Dar al-Fata al-Arabi Publishing House and Mohieddine al-Labbad

This exhibition presents a sample of the work of Dar al-Fata al-Arabi, a remarkable and influential publisher of children’s books in the Arab world. Founded in Beirut in 1974, Dar al-Fata, along with its Iraqi counterpart Dar Thaqafat al-Atfal, broke the mold of the traditional Arabic children magazines of the time, which for the most part offered up didactic tales accompanied by lackluster illustrations. Dar al-Fata succeeded in raising the bar immensely by engaging prominent litterateurs to craft original Arabic texts and leading artists to forge a new aesthetic. Authors managed to render scientific, historical, and cultural content in ways that were both accessible and linked with the crucial social and political issues of the time; and illustrators deployed the latest graphical techniques to create images full of whimsy, vibrant colors, and expressive force that drew on deeply resonant cultural and emotional symbols. Progressive politics, a strong rootedness in concerns of social justice and in the Palestinian Question, and the idea of solidarity among the Global South fueled many of the publications. This makes Dar al-Fata’s publications compelling witnesses not only of a highly specialized nascent artistic and educational medium, Arabic children's books, but also of the social and political turmoil, the creativity, and the rich cultural, ideological and theoretical debates and commitments which the region was witnessing. The overall hope and impetus was to address--and at the same time to form-- "al-fata al-Arabi", the Arab child of the future, and thus to make a significant contribution to the development of Arab national movements.

The material showcased here gives a glimpse of the rich content Dar al-Fata offers to scholars. Dar al-Fata’s work helps to open windows and to reveal a treasure-trove of material that can inform the study of the visual arts, as well as nationalism, gender, modernity, social and political commitment, and the construction of identity and childhood in the Arab world. The exhibit also highlights the work of one of Dar al-Fata’s leading illustrators, and most prominent Art Director, and visionaries, Mohieddine al-Labbad.

Exhibit Curators: Hana Sleiman and Kaoukab Chebaro.

Acknowledgments: Many thanks go to Dalya Nouh and Rana Kassas for their support in content development, to Mona Assi, Sara Jawad, Layale Bassil, and Hicham Zahnan for their technical support, and to Mrs. Hasna Mikdashi for providing us with some Dar al-Fata material, and for granting us an interview.


Like television, posters engage a wide audience: through a combination of words, slogans and images, they are a powerful tool of communication, reaching out across social strata. Relatively cheap, and mass produced, the poster as a communication medium gained mass prominence and effect during WWI, and served then as a prominent tool of morale lifting, safety warnings, as well as motivating and sustaining efforts at rationing and mobilisation during the War. For a long time, posters were the tool of choice of communication for political parties, the entertainment industry (especially cinema), and also for advertisement. Plastered around cities, on roundabouts, under bridges, on highways, on electrical posts, in narrow alleys across cities, remnants of these long gone messages from the 70s and 80s can still sometimes be guessed or peaked at under chipped layers of paint, or more recent layers of newer posters around various Arab cities. Hard to control or monopolize by the state, posters would keep citizens informed, entertained, or simply chained to the marketing industries. Most ubiquitous were enormous cinema posters, sometimes the size of a two-story building, or political posters with slogans of a political party, images of “the leader”, martyrs, or a timely social or political message. They are remnants and testimonies of bygone gentler eras of mass communication, when the immersive messages of the digital media that we witness nowadays, from the staging on TV of a self-burning in utmost despair and protest, or the cruel mass killings staged by some parties their staging and mediation calculated for maximum fear and control, or the daily bombardments of social media were unthinkable possibilities.

