The American Colony Collection, recently released as a module for Accordance Bible Software, is the subject of a video that highlights some of the value of the photographs and compares them with the PhotoGuide 3 collection.  You can watch the video below or access the podcast here.  (Those reading this in an email or feedreader may need to click through.)

David Padfield (website) has found the collection to be valuable in both formats:

I’ve used the photographs from the American Colony Collection since you first made them available. While I have over 30,000 photographs of the Bible lands that I have shot over the years, the congregation where I preach enjoy those old photographs every bit as much as the modern ones — there is something about the “feel” and “character” of the old photos that is lacking in modern photos.
I just purchased the American Colony Module from Accordance and all I can say is WOW. The module makes the photos so much more useful than they were before. I used to spend a lot of time looking for a photo, but the search capabilities of Accordance make it a snap. You have done an amazing job with these photos and I sincerely appreciate your efforts.


Scientists fear that they may not be able to halt the precipitous drop of the fish population in the Sea of Galilee.  In 1999, a total of 2,144 tons of fish was caught.  Ten years later, the total was less than 10% of that (157 tons).  Contributing to the crisis are many years of drought.  From the Jerusalem Post:

The ministry wrote that “the data raised real concerns of an ecological disaster that will occur in the Kinneret following the loss of fish resources, turning Lake Kinneret into a fish-less lake.”
The announcement came only a few weeks after the Water Authority released dismal reports on the below-average rainfal that has plagued the lake for the last decade, with water levels reaching their lowest average since the 1920s.
The years 2001 to 2010 treated Lake Kinneret particularly poorly, the Water Authority said Monday. Moreover, according to its summary of 2010, Lake Kinneret has dropped back down to last year’s water level because of the severe lack of rain despite the state having reduced pumping this year.
Except for a few major showers at the beginning and the end of the year, Lake Kinneret’s water levels steadily dropped from May to December. Despite pumping less water out of the lake, the water level has dropped from what it was last year and is now significantly below the bottom red line. In fact, the water level rested below the bottom red line for most of the year, with the exception of the months of March to June.

The full story is here.

Fishermen with fish in net, mat05689Fishermen in the Sea of Galilee, early 1900s (photo source)

I’m excited to announce that the American Colony photo collection is now available as a module for Accordance Bible Software.  Long regarded as the best Bible software on the market, Accordance brings significant advantages to the American Colony collection by providing quick and easy searches as well as tight integration with the Accordance features and modules.

David Lang describes it this way:

The American Colony and Eric Matson collection is a massive (1.4GB) Accordance module containing more than 4,000 historic photographs of the Holy Land and its people. It is fully searchable, and its images will be included any time you use the Search All window to search by Caption. Once you find an image you like, you can drag its thumbnail onto a Keynote or Pages drop-zone to include it in your slide show or document.

You can read the rest of his helpful introduction here.  In my opinion, this is the best collection of historic photographs of the Holy Land anywhere, ever.  I give some very specific reasons for that bold statement here.  In addition to the photographs, the collection is supplemented by thousands of historic quotes and explanatory notes that are a rich resource in themselves.

The creation of this Accordance module makes a good thing better, and I’m delighted that users can benefit from these significant improvements.

You can purchase the Accordance module here.  Those who have already purchased the American Colony Collection from BiblePlaces.com qualify for a crossgrade, which gives a discount of more than $100.

American Colony, Accordance Bible Software


Readers here are likely familiar with the American Colony in Jerusalem, a “a non-denominational utopian Christian community founded by a small group of American expatriates in Ottoman Palestine in 1881.”  Their photographic enterprise was a thriving industry serving tourists for the first half of the 20th century.  The original glass negatives were donated by the heir of the collection to the Library of Congress in the 1970s and the digitized versions were posted online about five years ago.  That formed the basis of a series of specialized collections that we created here.

Last week the Library of Congress announced the online publication of a new collection of historic documents from the American Colony.

