Working Group Project

A Database of Societal Change in South Lebanon

Digital Archive

Founded in 1938, the Jaafaria College was the first major school to offer secondary level education for girls and boys in in the city of Tyre. The institution expanded rapidly in the mid-20th century, soon becoming the leading educational institution in the region south of Sidon.

A local archive for a global public of researchers

In 2021, a local initiative established a documentation center in the Jaafaria College. ‘Athar Preservation & Archiving,’ founded by Chaza Charafeddine, began to clean, restore, digitize, and catalogue the archive, according to international archive and conservation standards, with the support of the Gerda Henkel Foundation. The digitized collection awaited to be made accessible online, and to be studied, which is where the AGYA Working Group ‘Common Heritage & Common Challenges’ came in.

The Working Group project of AGYA members Dr. Stefan Maneval, Dr. Sarah Carol, Dr. Mujtaba Isani, and Dr. Enass Khansa aims to make the archive of the Jaafaria College accessible to researchers of various disciplines as well as to the general public through an open access database. 

You can browse the collection here.

What does the ‘Athar’ database contain?

The ‘Athar’ online database includes a major part of the Jaafaria Collection in Tyre, which consists of more than 5000 items, among them 3000 photographs, approximately. It is the first and only online exhibit documenting various aspects of the daily life in mid-twentieth century Tyre, including social, political, educational, and fundraising activities. The photographs show local and international political leaders visiting the Jaafaria College or the city of Tyre, outdoor activities revealing the changing cityscape of Tyre and certain areas of Lebanon’s countryside, as well as interiors of the school and some local homes.

The photographs also illuminate the life of the school's founder, Imam Abdel Hussein Charafeddine (1872-1957), the religious leader of the Shiite community of South Lebanon at the time, who aimed to make education accessible to every boy and every girl in the community. Furthermore, the collection documents the activities of Sayed Jaafar, the Imam’s son, who was also actively involved in the directory of the college and the political life of the city of Tyre. Many photos in the collection were taken by the two professional photographers active in Tyre at the time: Mohmmad Darwish and Mohammad Tourjman, of Ramssis Studio and Studio Rayyes Soussi in Saida.

Other documents in the online database include selected publications issued by the Jaafaria College, ranging from the year it was founded, in 1938, to 1982, and parts of the school’s administrative archive.

Access to the history of South Lebanon

The general scarcity of public archives covering this historical period make the Jaafaria Collection one of its kind. In addition, the unique content of the collection is highly relevant with regard to the research of the social history of South Lebanon. Members of the AGYA Working Group, as well as other researchers, are now able to use the rich Jaafaria Collection as an archive for interdisciplinary research on societal change in the predominately Shiite communities of South Lebanon in the mid-twentieth century. The possible approaches to study the archival material range from qualitative analysis of the visual sources to quantitative studies of the school’s registers and other written documents.


Disciplines Involved
Sociology, Arabic & Islamic Studies, History, Art History, Political Science, Digital Humanities, Archive Studies
Cooperation Partner
Athar, Cultural Heritage Preservation Center, Lebanon
Project Title
The Jaafaria Collection in Tyre: Digitization and Research on Societal Change in South Lebanon
Funding Scheme
Working Group Project
Working Group
Common Heritage and Common Challenges
Countries Involved
Germany, Lebanon