UNRWA photo and film archive for Palestine refugees

“These influential historical images are the property of all Palestinians as part of their heritage, which includes not only their suffering and loss, but also their achievements,” speaking at the inauguration of the ‘Long Journey’, an exhibition of iconic photographs and films from the UNRWA photo and film archive, at the French Cultural Centre in Gaza City on 10 June 2014, UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl said. “UNRWA, as the custodian of this archive, takes full responsibility for its protection and conservation, and for making it available to all those who are interested," Mr. Krähenbühl added.

Describing the exhibition at its first opening in Jerusalem in November 2013, then UNRWA Commissioner-General Filippo Grandi said: “Collective memory is a vital element of communal identity and this rich archive documents one element of Palestinian identity, the refugee experience. But for us it was an urgent technical matter, as we needed to do something with our rich collection, which was literally decaying. Digitization was the only option for preservation and I am grateful to the Welfare Association, Bank of Palestine, PADICO, Wataniya and PalTel, as well as to the Governments of France and Denmark, for making this possible.”

Ever since it was established, UNRWA has recorded all aspects of the life and history of Palestine refugees through film and photography. This has led to a rich audiovisual archive, containing more than 430,000 negatives, 10,000 prints, 85,000 slides, 75 films and 730 videocassettes. In 2009, the UNRWA Archive was inscribed by UNESCO in the Memory of The World list, recognizing its historical value. Digitizing the archive not only rescues and preserves all 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 (and their predecessors) throughout the tumultuous second half of the twentieth century and start of the twenty-first. It includes iconic images of Palestinians having to leave their homes, in 1948; the establishment of refugee camps, in the 1950s; the second flight, in 1967; the hostilities in Lebanon; and the 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 work, but its 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 Life and History of Palestine Refugees

"The Long Journey" Opens in Gaza

Visit Our Archive

UNRWA has brought the Long Journey photography exhibition to the Al-Bireh Cultural Center in the city of Al-Bireh. 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," he said. Click here to read more.

UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl participated in the inauguration of 'The Long Journey', an exhibition of iconic photographs and films from the UNRWA photo and film archive, at the French Cultural Centre in Gaza City on 10 June 2014. Click through to get a glimpse

Visit the online platform for the digitized UNRWA Archive. ِAs we continue to upload digitized photographs and videos,  please contact the Communications Division for specific Archive-related requests. 

Video Gallery Press Release

Photo Gallery Photo Gallery Photo Gallery
Click through a collection of 12 photos from our newly unveiled archive. The photos document various facets of the work UNRWA has been doing over the years to assist Palestine refugees. The 'The Long Journey', an exhibition

showcasing pieces from the newly digitized UNRWA archive, opened on 28 November 2013 at the Al-Ma'mal Centre in the Old City of Jerusalem. Click through to get a glimpse

UNRWA joins the United Nations in celebrating Human Rights Day, which marks the anniversary of the adoption and proclamation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We're marking the occasion with a selection of photos from our archive. Click to get a glimpse
Photo Gallery Photo Gallery Photo Gallery

Remembering Resilience The Long Journey  
One of UNRWA's leading early photographers, George Nehmeh, is featured in a series of short videos produced specially for the UNRWA Archive.

The videos showcase examples of his work, along with features about the people featured in it. Click to watch

UNRWA is proud to unveil the first part of its newly digitized archive, which consists of over half a million negatives, prints, slides, films and videocassettes covering all aspects of the life and history of Palestine refugees from 1948 to the present day. Read our press release  
Video Gallery Press Release