Middle East Centre Archives - Jerusalem and East Mission Collection

Old photo of girl picking olivesThe Middle East Centre Archive at St Antony’s College, Oxford was founded in 1961 and specialises in preserving and making available to research the papers and photographs of individuals or organisations whose main area of operation has been the Middle East. Since 1975 the Middle East Centre Archive has been the custodian of the historic records of the Jerusalem and East Mission, now known as the Jerusalem and Middle East Church Association.

The Jerusalem and Middle East Church Association has a long and fascinating history. The Diocese of Jerusalem was founded in 1841 and was originally a joint English and Prussian venture. The bishops were to be nominated alternately by the English and Prussian sovereigns, to be consecrated by Anglican bishops and to have spiritual jurisdiction over Anglican and Lutheran Christians in Palestine. However in 1881, after the failure to obtain Episcopal orders for the Lutherans, the bishopric fell into abeyance for nearly six years. It was finally reconstituted on a purely Anglican basis in 1887 and the Venerable Archdeacon Blyth was consecrated Bishop in Jerusalem with jurisdiction over Syria, Egypt, Asia Minor, Cyprus, the region around the Red Sea, and, later, the Sudan and Iran. The Jerusalem Bishopric Fund, later the Jerusalem and East Mission Fund was set up by Bishop Blyth for the maintenance and development of the work of the diocese and this supportive work is continued by the Jerusalem and Middle East Church Association. The Jerusalem and East Mission Collection, at 256 boxes, is the Middle East Centre Archive’s largest Collection and one of its most well used. The records reflect the varied work of the Anglican Church in the Middle East including the running of schools and hospitals, looking after refugees, advocacy for the oppressed, missions work and relations with other churches. The Collection contains a complete set of this magazine, Bible Lands, which was first published in July 1899.

Over the last 35 years much work has been done to preserve and promote access to the Jerusalem and East Mission Collection. During 2009 to 2010 the Archive has digitised over 500 magic lantern slides and glass plate negatives in the Collection. This serves both preservation and access by cutting down on the need to handle fragile originals by printing easy-to-browse contact sheets. The magic lantern slides and glass negatives include many photographs of the Holy Land from the late 19th and early 20th Century as well as religious art, hymn sheets and photographs showing the work of the Mission. Some of these slides would have been used in talks about the Holy Land and in promoting the work of the diocese to potential supporters. To see a selection of images from the Collection please visit our online photo gallery at http://www.sant.ox.ac.uk/mec/

If you have lived or served in the Middle East please do consider adding your papers and photographs to the Middle East Centre Archive, St Antony’s College, Oxford OX2 6JF (Email debbie.usher@sant.ox.ac.uk).

Debbie Usher, archivist


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