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In 1975 the Department of Eastern Art of the Ashmolean Museum was fortunate enough to receive a bequest consisting of the unique negative collection of Professor K.A.C. Creswell, the eminent pioneer of medieval Islamic architectural history. Among the photographs are many of those used to illustrate the two publications which remain the basic research tools for scholars of medieval Islamic architecture: Creswell's Early Muslim Architecture, and Muslim Architecture of Egypt.

The collection also includes large number of photographs intended for a third volume of Muslim Architecture of Egypt, which was to deal with the monuments of the Burji Mamluk period. Since this project remained unfinished at the time of Creswell's death, the bulk of these are unpublished.

Over the past decade the Ashmolean Museum has undertaken the printing, identification and digitisation of the Creswell Archive with the aim of making this exceptional collection available to a wider audience.

The subjects of the photographs range in place and date from al-Andalus to Iraq, from the late seventh century to the eighteenth. The greater part of the archive consists of images of the architecture of Egypt and the Levant between the twelfth and fifteenth centuries. Most were taken in the second quarter of this century.

Some of the buildings which Creswell photographed are no longer extant, others subsequently underwent drastic, and often poorly-documented campaignes of restoration. The photographs therefore provide an invaluable record for those interested in the history of the major monuments of the Islamic Middle East.

In addition, links are provided to the Fine Arts Library, Harvard University, which holds a collection of 2,706 Creswell prints now available online, via ArchNet, the website established at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in co-ordination with the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture.

Please Note: Due to an on-going programme of conservation, the Ashmolean Museum regrets that it is currently not possible to provide digital images or prints for publication from the Creswell Archive’s negative collection. We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.

However, the Fine Arts Library at Harvard has a large collection of Creswell prints which, courtesy of Joanne Bloom Toplyn,* *Photographic Resources Librarian, may be scanned for publication provided Permission to Reproduce has first been obtained from the Ashmolean Museum.

Before contacting the Fine Arts Library, it will be necessary to check that it holds the image required. This can be done via the ArchNet website (, which includes both the Ashmolean and Harvard Creswell collections, together with their negative and/or print accession numbers.

Joanne Bloom Toplyn's email address is:, but please bear in mind that due to pressure of work it may not be possible for requests to be dealt with immediately.



This project is sponsored by:

The Barakat Trust

The British Academy

Oxford University

More Information    

The Creswell Photographic Archive

Department of Eastern Art,
Ashmolean Museum,
Oxford OX1 2PH England
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