Over its three days, MEPPI heard from speakers from such collections and institutes as the Akkasah Center for Photography at New York University Abu Dhabi, the Qatar Digital Library, the currently closed Marrakech Museum for Photography and Visual Arts, Turkey's SALT, Egypt's Contemporary Image Collective and Jordan's Department of Antiquities.
Funding for the conservation of photo archives is a major challenge for the sector and will continue to be on the minds of alumni as they move forward without the formal MEPPI program.
Debra Hess Norris from the University of Delaware, one of the driving forces behind MEPPI, provided myriad practical insights into successful fundraising and grant strategies, while Heba Hage Felder from the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture outlined programs and opportunities available through the Beirut-based AFAC.
With MEPPI's formal program finished, the future of the network and capacity that the initiative has built was raised at several points during the symposium.
"I very much hope we can continue with it in one form or another," said MEPPI veteran Kaoukab Chebaro, associate librarian for archives and special collections at AUB.
For more information on MEPPI, see meppi.me; for the Arab Image Foundation, see www.fai.org.lb.
Over its three days, MEPPI alumni from across the region spoke about the need to preserve cultural heritage for the benefit of humanity.
Kaoukab Chebaro, associate university librarian for archives and special collections at the American University of Beirut, participated in two MEPPI workshops.
"[The initiative] gave us community, community support, confidence and a sense that we can do it, all together, in spite of it all," she said, outlining the myriad practical challenges and responsibilities around the region's photo collections, adding how MEPPI had sought to create "leaders who could take the torch and march towards awareness-raising, advocacy and real nitty-gritty work."
Beirut's Arab Image Foundation is MEPPI's regional partner and the symposium heard from several AIF speakers, including founder Akram Zaatari, explaining the foundation's work, raising questions around photo preservation and digitization, and providing practical information about emergency preparedness planning.
The first of MEPPI's several Beirut workshops was staged in 2011.