See How Life Has Changed in the Middle East Over 58 Years

Colbert Held is a former United States Foreign Service officer who has amassed a photo collection spanning 48 years and 17 countries. He did so to have a detailed, photographic record of all the landscapes he visited, a complete geographical archive of his own. What's particular about his collection is that it captured the Middle Eastern history that escaped documentation. Viewed now, photographs from the past reveal an evolution from an "older" way of living to modernity—or a look back to better times pulverized by current wars. Filmed by Jennifer Smart in collaboration with the Middle East Institute, this short documentary was inspired by Baylor University's Oral Memoirs of Colbert Colgate "Cokie" Held.

The entirety of the Middle East Institute Colbert Held Archive is housed in the Oman Library at the Middle East Institute in Washington, D.C. Visit the library, or go to to learn more. To explore Held's oral memoirs, visit the Baylor University Institute for Oral History at

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