What struck us as we were going through the posters collection held at the Archives and Special collections at Jafet Library was the numerous parallels, messages, iconographies and connections that crossed fields and mediums: sometimes the title of a cinema film poster would be echoed in a political one in a verbatim manner, and vice-versa. Sometimes, the gender or political message would be echoed across mediums (political and art poster) or fields (entertainment or political industries). The message would  thus become amplified, deepened or enriched across layers of time and fields, across geographic locations,  images, symbols, graphics, colors, and methods of printing. Many of the posters we currently hold in our Library collections were once plastered on the walls of some of the major Arab cities in the 70s, 80s, and 90s, from Damascus to Beirut, to Baghdad and Cairo: they then created a rich dialogue and a discourse across time and geographic locations, one which can be guessed in the small traces they have sometimes left on the walls.

In this exhibit, we decided to take these posters out of their drawers, hoping that they would speak to us, fueling a dialogue, a new way of looking and thinking about the Middle East, now that this medium seems to be coming to us from a bygone era, when digital media is the language of the day, and when “unmediated media”, immersive and relentless, seems to be swallowing our everyday. May this step aside, or backward, promise us a gentler mediation, when the pain of others still hurts, and encourages us to do something, to be active agents of change, rather than mere spectators? We invite you to take a look here at a number of these posters, and delve into the worlds of meanings, insinuations, tongue in cheek messages that they embody, propagate and reinforce. They indeed constitute a very apt entry point onto our modern Arab societies’ “fields of vision and mediation”. We hope they can also serve as an entry point into rethinking mediating and representing our region in more accurate, heartfelt and constructive ways than what we have witnessed in the past few years


Exhibit Curators: Kaoukab Chebaro, Abeer Medawar and Yasmine Younes

Acknowledgments: Many thanks go to Shaden Dada, Dalya Nouh and Samar Mikati for their support in background research and content development, and to Sara Jawad for her design and technical support.

The Syrian Protestant College and the Great War (1914-18)

On June 28, 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, was assassinated in Sarajevo. One of the most savage wars ever witnessed by humanity would ensue, raging for four long years across several nations, and continents: the First World War would become known as the Great War, and would eventually annihilate some 10 million soldiers and 7 million civilians worldwide. The Ottoman Empire, which entered the war on the side of Germany and against the Allies (France, Britain and Russia) was not spared its savagery: the total number of casualties in the Ottoman Empire reached 325,000 deaths; 400,000 wounded;1,565,000 prisoners of war. In Greater Syria, famine and epidemic disease spread, killing 100-200,000 and sending untold thousands into poverty. Besides all the human and capital losses, World War I would leave a deep impact on the Middle East, the Arab nations, and Lebanon, by changing the shape, fate and identity of many of its nations. The Great War also left a deep impact on the Syrian Protestant College (SPC), as AUB was known then.

How did the Syrian Protestant College, an American College established by Protestant Missionaries in Beirut in 1866, fare during these trying times? How did SPC, with its multi-national and ethnic student population, its faculty strongly rooted in American missionary values, its blooming professional schools (Medicine, Pharmacy, Nursing, Dentistry, etc.) cope with the many challenges the war presented?

In this exhibit, we try, through focusing on select documents from the Archives of the AUB University Libraries, to retrace this fascinating trajectory, showcasing photos, letters, reports, diaries, documents, etc., which bear witness to the practicality and flexibility of the College administrators, to the vision and steadfastness of the Faculty and student body, to the grassroot engagement of SPC with the community, and to the increasingly influential role that SPC, and AUB, were destined to play in the region. The story that emerges is also a testament to the influence of the war on the outlook of the early Protestant Missionaries, and to the test it put some of their values, goals and outlook; it is a witness to the resilience of the human spirit, to the interplay between grim realities and ideals, but perhaps most of all to the advent of a new era, and to the rise of AUB as an American Liberal Arts College dedicated to teaching its students, what Bliss had already called, in 1914, "reflection", a skill, a "Cultural Orientation", "a vital apprehension of truth that leads to wise and energetic action", one that is forward looking, and that is rooted in its surroundings, and in a culture of service.

