Persian Collections at the University of Oxford

'Softbridge' Building, Middle East CentreZaha Hadid Architects: impression of how the new building will look at St Anthony's College, Oxford

he Soudavar Memorial Foundation awarded a grant in 2009 to the University of Oxford  enabling them to update their collections of Persian language material, books, periodicals and digital items. The Middle East Centre Library is based at St Anthony’s College at the University of Oxford, the premises of which are soon to be greatly expanded with the completion of Zaha Hadid’s Softbridge building expected in late-2014. Founded in 1957, the Middle East Centre at St Antony’s College serves as the University of Oxford’s facility for research and teaching on the Arab world, Iran, Israel and Turkey from the 19th century to the present day. Since 1978, the Centre has been housed at 68 Woodstock Road (the former rectory of the Church of St Philip and St James, built in 1887). The Centre comprises a major research library and an internationally recognised archive of private papers and historic photographs of the Middle East. The collection today comprises of approximately 45,000 volumes of books, periodicals & journals, and pamphlets. The collection further offers publications in vernacular languages, including Arabic, Persian, and Ottoman Turkish, as well as European languages, with a geographical coverage spanning the whole of the Middle East and North African countries. On the completion of the Softbridge Building, the Middle East Centre Library and the archive will move into purpose-built facilities, providing state-of-the-art resources to conserve and manage the collections. This will make space available in the existing buildings for 14 academic offices and a seminar room. The need for more teaching space has grown more acute as student numbers have expanded dramatically in recent years, with over 30 Masters students and more than 40 doctoral candidates now studying at the Centre.