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COLLECTION Identifier: BER-45

Archibald Creswell photographs


Photograph archive created by architectural historian Archibald Creswell with photos depicting Islamic, Byzantine, and Greco-Roman monuments in Eastern Mediterranean.


  • 1919 - 1960


Language of Materials

Collection materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright for materials resides with the creators of the items in question, unless otherwise designated.


2812 photographic prints

Black-and-white photographic prints of mostly Islamic architecture produced by K.A.C. Creswell from around 1919 to the 1960s, with an emphasis on buildings and structures in Cairo, Egypt. The prints were sent to art historian Bernard Berenson, a friend of Creswell and possibly a patron. They include general and detailed views of architecture and sites in present day Iraq, Syria, Palestine, Israel, Turkey, and Egypt, showing monuments, tombs, mosques, madrasas, city walls, gates, fortifications, and ruins, along with cityscapes and street scenes. Creswell's photographs document some sites that no longer exist and others that have been altered through excavation and restoration, such as Tel Imar in Balis, Syria, and various monuments in Samarra, Iraq.

Biographical / Historical

Born in London, Keppel Archibald Cameron Creswell was a pioneer in Islamic architectural history who considered photography an essential part of his fieldwork. Following World War I, Creswell used his connections to obtain an appointment as Inspector of Monuments under General Edmund Allenby's Occupied Enemy Territory Administration. Between July 1919 and May 1920, he travelled throughout Syria and Palestine measuring and photographing monuments. During this time, he produced 960 photographs, 20 measured drawings, and 300 pages of notes. Based on this material, he successfully petitioned King Fuad I of Egypt to finance his work. Beginning in Cairo in October 1920 and continuing until 1969, he published five volumes of Early Muslim Architecture and the Muslim Architecture of Egypt. Mostly illustrated with his photographs, these works remain essential in the history of Egypt's Islamic architecture. Creswell served as Professor of Islamic Art and Archeology at Fuad University in Cairo, ex-officio member of the Higher Council for the Conservation of Arab Monuments, a trustee of the Palestine Archeological Museum in Jerusalem, a Rockefeller Institute fellow, and a Bollingen Foundation fellow. After the Suez Crisis in 1956, he donated his library for safekeeping with the American University in Cairo. In addition to his photographs, it includes primary source materials and other works on Muslim art and architecture that he collected over some 60 years and used as the basis for his Bibliography of the Architecture, Arts and Crafts of Islam published in 1961.


The photographs are arranged geographically by country, then by city or town, with a summary, in Latin and Arabic script, detailing the monuments pictured in each location.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Collection donated to I Tatti as part of the Berenson photo archive.

Processed by

Spyros Koulouris

Archibald Creswell photographs: A Finding Aid
Biblioteca Berenson
26 February 2021
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard (DACS)
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Biblioteca Berenson, I Tatti - The Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies Repository

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