Exhibit Curators: Samar Mikati and Kaoukab Chebaro 

Acknowledgments: Many thanks go to Dr. Tylor Brand for helping correct some of our errors, and for his enthusiasm and support; to Ms. Iman Abdallah for background research; to Ms. Dalya Nouh, Mervat Kobeissi and Yasmine Younes for their support in content development, and to Mrs. Badaro  for providing us with some archival material.


Whether one looks at comics as art, as a social critique, as a vibrant modern form of expression, as a means to question and subvert the status-quo, there is no doubt that the history of comics is a history of controversies. Long considered a marginal art, comics have however gained grounds over the past decade: while many comics are humorous and thus do remind us why comics are called comics, comics have indeed become a very serious matter. They are now broadly integrated into academia across Europe and North America, and are gaining following in the academic and scholarly Arab world as well.

Conscious of the great potential and ability of comics to capture the "pulse of the time", many academics now consider comics a rich subject of study, one worthy of studying across disciplines, and from a variety of perspectives. Advocates of the ninth art, both within and outside academia, believe that because comics shed light on many questions, concepts, ideas, historical periods, social and economic issues, power relations, etc. across disciplines: comics and classics; comics and politics; comics and literature; comics and history; comics and gender; comics and urbanism; comics and architecture, etc., they are specially fit to support liberal arts curricula. A plethora of subjects and perspectives seems to open up to educators and students alike, in a novel, engaging, contextual and meaningful manner.

In this exhibit, we focus on some of these questions from the perspective of Arab comics, digging into the wealth of material afforded to us through our growing AUB University Library Comics collection, hoping to open up a realm of discovery onto worlds of comics to be enjoyed and to be taken very seriously!

Exhibit Curators: Kaoukab Chebaro and Hana Sleiman.

Acknowledgements: Special thanks go to Sara Jawad for her support in design, to Yasmine Younes for her background research, patience and support; to Ghofran Akil for the long hours she put in the design products, and most of all to Lina Ghaibeh for her relentless hard work and unwavering support throughout the planning and realization of the exhibit, and for ehr contgaious enthusiasm for Arab comics!. Many thanks go to the Mu'taz and Rada Sawwaf Arabic Comics Initiative for supporting the exhibit and the development of our Library Comics Collection.



In this exhibit, we showcase over a hundred photos from our recently acquired collection of the work of artist photographer Manoug Alemian (1918 – 1994). The exhibit offers a rich and varied sampling from Manoug’s oeuvre, ranging across dates (1940s – 1970s), subjects (portraits, landscapes, festivals, crafts, etc.) and media (silver gelatin, color prints, negatives and transparencies).

It is no exaggeration to state that Manoug's photographic oeuvre, much like a magic lantern, transports the viewer into a realm from which an iconic image of pre-war Lebanon, one that influenced an entire generation, sprang. Using his keen photographic eye and a distinctive “artistic-documentary” style, Manoug offered a seamless combination of mimesis and metaphor: the landscapes, archeological sites, crafts, portraits, and visual juxtapositions that constitute Manoug's photographic art helped construct and reinforce a way of seeing the Lebanese nation that came to pervade the psyche not just of the Lebanese, but of a wider audience of Arab and international viewers.

Exhibit Curators: Samar Mikati, Dr. Marwan Sabban, Mervat Kobeissi and Kaoukab Chebaro

Many thanks go to Dalya Nouh and to Hana Sleiman for their support in research and technical matters; to  the Digital Unit at the AUB Libraries, especially Mr. Elie Kahale and Youssef Doughan for their unwavering support; and to Sara Jawad for her hard work on the design and other matters. Many thanks also go to Ms. Sonia Alemian and to Mr. Ashod Alemian for their great support.



This exhibit focuses on AUB during the period of the Second World War, 1939-1945, using a number of archival material from our collections to provide some insights into the changes, transformations and continuities that the University witnessed during this period. The story we tell is not of the war itself, but of AUB, of its communities, and of the people and events related to them during this period. It starts with the Inter-War years, giving a glimpse onto the changes that the region and the institution witnessed during this intermediary period. It then moves on to tell the story of the University during WWII, a period of defining and lasting regional changes, as many Middle Eastern Nation States were about to be delineated, negotiated and declared.

