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Isfahan Urban History Project

Identifier: AKDC-2015-0004

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Scope & Contents

The Isfahan Urban History Project Archive consists of 7 archival boxes, 2 tubes, and 2 extra large flat files of documentation, comprising the research of Golombek, Holod, and the Isfahan Urban History Project research team, produced in the study of the pre-modern urban development of Isfahan, Iran. The contents of the Archive were predominantly created during the course of two field work excursions in 1974 and 1976, but also include subsequent academic work (some items in Subseries 2.3). The research in 1974 was undertaken exclusively by Golombek and Holod, and materials associated with this trip include reports, extensive research indexes, maps, and photographic prints, slides, and negatives. Fieldwork in 1976 included the full research team, with the addition of a draftsman and an archivist. Documenting the 1976 fieldwork are daybooks, sketchbooks, map books, research files, drawings and photographic materials. Topical research files include Waqf documents, and site specific studies of notable service nodes. Produced following the fieldwork, are published and unpublished papers, reports, and academic articles as well as materials relating to a computer program developed with the intention of classifying and analyzing project research.


  • Creation: ca. 1966 - 1979


Language of Materials

Most of the materials in this archive are in English. However, map labels, and some architectural drawings' labels, and some notes or other resources may be in either Farsi or Arabic, usually depending on source.

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research use.

Biograhical & Historical Notes

Lisa Golombek, Isfahan Urban History Project research team head and Curator Emerita of the Royal Ontario Museum, received her PhD in Islamic Art from the University of Michigan in 1968. She has published forty-five works in over one hundred publications, on topics concerning Persian art, architecture, and culture. Dr. Golombek’s research has taken her across the Middle East and Central Asia, where she has focused extensively on Timurid architecture and ceramics. Among her most widely held works are The Timurid architecture of Iran and Turan (1988) and the product of her dissertation, The Timurid Shrine at Gazur Gah (1969). Preceding the 1974 fieldwork in Isfahan, Dr. Golombek conducted preliminary research in the city in 1966.

Renata Holod, research team member and surveyor, is the Curator of the Near East section of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, where she is also a professor of the History of Art in the greater University’s School of Arts and Sciences. Holod received a PhD in Fine Arts from Harvard University and has published thirty-nine works in over one hundred publications on topics of architecture in the Islamic world, particularly in Iran, Syria, Turkey, Tunisia and Morocco. Holod has also served as a convenor, steering committee member, and Master Jury Chair of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture.

As chief technician of the West Asian Department of the Royal Ontario Museum, Claus Breede, research team member and draftsman, worked on a number of field expeditions and architectural projects as artist, supervisor and photographer. Excavations included work in Belize, the Virgin Islands, Northern Ontario, Egypt, and Iran. Breede also served as Director of the Bruce County Museum while founding the Canadian Cultural Resource Consultants, Inc., before continuing museological work as curator of The Royal Canadian Regiment Museum.

A student of Holod’s, Juliette Yaghubi-Nassab, served as Isfahan Urban History Project archivist during the 1976 fieldwork.

The Isfahan Urban History Project was conceived of in response to the studies presented at the Isfahan Colloquium held at Harvard in 1974. Its initial objective was to reconstitute the urban landscape of Isfahan prior to structural changes instituted under Shah Abbas at the end of the 16th century. Corroborating textual sources, like the writings of local historians, geographers and travelers, with the observations of extensive field surveys, the Isfahan Urban History Project (also referred to as the Isfahan City Project), aimed to develop a context for urban transformation between Pre-Safavid and Safavid Isfahan. Resources essential to the project included Chardin’s Voyages de chevalier Chardin en Perse et autres lieux de l’Orient, and a copy of a 1924 Sultan Seyyed Reza Khan Isfahan map, reflecting the city prior to major modernization efforts. Funding for the field work was provided by the Royal Ontario Museum. Following field work, research was integrated into a related computer program project, as well as subsequent publications and lectures.

Sources, and for Further Reading:

Chardin, J., Voyages de chevalier Chardin en Perse et autres lieux de l’Orient, Paris ed, Langles 1811.

Falahat, Somaiyeh. 2013. Re-imaging the city: a new conceptualisation of the urban logic of the "Islamic city".

