraordinary expression of the Foundation’s longstanding support of Harvard’s efforts to preserve the Jewish cultural heritage—in this case, a unique visual resource documenting the history of Israel from 1968 to 2003.  I am deeply moved by this very generous and thoughtful commemoration by the Foundation of this half-century milestone in the history of the Judaica Division. The Littauer Foundation has, for over 80 years, had a vital role in the development of Harvard’s Judaica collection. Over the 50 years since the establishment of the Judaica Division, the collaboration between the Foundation and the Division has been key to building a world-class Judaica collection at Harvard that serves not only Harvard but also the entire global community of scholars.”

The Littauer Foundation was established in 1929 by Lucius N. Littauer (Class of 1878), a New York Congressperson, industrialist, philanthropist and major Harvard benefactor.

Slideshow: Judaica Division Photo Archive Acquisition

German Chancellor Willy Brandt welcomed by Prime Minister Golda Meir, 1973

German Chancellor Willy Brandt welcomed by Prime Minister Golda Meir, 1973.

Women soldiers, 1970

Women soldiers, 1970.

A Maimouna gathering in the Jerusalem forest, 1970. Maimouna is a post-Passover festival celebrated by Sephardic Jews.

A Maimouna gathering in the Jerusalem forest, 1970. Maimouna is a post-Passover festival celebrated by Sephardic Jews.

Israeli actress Hanna Marron, Mother of the Year, at the official residence of President Zalman Shazar, 1970

Israeli actress Hanna Marron, Mother of the Year, at the official residence of President Zalman Shazar, 1970.

Former Prime Minister David Ben-Gurian receiving Russian translation of his selected works, 1973.

Former Prime Minister David Ben-Gurian receiving Russian translation of his selected works, 1973.

Memorial to U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson in Tel Aviv with Prime Minister Golda Meir and Foreign Secretary Abba Eban, 1973

Memorial to U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson in Tel Aviv with Prime Minister Golda Meir and Foreign Secretary Abba Eban, 1973.