NEH Grant: Women’s Worlds in Qajar Iran

The National Endowment for the Humanities supports Women’s Worlds in Qajar Iran:  A Digital Archive and Website at Harvard University

The National Endowment for the Humanities has made a $346,733 grant to a team of
Qajar historians. The purpose of this grant, which spans from May 2009 to June 2011, is
to develop a comprehensive digital archive and website that will preserve, link, and
render accessible primary source materials related to the social and cultural history of
women’s worlds during the reign of the Qajar dynasty (1796 – 1925) in Iran.
The Qajar period marks an era perhaps most notable for introduction of cultural and
political changes that still resonate in the Iran of today. The archive addresses a
significant gap in the scholarship related to this important time in Iran’s history by
making available writings and other personal documents created by, and reflecting the
lives of, women during the Qajar era.
Digitizing and archiving activities supported by this grant focus primarily on materials
from the following sources:

     • Private Family Holdings. The vast majority of the primary source materials to
     be included in the archive -- unpublished poetry, essays, and treatises;
      travelogues; private letters; marriage contracts; photographs and portrait
     paintings; calligraphies; and legal documents -- are in private hands. Much of the
     material this project seeks to preserve through digitization is in danger of “being
     lost” -- younger generations do not always appreciate the value of their family
     holdings for historians and valuable papers have been discarded. At the same
     time, families have been enthusiastic to embrace the project when documents and
     objects have been preserved. Over our first year we have already digitized 8091
     previously inaccessible documents.

     • Archival Holdings. Primary source materials that currently reside in archives,
     libraries, and museums in Iran and elsewhere comprise the other critical piece of
     this archive. WWQI has already concluded agreements with several major
     institutions in Iran: the Majlis Library and Documentation Center, Malek Museum
     and Library, and Institute for Research on Contemporary Iranian History. Similar
     agreement is being reached with the Museum Office of the Cultural Heritage
     Organization of Iran. The latter agreement will open up access to numerous local
     and national museums and archives that hold significant documents related to our
     project. We have already received 3691 images from the holdings of Majlis and
     Malek Libraries. Outside Iran, we have already collaborated with the International
     Institute of Social History (Amsterdam), and have begun similar collaborative
     efforts with the National Baha’i Archives (Wilmette, IL) and the Iranian Jewish
     Oral History project (Los Angeles).

The team of scholars is composed of Afsaneh Najmabadi (PI, Harvard University),
Manoutchehr Eskandari-Qajar (Santa Barbara City College), Nahid Mozaffari (New York
University), and Naghmeh Sohrabi (Brandeis University). Ramyar Rossoukh, a Ph.D.
candidate (Anthropology, Harvard University) is the project manager for the Women’s
Worlds of Qajar Iran project.

The technical producers for the project are Charles Forcey of Historicus, Inc., and Pendar
Yousefi, the founder of Mahimoto (formerly Legofish). Forcey’s previous work includes
the Visual Index to the Virtual Archive 1 & 2 (Skyscraper Museum at, the Primary Source Investigator (McGraw-Hill Higher Education
at, and a prototype for Arts of the Islamic World (Shelly and
Donald Rubin Foundation at Yousefi, for the past 7
years, has been designing user experiences on multiple platforms, working on user
research, design documentation, wireframe prototyping, high-fidelity mockups, user
interface design, user testing, and front-end programming.

For further information, please contact Afsaneh Najmabadi

Job Opportunity: Assistant for Women's Worlds in Qajar Iran: A Digital Database and Website