The ground-breaking work of the Palestine Exploration Fund in the 1800s continues to be a most useful source of information to scholars today. I mentioned recently the online availability of many of the volumes of the Survey of Western Palestine, and a few years ago I created an electronic version of the Survey of Western Palestine Maps. But the Palestine Exploration Fund archives contain much that has never been published, and yesterday Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the offices in London. From the Jerusalem Post:
Netanyahu, who mentioned the visit during his press conference with Brown, waxed poetic about it at a briefing with Israeli reporters, enthusing over the organization’s collection of maps, pictures and documents of Palestine dating back to the mid-19th century. "This is a treasure, it is something you all must see," he told reporters, as he kept returning to the subject and talking about the archival information there, and about the knowledge of the geography and topography of pre-state Israel housed in that building. The PEF was founded in 1865 and is the oldest organization in the world created specifically for the study of the Levant, the southern portion of which – as the organization’s literature makes clear – was conventionally known as "Palestine." The organization publishes an internationally respected journal, the Palestine Exploration Quarterly, and brings the latest archaeological findings and research to the public in a series of regular lectures. The PEF archives houses some 40,000 photographs of Palestine, Jordan and Syria dating as far back as 1850, and also includes archaeological artifacts, natural history specimens, maps, manuscripts and paintings.