‘The Long Journey’: The life and history of Palestine Refugees through the UNRWA photo and film archive

22 January 2015
A woman browses through the selection of photos at the exhibition. © UNRWA Photo by Alaa Ghosheh
UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl (second from right) talks to the media at the opening of the exhibition. © UNRWA Photo by Alaa Ghosheh


UNRWA has brought the Long Journey photography exhibition to the Al-Bireh Cultural Center in the city of Al-Bireh. The exhibition showcases iconic photos and films depicting the life of Palestine refugees since 1948, selected from the digitized UNRWA Archive.

The UNRWA Archive contains more than 430,000 negatives, 10,000 prints, 85,000 slides, 75 films and 730 video cassettes. In 2009, it was inscribed by UNESCO in the Memory of the World Register, in recognition of its historical value.

UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl inaugurated the exhibition in Al-Bireh. “This important photographic and audio-visual archive helps people engage with the history of Palestine refugees and learn about their lives,” Mr. Krähenbühl said. “We are committed to preserving the archive for future generations to ensure this essential part of Palestine heritage will not be lost.”

Digitizing the archive not only rescues and safeguards the material, but also makes it easier to categorize and disseminate, giving new life to this historical resource.

The archive consists of images and films taken by UNRWA photographers throughout the tumultuous second half of the twentieth century and start of the twenty-first century. It includes iconic images of Palestinians fleeing their homes in 1948; the establishment of refugee camps in the 1950s; the second flight, in 1967; hostilities in Lebanon; and unrest from the second half of the 1980s to the early twenty-first century. The lives of Palestine refugees are central to the archive, often in the context of UNRWA’s work, and portraits of important public figures and scenes of turbulent political events serve as a reminder of the troubled context that has become part of the community's collective memory over the past six decades.

The exhibition will be open daily until 17 February 2015.

For broadcast-quality versions of the following films: The Long Journey (about the former UNRWA photographer George Nehmeh re-visiting persons in Jordan and in Gaza that he photographed during his 40-year long career with the Agency) and Sands of Sorrow (the first known documentary film showing the Palestine refugees in the first tent camps immediately after the 1948 Naqba) please contact Johan Eriksson @ j.eriksson@unrwa.org.

Background Information: 

UNRWA is confronted with an increased demand for services resulting from a growth in the number of registered Palestine refugees, the extent of their vulnerability and their deepening poverty. UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions and financial support has been outpaced by the growth in needs. As a result, the UNRWA programme budget, which supports the delivery of core essential services, operates with a large shortfall. UNRWA encourages all Member States to work collectively to exert all possible efforts to fully fund the Agency’s programme budget. UNRWA emergency programmes and key projects, also operating with large shortfalls, are funded through separate funding portals. UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and mandated to provide assistance and protection to some 5.4 million Palestine refugees registered with UNRWA across its five fields of operation. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank, including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip achieve their full human development potential, pending a just and lasting solution to their plight. UNRWA services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, protection and microfinance.

For more information, please contact:

Sami Mshasha
Director of Communications, Arabic Language Spokesperson
+972 (0)54 216 8295
+972 (0)258 90724