How did AUB position itself vis-a-vis this rapidly and drastically changing reality? How did it respond to the new emerging political and socio-economic regional realities shaped by the war? How did it plan for what it could even then foresee as a new era in the history of the region, with rapid modernization, nascent states, oil power, and national and social movements?

Throughout WWII, like WWI, AUB was directly involved in war relief efforts and in social service: through planning, thinking, and implementation, that had started at the end of WWI, an increasing emphasis on the institution's ability to "prepare men" and now women, too, for the challenges of the mid-twentieth century were under way. What we glimpse through the story told here is an institution which is modernizing, adding professional schools, modern ideas about pedagogy, attempts to integrate social and public service into its curriculum, while emphasizing the role of liberal arts education, all in an attempt to form men and women of the modern age, for the modern age, capable of serving their countries and societies. In short, a regional University was in the make, one that will prove to be of great relevance to and impact on the region.

At the conclusion of WWII, the Arab world was about to explode with Palestine, with the oil boom and the construction that followed throughout newly formed and independent Arab states-- including a nascent Lebanese state-- all in need of staffing their government and institutions, across the various fields, and AUB was there, ready to provide them with the men and women, with the planning and the professional and intellectual work force needed. The next decades of the 50s, 60s and 70s, until the lead to the Lebanese Civil War, would see an ascendant university, a regional institution, graduating top leaders, politicians, intellectuals, teachers, engineers and architects, professionals, doctors, business men and women, who would go on to change the landscape not only of Lebanon, but of the Arab world. AUB graduates will go on to shape regional realities, as well as playing a key role in producing and reinforcing, as well as participaitng in key ideas and movements, that went on to makr the second half of the twentieth century (Arab nationalism, staffing key governmental positions in many Arab countries, helping chart internaitonal mandates, e.g. Human rights, UN Charter, San Francisco Conference in which more than 20 of its graduates participated.). Throughout these turbulent times, AUB always sicceeded in bringing togehter, and nurturing divergent point sof views, and sheltering them all, under the umbrella of a liberal arts instituion and of a top regional academy.

Exhibit Curators: Samar Mikati, Nichola Larkin (student) and Kaoukab Chebaro

Many thanks for research and technical support go to Mervat Kobeissi, Yasmine Younes, Shaden Dada, Sara Jawad and Iman Abdallah.

The AUB Gateway on Bliss Street, known nowadays as the Main Gate, has stood on Bliss Street since 1901, as a kind of a local two-faced Janus. For ancient Romans, Janus, the two-faced mythical creature, is the God of beginnings and endings, of transitions and thereby of gates, doors, doorways, and passages; its two faces simultaneously look to the future and to the past. The Main Gate has two facades: one looks outward onto Bliss Street, and the other into the lush campus and community that AUB represents, and hence, it, too, seems to look two ways. The Main Gate is indeed a symbol of transitions, and passages, of beginnings and endings, a Janus-like monument with a dual nature, one that seems to glorify, symbolize, embrace and embody transformations, contradictions and possibilities.

The Main Gate of course defines and marks the main entrance to AUB, but it is many things to many people: it is an entry point into a community; a marking of a privileged space; a dream passage way to strive after and enter through one day; a gate house entrusted with the security of the campus, a symbol of and a doorway onto a greener and richer space, an emblem of the safe haven that the AUB campus affords its community; a point at which to declare one's identity, perhaps by presenting an ID, or for that matter, to leave it behind and blend into a more diverse environment in which past and confined identities are perhaps better left behind.

