This Tuesday, the Society welcomed members from the Middle East Centre for Arab Studies (MECAS) for an introduction to the Society’s history and collections. Apart from small student groups, this was the first external group visit that the Society has hosted on site since lockdown measures were eased.
The Society’s Director, Alison Ohta spoke to the group about the Society’s history whilst also introducing some of the collections and their links to the Arab world. This included several items from the Society’s Sir Richard Burton Collection, including his consular hat and a walking cane gifted by the King of Dahomey (Benin). During Burton’s posting in West Africa, he devoted much of his spare time to translating the One Thousand and One Nights from Arabic. We displayed several fine copies of Burton’s translation, which was privately printed for his friends and admirers. (One of these copies was formerly owned by Aleister Crowley, friend of Burton collector Oscar Eckenstein.)
We also exhibited a collection of watercolours and drawings dating from the 2nd Euphrates Expedition (1837-1841), a surveying mission intended to discover a new overland trade route between Europe and India (a project later made redundant by the opening of the Suez Canal).
We enjoyed welcoming our first visitor group back to the Society and look forward to organising more of these in the coming months.
On Tuesday, we also welcomed back volunteers from the Arts Society/National Association of Decorative and Fine Arts Societies (NADFAS) for the first time since March 2020.
NADFAS volunteers work on a huge range of projects, helping to preserve the nation’s artistic heritage for current and future generations. The Society has worked with NADFAS for a number of years now, with volunteers carrying out important preservation work on the Society’s collections. This has included cleaning collections, repackaging, repairing book bindings and all manner of conservation repairs.
Anyone interested in learning more about NADFAS and potentially supporting the work of the group should contact the Society’s Librarian (firstname.lastname@example.org) or the Archivist (email@example.com).