Austrian Army leaving Jerusalem with
the city walls behind them ca.
The American Colony in Jerusalem
was on display at the Library from January 2-April 2, 2005.
Moved by a series of profound tragic losses, Chicago natives
Anna and Horatio Spafford led a small American contingent
in 1881 to Jerusalem to form a Christian utopian society
known as the "American Colony." Colony members, later joined
by Swedish Christians, engaged in philanthropic work amongst
the people of Jerusalem regardless of their religious affiliation
and without proselytizing motives--thereby gaining the trust
of the local Muslim, Jewish, and Christian communities. During
and immediately after World War I, the American Colony played
a critical role in supporting these communities through the
great suffering and deprivations of the eastern front by
running soup kitchens, hospitals, orphanages and other charitable
ventures. In addition, members of the Colony were permitted
to photograph behind Turkish lines to create a truly unique
record of life under the constraints of war.
Although the American Colony ceased to exist as a religious
community in the late 1940s, individual members continued
to be active in the daily life of Jerusalem. Towards the
end of the 1950s, Colony quarters opened to the public as
the American Colony Hotel. The hotel is an integral part
of the Jerusalem landscape where members of all communities
in Jerusalem still meet. In 1992 representatives from the
Palestinian Liberation Organization and Israel met in the
hotel where they began talks that led to the historic 1993
Oslo Peace Accord.
This exhibition offers a glimpse into the remarkable history
and work of the American Colony. The photographs, documents,
and artifacts exhibited are drawn from a generous gift to
the Library of Congress from Mrs. Valentine Vester--a portion
of a collection that she has preserved for more than fifty
years. This archival treasure now joins with the Library's
Matson Photo Service Collection donated by Eric Matson, a
former American Colony member, to provide a unique record
of the history of Jerusalem and the Middle East in the early
decades of the twentieth century.
The American Colony-Vester Collection is a recent gift to
the Library of Congress. One of Mrs. Valentine Vester's chief
concerns in designating a permanent repository for this important
material was that it receive conservation treatment to ensure
its survival for posterity. The Library's conservation staff
has reviewed the portion of the collection currently on view.
They will determine the best course of treatment and appropriate
housing so that the materials can be made available to researchers
and the public once the exhibition has been dismantled.
The Library of Congress is grateful to Mrs. Valentine Vester
for donating this collection. In addition, the Library wishes
to acknowledge Ruth Victor Hummel for organizing and curating
this exhibition, George Hintlian for his support and work
done with this collection, and photographer Garo Nalbandian
for his help in securing some of the images on display.