In the 1950s, Swiss archaeologist Paul Collart (1902-1981) headed an extensive excavation campaign centred around the Temple of Baalshamin at Palmyra.

Archaeologist and photographer

The collection of quality photographs produced by Paul Collart during his many trips to major Mediterranean archaeological sites in Syria, but also Greece, Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, and other countries, made a significant contribution to the archaeological record. He took a camera and tripod with him on each journey.

His photographs still have an important role to play today. As archaeological documents they are often a unique record of the state of the sites in the first half of the 20th century and how they compare today. As ecological records, they offer a glimpse of the environment of these archaeological sites and how the landscape has changed over half a century. Lastly, as ethnographic documents, they shed light on travel conditions in southern Europe and the Near East in the 1930s and 1940s.

Le fonds Collart: management and promotion

On the death of Paul Collart in 1981, the photographic collection was first bequeathed by his heirs to Pierre Ducrey, then dean of the Faculty of Arts of the University of Lausanne, where Collart had studied and taught. It was subsequently entrusted to the university’s Institute of Archaeology and Ancient History, where it was digitised by theInstitut suisse pour la conservation de la photographie in 2003-2004.

Containing more than 3,000 digitised negatives, it was entered into a database by Patrick Michel in 2005-2006, based on an inventory created by Anne Bielman. Items from some of the collections have also been presented in a number of exhibitions, including "Two archaeologists in Syria: excavations by Maurice Dunand in Tell Kazel (1956, 1960-1962) and Paul Collart in Palmyra (1954-1956)", curated by Patrick Michel, in 2006-2007.

Since 2017 the University of Lausanne has launched a important project to digitise the archives on the sanctuary of Baalshamin: the project Collart-Palmyre.