Skip to main content

Aga Khan Visual Archive

Identifier: AKDC-1980-0001

  • Staff Only
  • Select item to request

Scope and Contents

The Aga Khan Visual Archive (AKVA) is a collection of the Aga Khan Documentation Center, MIT Libraries (AKDC@MIT), that consists of over 120,000 slides and digital images of architecture, urbanism, and the built environment of Muslim societies, donated by students and scholars, affiliated with the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at MIT, as well as academics, scholars, cultural institutions, and architects from around the world. The images date from the 1970s through the present, and document historic and contemporary sites in the Islamic world, many of which are not documented elsewhere or have changed significantly since their documentation, either through restoration, renovation, or even destruction.

The collection began with the foundation of the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at MIT and Harvard, and the concurrent establishment of a documentation center to support the research and teaching of its faculty and students. Students who received travel fellowships from the Aga Khan Program to conduct research agreed to duplicate their slides and donate the duplicate copies to the documentation center. Professors and visiting scholars also donated slides of monuments they had taken. The librarians of the documentation center also occasionally purchased sets of slides to supplement the scope of the material. The slides served as illustrations for lectures, books, and other educational materials produced by AKDC@MIT, and formed the seed collection for the Archnet Digital Library, the predecessor to that was established in its first form in the late 1990s.


  • Creation: Various single year periods from 1980 to 2014

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research; however, the collection is not yet fully processed and may need to be screened before use. In accordance with MIT Policy, there may be restrictions on access to MIT records.

Conditions Governing Use

Access to collections in the Department of Distinctive Collections is not authorization to publish. Please see the MIT Libraries Permissions Policy for permission information. Copyright of many items in this collection may be held by the respective creators, not by MIT.


209 box(es) (Document boxes containing slides in sleeve pages with related documentation) : 209 Boxes, various sizes. Some have been combined to save space, but retain their numbers both on the joint box. ; Document boxes vary in size from 14 inch legal or 12 inch letter (depth), and 2.5 or 5 inches (width), and are 10.5 inches in height

Language of Materials


Processing Information

Please note that these boxes of slides have been collected and processed for four decades, by different staff members working with the Aga Khan Visual Archive. Therefore, for that reason as well perhaps as personal preferences and differing circumstances, they have been handled in a variety of ways. In particular the written descriptive content, provided usually by the photographers themselves, and usually slide by slide, for identification as much as possible, has varied widely in detail and coverage.

Aga Khan Visual Archive Collection
In Progress
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