Walter Dostal (1928-2011) was a full professor at the University of Vienna, a member of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, and one of the most influential representatives of German-speaking social and cultural anthropology in the second half of the 20th century. During his extensive field trips in the Middle East from the 1960s to the 1990s (North and South Yemen, Oman, Southwest Saudi Arabia, Gulf States, Anatolia), he collected a vast collection of visual materials, which are now housed at ISA.

Walter Dostal’s scientific legacy consists of around 70,000 images (photos, slides), in addition to film material, audio recordings, maps, and drawings that are of exceptional value to researchers, the heritage conservation sector, and the interested public. The South Arabia-related visual material (about 22,000 images from former North and South Yemen and adjacent areas in Saudi Arabia and Oman) forms a unique ethnographic documentation of South Arabian everyday lifes, crafts, rituals, material cultures, and traditional architectures from the 1960s to the 1990s. As Yemeni culture and heritage are now threatened by war, poverty, and climate change, UNESCO recognizes the protection and documentation of all forms of Yemen's cultural heritage as particularly urgent.

The digitization and scientific exploration of Dostal’s extensive visual legacy is a long-term project. As part of the Kulturerbe Digital initiative, in a first step the project aims to digitize and publish 5,000 selected South Arabia-related visuals, along with their technical and scientific metadata, in Open Access via Academy-CATalogPlus and the Europeana. The digital preservation and publication of this part of Dostal’s visuals related to South Arabia is made possible by funding from the Austrian Ministry of Arts, Culture, Civil Service, and Sports in the framework of the Austrian Development and Resilience Plan, and is financed from EU funds as part of the Europeana Initiative.


Project leader:
Marieke Brandt

Mehmet Emir, Maria Six-Hohenbalken, Eva Stockinger, Eszter Hársz, Marina Stoilova, Verena Baldwin

Funding programme Kulturerbe Digital of the Austrian Ministry of Arts, Culture, Civil Service and Sports
Europeana Initiative of the European Union

01/06/2023 – 31/08/2024