The KOC Photography Archive

Post by Mark

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Earlier today I visited the Kuwait Oil Company offices in Ahmadi since a friend of mine helped me get permission to access their full photography archive. So, I headed there with my portable hard drive expecting to find a few interesting images that I’d copy and then leave. That didn’t exactly happen and I’m not sure I have the words to explain what I saw.

They have two rooms, the main archive room and a smaller negatives room. The negatives room is covered with drawers that are filled with film negatives of every event thats ever occurred in Ahmadi from the late 30s up till now. By every event I literally mean every event, every party, every play, every school activity, every PR activity… EVERYTHING. They’ve literally been documenting Ahmadi since Ahmadi started. Not only that but they’ve also been documenting Kuwait so there are a tons of old photos from all around Kuwait like the old market, Entertainment City, Muthana Complex, etc… you name it and they most likely will have it (except for photos of Kids R’ Us which I looked for and didn’t find). The room is extremely organized with different drawers containing different kind of activities so for example the negatives for the Social Activities are all located in two columns of drawers (around 8 drawers high). The highest drawer contains the oldest photos while the lowest drawer the newest. Each envelope is dated and has a description of what’s inside and there are over 300,000 negatives of which only around 50,000 have been digitized so far. The reason they didn’t lose majority of the archive during the 1990 invasion is because employees took boxes filled with negatives and hid them in their homes until the war was over.

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I spent a bit of time flipping through the drawers but the majority of the time I was sitting in the main room where a computer is connected to their server containing all the digitized copies of the images. Finding photos involves searching for something specific, so for example you search for the word “market” and the database will pull out a list of names of all the envelopes that have the word market in them. You then read the descriptions and if you find one that is related to what you’re looking for, you need to copy the number and then go to a certain folder on the hard drive and search for that number to pull up the images. It’s not a very quick task at all.

So anyway, this is whats going to happen. Right now I have a hard drive filled with images from today which I am going to start posting next week probably under the heading “The KOC Archive” or something like that. I also told them I would visit them at least once a month so I could continue to dig through their archive. If there is anything specific you guys want me to find let me know and I’ll write it down and look for it on my next visit.


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20 comments, add your own...


  1. You missed your calling, you should have been an ethnographer.

    This is great.

  2. Chris says:

    that’s is so cool! Can’t wait for the posts :D

  3. I`d like to see more pics of the old haunted house in salmiya!

  4. MousePotato says:

    Are there any photos of Salmiyah, around the Salmiyah Park (new) area?

  5. anon says:

    can someone by chance copy the hard drive or pay to copy it from you ? i find old pics fascinating for some reason

  6. Rayboy says:

    Hi mark, old photos of construction of landmarks, prominent buildings, the churches and mosques in kuwait would be really great.

    also anything to do with the parliament building, airport etc.

  7. aha says:

    does anyone know where I can find pictures of Kuwait University during Kuwait’s ‘Golden Era’ (1960-1980)

    I mean, Kuwaiti students on campus

    I only found a few pictures on the internet, nothing big

  8. KS says:

    Wow! Photos of buildings and life in failaka please. Will they ever make the digital archive public?

  9. Saad Ali says:

    Yes, Thanks for Asking.
    1. Gulf Street, Kuwait Tower surrounding area
    2. Old Cars and Roads
    3. Old Market, Shops

  10. abdullahals says:

    mark, I work in koc. May I ask from where you got access to these archives? Are they located inside the display center or near the public relations offices?

  11. Sven says:

    I’d be keen to see Miss Ahmadi 1953

  12. Stu says:

    This is a great archive and many thanks for finding it and sharing.

    If you stumble upon any any pictures showing Khaitan with the protective wall that once existed around it.

    I’m curious how an inland town would have originated in the desert especially outside the protective wall of Kuwait City.

    There would have had to be a big incentive for a settlement to start and it would most probably have been water.

  13. cheriyan says:

    Thanks for this post and for making the effort to dig into the archives of KOC. Sounds like a treasure trove of information! All our childhood memories must be recorded there of our life in Ahmadi – the school photos, club and social events, church events, my parents’ wedding photos (possibly), photos of families and friends who worked in KOC during the 50s and 60s. Very excited that this treasure exists, recording the history of the people and their families who contributed to developing the oil infrastructure that made Kuwait into the modern state it is today. We were fortunate to live and see this transition – the transformation of a desert land and its people to a modern, developed country.


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