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HomeContents > People > Photographers > Keppel Archibald Cameron Creswell

Other: K. A. C. Creswell 
Other: Professor Sir K.A.C. Creswell 
Other: Sir Keppel Archibald Cameron Creswell 
Dates:  1879, 13 September - 1974, 8 April
Born:  UK, England, London
Died:  UK, England, London
Active:  Tunisia / Egypt / Palestine / Lebanon / Jordan / Syria / Iraq / Turkey
Architectural historian noted for his work on the Islamic architecture of Egypt. His photographs were credited in 1917 Henriette Devonshire's Rambles in Cairo . His scholarship on the early architecture of the Middle East is demonstrated by his two seminal works Early Muslim Architecture (vol. 1, 1932 & vol. 2, 1940) and Muslim Architecture of Egypt (vol. 1, 1952 & vol. 2, 1959).
A collection of around 3,000 of his photographs are included in the collections of the Victoria & Albert Museum, London. The copyright for his photographs is held by the Ashmolean Museum.
Keppel Archibald Cameron Creswell
Keppel Archibald Cameron Creswell was born in London, on 13 September 1879, in a family originally from Nottingham. He began his studies in 1891 at the Westminster School, where he proved to be a valid student, especially in mathematics. In 1896 he moved to the City and Guilds College at Finsbury, where he studied electrical engineering. In 1916, during World War I, he was posted to Egypt with the Royal Flying Corps. From then onwards, the Islamic architecture became his main study subject. He spent most of his life working in Cairo, travelling North Africa and the Near East and taking thousands of photos, which were published in his works only to a small extent. His first known photographs are reproduced in a Cairo travel guide titled Rambles in Cairo, authored by Henriette Devonshire and published in Cairo in 1917. Between 1919 and 1920 he served as Inspector of Monuments in the Allenby Military Administration of Occupied Enemy Territory: in that period, Creswell carried out several trips in different Near Eastern countries, taking many photos. After World War I, King Foud of Egypt patronized his works for realizing an extensive study of the Muslim architecture and, in 1931, Creswell began to teach Islamic art and architecture at the Fouad University of Cairo, where he remained until 1951. He was also member of the Higher Council for the Conservation of Arab Monuments, a trustee of the Palestine Archaeological Museum in Jerusalem, and a fellow of the Rockefeller Institute and of the Bollingen Foundation. In 1956 Creswell donated his richest Library to the American University of Cairo, and he became professor at the same University. Not married, he continued to live alone in Cairo until his health allowed it. In 1973 he moved to England, and he passed out in London, on 8 April 1974.
K.A.C. Creswell is considered the founder of the discipline of modern history of Islamic architecture. His publications are still basic research tools for scholars of this subject. Just to quote his main works, the following titles can be mentioned: Early Muslim Architecture vol. 1, 1932 & vol. 2, 1940 and Muslim Architecture of Egypt vol. 1, 1952 & vol. 2, 1959.
Creswell considered photography an unavoidable tool for recording architectural artefacts, and this is the reason why he took thousands of photos that are today held by several archives: the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, the American University in Cairo, the Fine Arts Library in Harvard and the Berenson Library at Villa I Tatti in Florence. A total of about 40,000 photos are spread across the different archives, which in most cases have replicas of the same images, but without completely overlapping (this amount does not comprise some further groups of printed photos that belong to private collectors). Many printed photos have handwritten notes on the rear, which makes the whole collection an essential source of information for studies in Islamic architecture.
An international project for reuniting all the archives in a single online platform, with the aim to make the whole collection accessible, has recently been launched: The Creswell online network: documenting Islamic architecture through early photography.
A selection of Creswell's photos is available at The K.A.C. Creswell Archive of "ArchNet"
Robert W. Hamilton, Keppel Archibald Cameron Creswell, 1879-1974. In Muqarnas VIII: An Annual on Islamic Art and Architecture, edited by Oleg Grabar (Leiden), 1991, pp. 128-136.
Spyros Koulouris, The Creswell Online Network: documenting Islamic Architecture through Early Photography. In I. Chrysakis, L. Harami, D. Angelakis, G. Bruseker (eds.), CIDOC 2018 Conference: ‘Generating and tracing the ‘Provenance of Knowledge’, Book of Abstracts, Heraklion, Institute of Computer Science, Foundation for Research and Technology Hellas, 2018, p. 85.
Erika Ledermann, K.A.C. Creswell’s Middle East Views at the V&A, 2015. [accessed: 01/11/2018].
Bernard O'Kane, ed, Creswell Photographs Re-examined. New Perspectives on islamic Architecture, Cairo-New York, AUC
Dr. Stefano Anastasio
Soprintendenza Archeologia, Belle Arti e Paesaggio - Firenze
Piazza Pitti 1 - 50125 Firenze
Tel. 055 2651885

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