The Main Gate is also a building, not simply a facade, one with a roof, staircase and basement, that is in fact a beautiful work of architecture. It was designed by a world renowned architect, none other than Edward Pearce Casey (1864–1940), the American designer and architect noted for his work in Washington, D.C. and New York City, and  responsible for the design and interior decoration of the oldest building of the famous Library of Congress, the Jefferson Building, among other projects. The Main Gate was at first known as the Gate House since it housed the President's Office as well as a reception room for visitors,   perhaps indicating the readiness and willingness of the University to engage with its surroundings and its community. For many today, in fact, the Main Gate is indeed a symbol of AUB, one that even stands on a par  with College Hall and its Clock Tower, which it was actually meant to mirror, having been deliberately placed at a parallel mid-point facing College Hall.

In this exhibit, we propose to look at the history, planning and  initial function of the Main Gate building, the architect behind it, the evolution of the building over time, and its impact on and integration into the life of AUB along several axes: security, community, possibility, struggle and hope.

 Exhibit Curators: Samar Mikati and Kaoukab Chebaro, with background research by Iman Abdallah

Acknowledgments: Many thanks go to Iman Abdallah, Mervat Kobeissi, Dalya Nouh, Hana Sleiman and Sara Jawad for their background research and support.


The March to Excellence in Music of Zaki Nassif

ولد زكي ناصيف عام (1916) في مشغرة (البقاع الغربي). وعى طفولته متنقلاً بين مشغرة صيفًا، وبيروت شتاءً. فكانت مشغرة بالنسبة إلى موسيقاه فيما بعد بمثابة المنهل الفولكلوري، كما كانت بيروت بالتالي بالنسبة إلى تكوين شخصيته، المجال الرحب لتحصيل العلوم، والنقطة الملائمة للانطلاق. أحب الموسيقى منذ صغره فتعلم الغناء العربي الكلاسيكي من اسطوانات الشيخ سلامة حجازي، والشيخ سيد درويش، وعبد الوهاب وأم كلثوم. وفي مدرسته الأولى مدرسة المخلص البيروتية، حيث أكمل علومه الابتدائية، أمكنه التعرف إلى اللحن البيزنطي بعامل اندماجه في جوقة المدرسة الغنائية التي كان يرتل القداس معها حينًا، وأحيانًا منفردًا. كما تعرّف في محيطه السكني في إحدى ضواحي بيروت إلى الألحان السريانية بحكم جواره لإحدى الكنائس المارونية، حيث كان يرتل القداس الماروني بنجاح.

وبعد أن أكمل دروسه عام (1933) انصرف إلى ممارسة هوايته الموسيقية، غناءً وعزفًا على العود حينًا، وأحيانًا في الاستماع إلى الموسيقى الأوروبية التي استهوته بعظمتها فصمّم على دراستها بقصد الاستفادة من قواعدها البنائية لخدمة الموسيقى الشرقية

ففي عام (1936) التحق بالمعهد الموسيقي التابع للجامعة الأميركانية في بيروت، حيث ظلّ يدرس الموسيقى الغربية غناءً وعزفًا على البيانو حتى أوائل سني الحرب الكونية الثانية. التحق بإذاعة الشرق الأدنى حيث انطلق في مجال التلحين والغناء، ثم التحق بشركة الإنتاج الفني (LRC) التي ظهرت له فيها بعض الأسطوانات.

أعطى الدفعة الأولى من ألحانه الفولكلورية الدابكة في مهرجانات بعلبك (1957) التي مهرها بطابعه الخاص ثم صارت فيما بعد نماذج تحتذى لهذا النوع من التأليف الموسيقي.

ثم تابع مسيرته الفولكلورية عام (1960) بمشاركته في تكوين فرقة الأنوار الشعبية. واستمر نشاطه بصورة متواصلة في الإذاعة اللبنانية منذ عام (1956). وهو إلى جانب كلّ هذا، كان يعلّم الغناء العربي في المعهد الموسيقي الوطني اللبناني منذ عام 1968.