The materials presented in the new American Memory site were donated to the Library in December 2004 by Valentine Vester and the board of directors of the American Colony of Jerusalem, Ltd. The bulk of the collection—received by the Library between 2005 and the present—comprises more than 10,000 items and is housed in the Library’s Manuscript Division.

Many of these items were collected by Bertha Spafford Vester as she wrote her memoir Our Jerusalem: An American Family in the Holy City. The digitized version includes a selection of the full collection, namely that which was displayed in a 2005 Library of Congress exhibition. The full press release is here.  The full collection is described as follows:American Colony, April 1, 1925 entry page, opening of Hebrew University

The physical collection focuses on the personal and business life of the colony from the waning years of the Ottoman Empire, through World War I and the British Mandate, and into the formation of the state of Israel.  It includes draft manuscripts, letters, postcards, telegrams, diaries or journals, scrapbooks, printed materials, photographs, hand-drawn maps and ephemera. Most collection items are in English, with some material in Arabic, Hebrew, Turkish, and Swedish.
Items in the collection begin in 1786 and date to 2006. The bulk of the materials date from 1870 to 1968.  Included are items related to the leadership of the colony by members of the Spafford, Vester, and Whiting families.  There is information as well pertaining to the colony’s Swedish members and other residents, as well as neighbors, friends, diplomats, dignitaries, associates in Jerusalem and sponsors in the United States.

This is akin to finding an old chest in the attic full of precious heirlooms, except that in this case there are many such chests and they are available to anyone with a computer.  I look forward to rummaging through this treasure trove of fascinating information about some momentous years in the history of the holy land. 

The doorway to the attic is here, and the browse and search features will get you where you want to go quickly.  You can read more about the collection and its origin here.  The catalog record is here.


The Samaritan calendar differs from the Jewish calendar, and their celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot) began last week.  Haaretz has a brief article about the observance, along with the notice that there are 712 living Samaritans (not “about 500” or “about 600,” as I’ve always heard, but “712”).

The Samaritans, members of an ancient sect closely associated to Judaism, marked the holiday of the Tabernacles, or Sukkot, on Friday.
Followers of the religion held an annual pilgrimage ceremony on Mount Gerizim, the sect’s holiest site, near Nablus.
Though the Samaritans numbered well over one million in late Roman times, there are now only 712 remaining members, who live mostly on Mount Gerizim and in Holon.

The newspaper has a gallery of six photos, but you’ll do better to head over to the Denver Post, which has beautiful images of previous Samaritan and the Jewish celebrations.  The Samaritan community also has a page with video (Hebrew) about the event.  China View has even more information about the Samaritan community and Sukkot.

Samaritan Passover, praying standing, mat01846

Samaritan prayers on Mount Gerizim

This photo is from the Traditional Life and Customs volume of The American Colony and Eric Matson Collection (Library of Congress, LC-matpc-01846).

HT: Joe Lauer


The impressive “Treasury” is the first building to greet visitors walking through the Siq.  Tucked away from the most direct effects of wind and rain, the Nabatean tomb monument has been well preserved for the last two thousand years. 

Petra, Kazneh, mat04477

Date of photograph: between 1940 and 1946
Since that time, the site has been developed and restorations have been made.  The Treasury became well-known in Western culture with the release of the third Indiana Jones movie in 1989.


The first Westerner to visit Petra in modern times was Johann Ludwig Burckhardt.  Before his visit, he converted to Islam and spent several years living in Syria learning the language.  He was only able to enter the site by feigning desire to sacrifice at Aaron’s tomb (1812).  He died only a few years later (1817), but his writings were published posthumously (1822).  Travels in Syria and the Holy Land describes his visit to Petra and how he hid his notes by sewing them into his clothes.  The book is now available for free download at Google Books.  A reprint is $40 at Amazon.

The top photo is one of more than 100 photos of Petra included in the Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan volume of The American Colony and Eric Matson Collection (Library of Congress, LC-matpc-04477).