Jude Maraka

Introduction to the Barbara A. Porter Collection 

Dr. Porter in Dougga, Tunisia, near the Arch of Alexander Severus, 1998.

Today, Dr. Barbara A. Porter is the ACOR Ambassador, the first and only person to be awarded this title, in honor of her deep commitment to the American Center of Research, where she served as director from 2006 to March 2020.

Haremlik courtyard in the Azem Palace, Damascus, Syria, 1977.

By the time she became director, her experience in the region had already stretched back decades, into her childhood. She lived in Lebanon from 1965 to 1970, an experience that greatly influenced her passion for archaeology.

She went on to receive her master’s and doctoral degrees from Columbia University, served as a member of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s curatorial staff, and taught at New York University.

In 1977 she was invited to excavate in the Jordan Valley, and during that time she resided at the very center that, almost three decades later, she would guide for fourteen years. Under her leadership, the American Center of Oriental Research (as the American Center of Research was then known) was a beacon of stability and underwent a period of growth that prepared it for the new era of global interconnectivity we experience today. 

One of the many projects of Dr. Porter’s tenure was the ACOR Photo Archive, launched in 2016 with support from a four-year American Overseas Research Centers (AORC) Title VI grant from the U.S. Department of Education. Now known as the ACOR Digital Archive, it would come to include among its substantial holdings thousands of photographs taken by Dr. Porter herself and by her parents, Dwight J. and Adele Porter.

Colorful sandstone rock striations in Petra, Jordan.

Besides her work in museum galleries, university classrooms, and the American Center, Dr. Porter has led tours throughout the region. Travels have taken her to Jordan, Syria, Bahrain, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Tunisia, Iran, and Libya, and she documented with her camera what she saw. (The proportion of her collection representing each of these countries is represented by the graph below.)

Anatolian Landscape, Turkey, 2006
Street vendor cart offering sweet corn in Urfa, Turkey, 2006.

The subjects encompass not only archaeological sites and objects in museums but also ethnography—the daily modern life going on around the sites and in the cities and towns she visited. Souks and mosques, mosaics and tiles, doorways and columns, food vendors and tourists all attracted her lens. 

The entire Barbara A. Porter collection comprises some 50,000 photographs. These are being digitized and uploaded to the ACOR Digital Archive through yet another AORC Title VI grant, in which metadata for the images is being made available in both English and Arabic.  

In addition to her considerable photographic collection, Dr. Porter has also donated printed materials to the American Center of Research Library. These range from scholarly volumes on Near Eastern, Egyptian, and North African archaeology to tourist brochures covering locations—archaeological and otherwise—in Jordan and elsewhere in the region.  

Books, brochures, and travel guides donated to the American Center of Research by Barbara A. Porter

As ACOR Ambassador, Dr. Barbara A. Porter continues to represent the American Center of Research. And, through her photography, the Barbara A. Porter collection offers glimpses into her lifetime of dedication to Jordan and the interconnected region, past and present.  

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