ألحانه الكثيرة تتميز بهذا المزيج المتجانس من الألوان التالية: العربي (كلاسيكي وبدوي)، ثم البيزنطي ثم السرياني بالنسبة إلى الجملة الموسيقية القصيرة المدى، والإيقاع النابض. وكل هذا مقدّم بالأسلوب الأوروبي البنائي مما جعله مدرسةً في الموسيقى تتلمذ على يديه الكثير من النجوم والنجمات في الغناء. وقد وصل عدد أعماله إلى 1100 عمل فني.

Exhibit Curator: Basma Chebani

Exhibit Team: Nabil Nassif, Gisele Hebbo, Roula Hassoun, Akram Rayess, Salim Shehab, Sara Jawad, Mona Assi


يعرف الاستاذ الدكتور قسطنطين زريق عن نفسه، في مقدمة اعماله الكاملة، بالكلمات التالية

."أستاذا جامعيا وكاتبا وعاملا في الحقول الفكرية التي تهم المجتمع العربي في هذه الفترة الحاسمة من تاريخه..."

Dr. Constantine Zurayk: Knowledge at the Service of Life

The exhibit "Constantine Zurayk: Knowledge at the Service of Life" was curated for the occasion of the 150th anniversary of AUB in conjunction with a seminar, entitled  "Seminar in Remembrance of Constantine Zurayk", which took place at AUB on October 31st, 2016. It showcases select items from the archive of Dr. Zurayk (1909- 2000), which was generously donated to the AUB Libraries, Archives Department, by Dr. Zurayk’s family. The documents, photos and letters on display here provide a glimpse onto the multi-faceted personality and rich life that Dr. Zurayk led, as well as onto some aspects of the socio-cultural and political context of a formative period in Arab modern history.

 For the narrative linking the various sections of the exhibit, we relied for the most part on the voice of Dr. Zurayk himself, often quoting the words he used in his autobiography, a copy of which is included in the archive. We also quoted from the introduction to his complete works, which were published in Beirut in 1994, by Markaz Dirasat al-Wihdah al-`Arabiyah, and from Dr. Aziz el Azmeh's seminal work on Zurayk, " ʻArabīyun lil-qarn al-ʻishrīn ","An Arab for the twentieth century."

 We hope that this exhibit, which constitutes an attempt at recounting a life that marked and inspired many in the Arab world, will serve as a testimony to the groundbreaking work of Dr. Zurayk. We also hope it will provide an incentive to do further research on a formative period of our communal Arab history, from a variety of angles,and to bring up its continuous relevance for our understanding of modern and contemporary Arab thought and societies.

 In particular, we hope that this introduction to the archive will encourage scholars to look more closely and in novel ways at: a) aspects of what Dr. Zurayk meant by “putting education at the service of life”, which he embodied in his various activities, responsibilities and commitments throughout his life; and b) the importance of archives in cultural understanding of the past and of one’s current place in the world. As a result, the Constantine Zuryak archive, in its richness (some 19 feet), complexity, depth, multilayered nature, and in its very construction, provenance and comprehensiveness -- Dr. Zurayk collected every scrap, document, photo and kept notes on variations in a document or address; he even preserved his birth certificate and grade school transcripts--, embodies the value of thoughtfulness, of continuous self-reflection, of self-improvement, and assessment that Dr. Zurayk upheld throughout his life in all his functions, responsibilities, actions and roles. The archive is also a testimony to a bygone era of further connectedness, and of a serious attempt to build a community of spirit through culture and education, in our Arab region.

Exhibit Curators: Kaoukab Chebaro and Samar Mikati

Acknowledgments: Many thanks go to Shaden Dada, Yasmine Younes, Mervat Kobeissi, Dalya Nouh and Iman Abdallah for their support in background research and content development, to Sara Jawad for her design and technical support, and most of all, to Dr. Huda Zurayk for her unwaivering support and assistance. 

American University of Beirut / University Libraries / Bliss Street / P.O.Box 11-0236 / Riyad El-Solh, Beirut 11072020 Lebanon / asc@aub.edu.lb