After 14 years of hard work, Bernard O’Kane, professor of Islamic art and architecture at the American University in Cairo (AUC), has managed to compile a detailed report of Islamic unscriptions in the historic zone of Cairo as part of the project to preserve and document inscriptions and epigraphs on Islamic monuments in the city up until the 1800s.
According to a press release distributed by the AUC press office, what drove O’Kane to undertake the project was that many of the Islamic monuments in Cairo were deteriorating and in danger of disappearing; there was no documentation of the inscriptions. “I felt I needed to do something to help with the preservation of information,” he said.
The project has collected data and photographs from 1997 to 2004, after which a report was submitted to ARCE. Since then, O’Kane, in conjunction with the Centre for Documentation of Cultural and Natural Heritage (CDCNH), has been working on transferring the data into software that will generate a fully compatible and searchable database in both the original Arabic epigraphy and English translations.
The release says the database, which includes 3,250 inscriptions and 11,000 photographs, will be available in DVD format and, ultimately, online. “The main aim is to make access to the thousands of photographs and information on the database easier,” said O’Kane, who also took part in the photography. “This is a tool that can be used in many ways by scholars, historians, art historians and linguists to study the inscriptions and language used on Islamic monuments in Cairo."
O’Kane has been teaching at AUC since 1980 and is the recipient of the University’s 2005 Excellence in Research and Creative Endeavors Award.