Golombek, Lisa."Urban Patterns in Pre-Safavid Isfahan," Iranian Studies, Vol. 7, No. 1/2, Studies on Isfahan: Proceedings of the Isfahan Colloquium, Part I (Winter-Spring 1974) pp 18-44.

Golombek, Lisa. "Anatomy of a mosque - the Masjid-i Shah of Isfahan." In Iranian civilization and culture. Ed. Charles J. Adams, 5-14. Montreal: McGill University, Institute of Islamic Studies, 1973.

Isfahan Colloquium, and Renata Holod. 1974. Studies on Isfahan: proceedings of the Isfahan Colloquium sponsored by the Fogg Museum of Art, held at Harvard University, January 21-24, 1974. [Chestnut Hill, Mass.]: [Society for Iranian Studies].


11.5 Linear Feet

11 box(es) (5 record cartons (boxes 1-5); 1 legal-size documents box, 2.5" width (box 6); 1 portfolio box (box 7); 2 triangular tubes (tubes 1-2); 2 extra-large flat files (xl ff A & B))


The contents of the Isfahan Urban History Project Archive are the culminating efforts of Lisa Golombek, Renata Holod, Claus Breede, and Juliette Yaghubi-Nassab, which document the research team’s fieldwork and subsequent projects related to the study of Isfahan’s pre-modern urban development. Comprising the fieldwork are notebooks, sketchbooks, research indexes and files, maps, drawings, photography and color slides depicting the city's street patterns, service nodes, monuments and domestic architecture. Also included are unpublished writings, articles, and speeches authored by Golombek and Holod, as well as the foundational work for a computer program designed to organize and analyze project findings. Several districts of Isfahan are represented in the studies, including Jubareh, Dar-Dasht, and Kara’an. Specific locations of interest include the Ali Quli Agha complex, Masjid-i Kirmani, and Old Maydan. The majority of the Archive’s contents were created during two seasons of field work in 1974 and 1976.


The Archive is physically housed in 7 boxes, 2 triangular tubes and 2 extra large flat files. Boxes include 5 archival record cartons (Boxes 1-5), 1 archival document box, legal size, 2.5" or 6.4 cm wide (Box 6), and 1 archival portfolio box, 18 x 21.5 x 3" or 45.7 x 54.6 x 7.6 cm (Box 7). Document box (6) houses legal-size files too large for maintaining within the archival record cartons. The archival portfolio box (Box 7), contains 8 files, the original items received in the box are now in files 1- 6, and 2 added files of small graphic works (files 7 and 8). The two card catalogs are housed in their original boxes at the time of acquisition, both are in the record carton box 5. The 2 flat files are arranged A - B.

The Isfahan Urban History Project Archive is arranged according to size and medium. Where the research team established a particular arrangement, it has been preserved. Most series inherently reflect a subject or location specific arrangement, though others, reflect the order of creation. The following 7 series have been established according to medium, size, and subject matter.

Series 1: Field Notes & Day Books

Series 2: Files

----Subseries 2.1: Research Files

----Subseries 2.2: Project Administration Files

----Subseries 2.3: Papers and Reports

----Subseries 2.4: Isfahan Computer Program Project Files

Series 3: Maps

----Subseries 3.1: Archival Portfolio Box - Files with Maps

----Subseries 3.2: Map Books

----Subseries 3.3: Grid Map Books

----Subseries 3.4: Map-Related Files

Series 4: Other Maps & Drawings

----Subseries 4.1: Archival Portfolio Box - Files with Drawings

----Subseries 4.2: Rolled Drawings

----Subseries 4.3: Extra-Large Files

Series 5: Catalog Card Boxes

----Subseries 5.1: Isfahan Project 1974-Holod: Yazd

----Subseries 5.2: Isfahan Project 1974

Series 6: Photographs & Negatives

----Subseries 6.1 Photographs

----Subseries 6.2 Negatives and Contact Sheets

----Subseries 6.3 Registers and Records

Series 7: Slides

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of the Royal Ontario Museum, 2015.

Processing Information

The Isfahan Urban History Project material has been processed and described by Betsy Baldwin and Michelle Lynch in 2015-2016.


Isfahan Urban History Project
Under Revision
Michelle Lynch and Betsy Baldwin
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Aga Khan Documentation Center, MIT Libraries Repository

Cambridge US